Well it looks like my good buddy Jeff Pearlman has once again publicly renewed his fascination with yours truly. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name (and judging by his book sales not many of you are), Jeff was the author of the famous/infamous Sports Illustrated article that made me an international name.
I’ve paid very little attention to Pearlman over the years outside of the random emails he’ll send to my personal account and brief notice when he responds to something I’ve said via social media. At times I’ve jokingly wondered if I should lock up tight and submit for a restraining order. I mean, who knows? This guy could have an all out shrine in his home dedicated to my dishonor like some real life Ray Finkle from “Ace Ventura Pet Detective.” “DIE MARINO!”
Late last Thursday I received yet another unsolicited email from Pearlman, which had “Interview request” typed in the subject line. Naturally, this sparked my interest and enticed me to read further while sarcastically thinking to myself, “This oughta be good.” No sooner had I read the first few sentences than confusion set in. I was being asked to weigh in on how the SI piece that catapulted my name to international notoriety has affected me over the years. My first reaction was “why?” – and more importantly, “why now?” Those questions were answered a few sentences later as Jeff explained he wanted to do this follow up to mark the “15 year anniversary” of the article (though it was not published until late December 1999).
Much speculation can be made as to why Mr. Pearlman approached me late last Thursday afternoon to conduct an interview for an article that was to post early the next morning. It takes several hours just to transcribe an interview like that, much less interject it into a column. This wasn’t an invitation to interview; it was an “unvitation.” Furthermore, why claim your timing is based on a “15th anniversary” when only 14 years have passed? And why would a supposedly esteemed veteran journalist need to post his upcoming piece on the glorified “blog” site bleacherreport.com coincidentally during the opening week of the 2015 Major League Baseball season? The only thing that initially jumps to mind is someone needs some publicity, and they need to use me once again to achieve it.
Needless to say I didn’t do the interview. I’ve learned (the hard way) to steer clear of gossip whore trash journalists such as Pearlman, but there was one segment of his request that did begin to turn the wheels of wonder. How has my life been affected by the fame/infamy of that SI article over the last 14 years?
As I pondered the question during the weekend, I’ve come to one congruent conclusion: The benefits I’ve gained far outweigh the detriments. There truly is no such thing as bad publicity. The things I’ve been able to do; the doors that have opened; the places I’ve been able to go and the famous/influential people I now consider friends in large part stem from the notoriety created by that SI piece. I know that was not Pearlman’s intent, but that’s how it’s turned out as I look back over the last 14 years from a bird’s eye view.
Most individuals who only played six years in the Major Leagues would not have the ability to pull off some of the things I have simply on name recognition. Most players who possess a similar resume in professional baseball would not have had the material to write an autobiography and then use that as a platform to aid many adolescents during their difficult maturation process. And many players who boast my mediocre level of success in sports could not have started an organization for homeless veterans and accomplished all that we have in just two short years.
But because of Sports Illustrated and the recognition that has come along with it, I still have a voice that people listen to 14 years later. I still get interview requests from names like Geraldo Rivera, Neil Cavuto and Michael Savage where I proudly spread the word about Save Homeless Veterans. I don’t know too many Big Leaguers who haven’t seen action in 11 years that can still do that. I receive requests on a regular basis to speak inspirationally at various charity events as well as a variety of adult and adolescent groups. And the slate of invitations to simply attend and/or sign at charity functions is always full. I truly believe that my time in a Big League uniform in conjunction with the notoriety of SI has allowed me to do more things in my personal life and, more importantly, in the lives of others than I can ever accurately assess.
For several years, though, I took the gross misperception of me by Pearlman personally. I know I’m a good person, and the dozens of individuals from all races and nationalities that came to my defense know it, too. Yet in their rapid lust for the sensational, media largely refused to acknowledge what former teammates like Javier Lopez, CC Sabathia or Eddie Perez had to say about me and our friendship. For years they have refused to observe my life and such aspects of it as my very public three-year relationship with a black woman or my relationship with the daughter of (should be Hall of Famer) Denis Martinez. To publicize any of that would be for media to second guess a member of their own fraternity, which is why the Pearlman description of me is still fact to many.
For several years I thought it was just me. I know I can be a bit sarcastically crude and borderline inappropriate, but it’s generally in jest. So what did I do to warrant such a personal attack? Fortunately, during the years I’m speaking of I began coming across many accounts of Pearlman similarly targeting other athletes and sports figures. I can’t get into all of them word for word right now, but if you want a true sense of just the type of “journalist” Jeff Pearlman is, conduct a brief Internet search and see what some of his other subjects have to say about him. See what beloved icons of the sports world such as Mike Ditka, Roger Clemens, Will Clark, Bryan Cashman (GM New York Yankees) and David Wells have to say regarding their unfortunate contact with Jeff Pearlman. It’s very telling and probably the reason he’s not employed by any reputable news outlet. When I began to come across these individuals (I even met a few personally from his days at the University of Delaware where he was banned from several athletic facilities) with similar experiences, I started to realize that I was nothing more than a hapless victim of a belligerent, vindictive individual.
Since that realization there hasn’t been a lot of thought regarding the personal attack by Jeff Pearlman, as well as the point and reason for it all. Once I realized I was just another casualty on the active battlefield that is Pearlman’s career, I’ve barely given the episode another thought. That is until the very hit man himself, without even knowing, said something that made me think. How has my life been affected? I can say without a doubt: I wouldn’t change a thing about my past – and I’m pretty sure those that I’ve been able to help over the years because of simply having the name “John Rocker” would say the same thing. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Media wishing to interview John Rocker, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.