Monday, May 09, 2005

 

You can take the cracker out of Georgia, but you can't take the cracker out of the cracker

It's heartwarming, in a way, to know that some things and some people are just never going to change.
Rock the cast-off

I just don't think I'll ever feel sorry for John Rocker. They guy can try to explain away the incidents and verbal sparrings he gets into all he wants. He can wish that he'll be treated like any other player in the Atlantic League, but the truth is that he's not.

Tuesday night's incident in Atlantic City is another example of how the comments in his infamous 1999 Sports Illustrated article were more than just a young guy slipping up. And frankly, in my mind, you don't slip up that many times over the course of an hours-long interview (if not one spread over a day or two) and insult not only homosexuals and blacks, but foreigners and AIDS victims and attribute that to a misinterpretation of what you really meant. There has to be some basis for comments like that. Some people may have been willing to treat it as a one-off thing, but I just couldn't.

Rocker can portray himself as the now-helpless victim all he wants, but to think that people will just forget that still tells me that he doesn't understand what was wrong about what he said. He told the New York Post:
"I have this idea, I guess it's a fantasy, that I want to play baseball and just enjoy playing," said Rocker, who is coming back from shoulder surgery two years ago. "I look around and see other guys who are allowed to just enjoy playing. How come I can't? Wouldn't that be a novel concept?"

Did he actually think that could happen in New York? He could have given himself a better chance to "just enjoy playing" by signing with a team in the Frontier League or the Northern League. Play in small towns in Indiana and Iowa, not in the small cities of the Northeast, not in the shadows of New York City. But for some reason, he chose Long Island.

I just can't like John Rocker. I'll probably get to a Ducks game somewhere in New Jersey, Newark or Somerset maybe, and I might boo. But I won't yell any insults, certainly not any profanities. And if you ask me, the alleged comment by the fan in A.C. was pretty clever. "Long way from Atlanta, isn't it?" Heck, maybe it was just a geography quiz. According to Mapquest, it's 837 miles from Atlanta to Atlantic City. That is a long way. Thirteen, 14 hours. Still, Rocker could have continued walking. He could've smiled and ducked into the dugout. He even could have responded, in part, as he did: "I'm still a millionaire." Zing! But he had to add the profanity. He had to make it a conversation, an exchange, rather than a fan's solitary outburst.

Last night, before the home opener in Central Islip, he wouldn't talk to the media. He released a short statement after the game. He just wants to play baseball.

Well, John, maybe someday you'll be able to do that. But don't think it's going to just happen for you. Don't think we'll all just forget everything from the past and look at you like any other fallen semi-star just trying to live a few more years of your dream. You're going to have to earn it by taking responsibility for your own actions.

Of course, the easiest way to do that would be to act in a way that doesn't require any explanations.

But then he wouldn't be the John Rocker we have come to love to hate. It's like Nick Hornby's defense of Arsenal in Fever Pitch where he compared their unpleasant antics in the late 1980s to The Sex Pistols as harmless deviancy. That's John Rocker now. Marx was wrong. Although I wouldn't call John Rocker a "world-historical event," he is clearly occurring, as it were twice: the first time as farce, and the second time as farce, too.

I hope John Rocker never changes.
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