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Friday, April 04, 2014

Jeff Pearlman: A Reporter’s Tale: The John Rocker Story 15 Years Later

John Rocker! Jeff Pearlman!! Bleacher Report!!! Where the fuktuggle is Murray Chass?!

Nearly 15 years have passed. Which—as anyone who has watched one-and-a-half decades fly by can attest—is weird and confusing and a bit jarring.

Over the course of that span, I’ve written for Sports Illustrated, left Sports Illustrated, written for Newsday, left Newsday. I’ve published six books. I got married, bought a house, had two children. I’ve seen friends and relatives die, other friends and relatives experience weddings, bar mitzvahs, christenings. Highs, lows. Ups, downs.

And yet, through it all, he remains there—looming, hanging, wandering around, tweeting angrily, aggressively and irrationally.

There is no escape.

We are eternally attached.

...Rocker saved 24 games for the 2000 Braves, and I figured our connection would fade away. Then one day later that season, while sitting in the press box in Pittsburgh, I received a phone call from a fact-checker at George magazine, the publication founded by John F. Kennedy Jr. A writer named Pat Jordan was working on a piece about Jake Rocker, John’s father, and the fact-checker needed to ask me a question: Did I, in fact, call several African-American women in a department store “n——-s” in order to bait John during our day together?

Did I…what?

“According to Jake Rocker, you used ‘n——r’ to egg John on,” he said. “Is that true?”

I denied it, and assured the man it was preposterously untrue. “OK,” he said. “I’ll make a note of that.”

A few weeks later, I was in Las Vegas for the Triple-A World Series. I visited the hotel bookstore and saw George. Jordan’s Jake Rocker story appeared—as did the accusation of racism (alongside my denial). My hands began to shake. I returned to my room and called Catherine, my future wife. “I’m suing the family,” I told her. “I know I shouldn’t, but I am. I’m suing.”

Repoz Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:12 AM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. A Fatty Cow That Need Two Seats Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:29 AM (#4679082)
Nearly 15 years have passed. Which—as anyone who has watched one-and-a-half decades fly by can attest—is weird and confusing and a bit jarring.


*highlight, copy and paste into word document, save in folder for man's greatest descriptions of aging*
   2. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:47 AM (#4679089)
A few weeks later, I was in Las Vegas for the Triple-A World Series. I visited the hotel bookstore and saw George. Jordan’s Jake Rocker story appeared—as did the accusation of racism (alongside my denial). My hands began to shake. I returned to my room and called Catherine, my future wife. “I’m suing the family,” I told her. “I know I shouldn’t, but I am. I’m suing.”


I wonder if that was how Bonds felt when he read about the conversation he supposedly had with Griffey, though I don't recall there being the courtesy denial from the alleged in that case (there was, of course, a later denial from the alleged accuser).

   3. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:32 AM (#4679132)
#### this #######.
   4. Cooper Nielson Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:33 AM (#4679135)
I am torn. I want to read this, but I refuse to click on anything that may end up helping Jeff Pearlman have a better life.
   5. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4679181)
Over the course of that span, I’ve written for Sports Illustrated, left Sports Illustrated, written for Newsday, left Newsday. I’ve published six books. I got married, bought a house, had two children. I’ve seen friends and relatives die, other friends and relatives experience weddings, bar mitzvahs, christenings. Highs, lows. Ups, downs.


He left out the part where he slowly slid into a cesspool of reeking ####. I guess he already existed in that special place 15 years ago.
   6. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:03 AM (#4679191)
He left out the part where he slowly slid into a cesspool of reeking ####. I guess he already existed in that special place 15 years ago.


He was pretty well soaking in that pool before the Rocker piece, all the way back to his days writing as a stringer in and around Tennessee.
   7. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:08 AM (#4679195)

He was pretty well soaking in that pool before the Rocker piece, all the way back to his days writing as a stringer in and around Tennessee.


Ah, my mistake then. I guess that's what I get for trying to give Pearlman the benefit of the doubt and assuming he was at one time a decent person.
   8. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:34 AM (#4679222)
I have nothing to feel guilty about.


He has lots of things he should feel guilty about - though he's at least right that none of them involve John Rocker.
   9. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:34 AM (#4679223)
I remember reading this. I didn't live in New York at the time, but I was already predisposed to despise rocker. The piece was pretty effective in turning distaste to outright loathing.

I hadn't realized that it was Pearlman who wrote it, somehow. Sounds like maybe he'd be happier that way.
   10. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:39 AM (#4679232)
I am torn. I want to read this, but I refuse to click on anything that may end up helping Jeff Pearlman have a better life.


You aren't really missing anything.

I clicked on it solely because of the mention of Pat Jordan, a much better writer than Pearlman. Jordan had some interesting things to say about Pearlman's Rocker story in this interview, if anyone's curious.
   11. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:39 AM (#4679233)
Also, was it Pearlman who wrote a piece a few years ago whining about how people lambasted him on the internet? Right around that time, he tried to friend me on Facebook. I kinda went, "Psh, no." Now I wish I had accepted it. I assume he wanted to interview me for the piece. I remember his thesis being that the anonymity of online interaction provided cover for cowardly jerks -- which, to some degree, is true. But I would have loved to have put my name to my thoughts. (I believe I accused him of plagiarism in a word-for-word satire of his accusation that Jeff Bagwell was on roids.) I also would have loved to expand on them, with my name right there in print. We both lived in NYC. Might have had the opportunity to say to his face that I thought he was a leech on the balls of American sport, and that if he had any self-awareness he would be ashamed.

Did like the Rocker piece, though.
   12. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4679234)
Hey, John Rocker should have just been grateful he never had to ride the subway in the middle of a New York winter. The shit you see--figuratively and literally--on the train at 5:30 in the morning will singe your eyebrows.
   13. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:43 AM (#4679239)
I hadn't realized that it was Pearlman who wrote it, somehow. Sounds like maybe he'd be happier that way.


Hit pieces and character assassinations are all the guy ever wrote. I mean, his lead for his "story" in SI on David Wells was "David Well is fat." That's the guy's idea of a good hook. He made his name writing hatchet jobs about athletes. Now he's pissy that he's known as the guy who wrote hatchet jobs about athletes. Too ####### bad, kid.
   14. ursus arctos Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:45 AM (#4679241)
Pat Jordan is always worth reading.

He has new piece on Chris Archer in Sports on Earth that is very interesting on a number of levels.
   15. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:08 PM (#4679259)
George magazine, ha ha ha.
   16. spike Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:10 PM (#4679261)
"He will not be missed"
   17. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4679281)
I mean, his lead for his "story" in SI on David Wells was "David Well is fat." That's the guy's idea of a good hook.


Well, to be fair, only a highly trained scribe like Pearlman would notice a subtle thing like that.

Pat Jordan is always worth reading.

He has new piece on Chris Archer in Sports on Earth that is very interesting on a number of levels.


Link.

You're right - it's very good.
   18. thetailor Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:25 PM (#4679324)
The Pearlman hate appears to be fairly firmly entrenched here but... in all honesty I barely pay attention to the author of the article I'm reading unless its someone with a unique voice or who I love (like Poz). An article in SI is an article in SI.

Can someone tell me why we (you all?) hate Pearlman so much? Cliffs notes version?
   19. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4679328)
Nothing better than Pearlman writing about Pearlman. Oops, I mean nothing worse.

Pat Jordan can be a big ####### too, but he constantly redeems himself by being a fine and interesting writer.
   20. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:38 PM (#4679339)
Can someone tell me why we (you all?) hate Pearlman so much? Cliffs notes version?


Because he made is bones cajoling gotcha quotes from stupid jocks, and then writing hatchet jobs about said stupid jocks from his holier-than-thou pulpit at SI. Rocker and Wells are only the most well known examples. He also slandered Barry Bonds about PEDs, if I recall correctly. Additionally for me, he apparently developed a major chip on his shoulder about "the south" from his time in Tennessee, and that has seething hatred of anything related to the region is what drove his hit piece on Rocker.

Which is in no way an attempt to defend John Rocker. I've been within 50 yards of that guy having beers. He deserves no defense that I can tell. But Pearlman is his equal when it comes to despicable human beings.
   21. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:40 PM (#4679343)
Can someone tell me why we (you all?) hate Pearlman so much? Cliffs notes version?


He's an ####### who generates glib, facile, "truthy" analysis. He habitually distorts his presentation of events in order to conform to a pre-determined narrative, rather than looking at evidence and drawing conclusions from it. Also, he writes tons of stupid, trolling click-bait, in order to get rubes riled up, and that's about the lowest form of sportswriting. The absolute nicest thing that I can say about him is that he's about a half-step above Jay Mariotti, in that to the best of my knowledge he's never beaten a woman.

I'm a Pirates fan, so for two Pirates-specific examples of him being a toolshed, click here and here. Those are not, in any way, atypical of his output.
   22. Karl from NY Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:46 PM (#4679347)
I bought Pearlman's book on the 86 Mets before really realizing who he was from BTF. I still feel dirty for it.
   23. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4679356)
Pat Jordan can be a big ####### too, but he constantly redeems himself by being a fine and interesting writer.


Yeah, exactly. When Jordan is an #######, as in this piece or this one, he's a fair #######. He's showing people's genuine flaws in the process of providing some greater insight into their character, and even while you're reacting with disgust, there's still that tiny humanizing grain of empathy there, too. The subject of Jordan's negative pieces come across as flawed but fully-fleshed individuals, rather than cardboard cutouts like the subjects of Pearlman's.
   24. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:05 PM (#4679379)
Just read Jordan's Archer story holy #### that's one of the best written pieces I've ever read, he takes a kid I'd never heared of until recently, that I have had little interest in, and sucks me into a compelling character portrait of him, his family, and his advisor. The best part is that it's somewhat contradictory and incomplete, just like our knowledge of any other person is, and Jordan never tells us what to to think in any overt manner. He's in the story but his opinions aren't. Pat really only interjects only a single direct opinion I can remember, about how long a really long ####### haircut was. If Jordan is trying to make a point, trying to manipulate us into hating or loving someone from his piece, he is so subtle I can't see it. The heros have warts, the villains are given allowances.

And that's why Pearlman sucks, he writes hit pieces to manipulate his audience for or against someone, and rarely gives flawed human villains the benefit of doubt, or his heroes the reality of their flaws. He's not a truth teller or seeker.
   25. thetailor Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:11 PM (#4679392)
Wow, thanks guys, especially Vlad (21) for the links.
   26. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:11 PM (#4679393)
Can someone tell me why we (you all?) hate Pearlman so much? Cliffs notes version?
Because he hates sports/athletes, but writes about them.
   27. Publius Publicola Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:12 PM (#4679395)
Pearl man isn't liked here because he wrote that Barry Bonds cheated and people here don't like to be reminded that Barry Bonds cheated.
   28. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:16 PM (#4679401)
Pearl man isn't liked here because he wrote that Barry Bonds cheated and people here don't like to be reminded that Barry Bonds cheated.


Evidence in this thread demolishes your theory. Try the reality based community.
   29. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:24 PM (#4679413)
Bonds? I can't stand Pearlman because of that awful Mets book, mostly.
   30. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:24 PM (#4679414)
Holy cow, is that Chris Archer piece terrific. Honestly, the last two words got me choked up. Fcuk, that killed me.
   31. Lars6788 Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:57 PM (#4679452)
People hate him because he made Rocker a bigger bigot than your garden variety MLB redneck.
   32. base ball chick Posted: April 04, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4679558)
pearlman is disliked because, ignoring the rocker story, he does hatchet jobs on athletes, who he thinks should all be like stan musial. or saint mariano

he writes about sports, but instead of writing about the sport, prefers to write about players, who he finds out are, well, egotistical and look at sportswriters as the nuisance they are to them. i think he was bitterly disappointed somehow, to find out that jocks are jocks are jocks and he wasn't one of them any more as a sportswriter than he was as a hs kid.

once, in one of my blog entries, i made a not complimentary remark about him - and we are talking about a blog read by dozens, too. and he emailed me within 8 HOURS to ask me why i wrote that. i couldn't believe it was actually him, and said so, but he emailed me back a pic of him holding the barry bonds book. kind of freaked me out. i mean, seriously, he worries about what some nobody blogger says? i didn't libel him or anythin. but i took his name out of my blog entry.

he's not nearly as mean as person as pat jordan. if i was a celebrity i would avoid that guy. pat writes very well, but he always somehow manages to make anyone he writes about look like a shtthead or a shtthead beneath the skin
   33. Flynn Posted: April 04, 2014 at 05:22 PM (#4679560)
If you've been here a long time, you may also remember that Pearlman did a chat about his 86 Mets book in which he sneered at fans and claimed to no longer like sports and be interested in them. That was over 10 years ago.

His 86 Mets book dished dirt where there was plenty to dish, but ultimately it was pretty crappy. I remember how much he sneered at Gary Carter in that book. Carter's not universally beloved, but I think most people are coming around to him having been just that kind of gee-whiz, aw-schucks, God-fearing family man, and Pearlman actually made fun of Carter taking a French course when he was a superstar in Montreal. Called him a nerd, in fact, and then made fun of his car's license plate (KID 8, IIRC).
   34. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 04, 2014 at 05:48 PM (#4679578)
pat writes very well, but he always somehow manages to make anyone he writes about look like a shtthead or a shtthead beneath the skin


We obviously have different interpretations of his descriptions of Tom Seaver or Wilt Chamberlain or Pete Rose's son or Rick Ankiel. He writes about these guys with a deep and abiding respect and sympathy.

He can have a poison pen but it's quite possible the attacks and lampoons are warranted. Celebrity, wealth, ego have all their distorting effects. I believe Steve Garvey was the way he described him, even if he wrote about him an unsymapthetic light. And his profile of Clemens did highlight just how peculiar Roger's relationship was with McNamee, years before the Mitchell Report.
   35. base ball chick Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:04 PM (#4679682)
i think that he is like the opposite to all the writers who like the "mystical"

to him, everyone is like looking at mickey mantle - hey, he's shorter than me. therefore i shrug him off as someone to admire in any way

every time he talks about another ballplayer, any admission that the ballplayer is a better pitcher is made up for by some remark to cut them back down to - hey he's smaller than me. which is exactly how i felt about the piece about tom seaver i read. so he pitched longer. he's still not no bettern me.

- it was interesting, his comments about all the ethnic slurs between different groups of caucasians. i remember when i first started reading here so many guys talking about - what's your ethnic group - and i would always think - looks White to me. didn't really notice or care whether irish/polish/hungarian/russian/italian - i discriminate pretty strictly on HOTTTTTTTTT vs not. every body always gotta have some body to sneer at
   36. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:23 PM (#4679717)
Then one day later that season, while sitting in the press box in Pittsburgh, I received a phone call from a fact-checker at George magazine, the publication founded by John F. Kennedy Jr. A writer named Pat Jordan was working on a piece about Jake Rocker, John’s father, and the fact-checker needed to ask me a question: Did I, in fact, call several African-American women in a department store “n——-s” in order to bait John during our day together?


Fun fact: I was the managing editor of George magazine at that time. I wish I could remember who the fact-checker was.
   37. BeanoCook Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:58 PM (#4679731)
Pearlman is a self hating feminist liberal. That's basically the cliffs notes version.
   38. Repoz Posted: April 05, 2014 at 05:32 PM (#4680058)
BumpCity for pthomas.
   39. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: April 05, 2014 at 06:07 PM (#4680070)
Pearlman is a self hating feminist liberal. That's basically the cliffs notes version.


Didn't you leave for a long time? This place was better without your stupid ass.
   40. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: April 05, 2014 at 07:13 PM (#4680088)

Fun fact: I was the managing editor of George magazine at that time. I wish I could remember who the fact-checker was.


I wish you could too.
   41. Howie Menckel Posted: April 05, 2014 at 09:38 PM (#4680140)
I thought Pearlman did a good job explaining how pervasive Rocker's bigotry was. If a writer spends a week with a guy and he makes two questionable comments, that can get exploited into the entire essence of who the guy is when it's really not the case.

But when that IS the essence of who the guy is, well, you can't run away from it, as the writer. He didn't spend all that much time with Rocker, and that's who he was. Pearlman did the right thing.
   42. CrosbyBird Posted: April 06, 2014 at 08:54 AM (#4680212)
But when that IS the essence of who the guy is, well, you can't run away from it, as the writer. He didn't spend all that much time with Rocker, and that's who he was. Pearlman did the right thing.

The thing is, as much as Rocker really deserved to get a hit job, the article was nothing but a hit job. If you read the Pat Jordan pieces linked upthread, you can really see the difference. Neither Canseco nor Simpson come off particularly well, but Jordan uses more that the soundbite words to tell the story. For Canseco, he gives you some insight into the man's own capacity to destroy himself; for Simpson, you see a glimpse of the qualities that made him so likeable (particularly the incident with the sick older man).

I feel like if you spend a day with someone, you'll see something interesting worth commenting on other than the soundbite. That's the difference between taking someone to task without excuses, and a cheap hit job.
   43. CrosbyBird Posted: April 06, 2014 at 09:02 AM (#4680215)
Original Rocker Article

Check for yourself. There's no art to this column. It's just soundbite quotes with a couple of descriptions of how angry and stupid Rocker is. Like the only thing that Rocker is as a person is a walking offensive remark, and nothing else.

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