Jeff Pearlman

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John Rocker, 10 years later

rocker1

Tonight, I’m sitting here in the Mirage Diner writing a freelance piece on the 10-year anniversary of my John Rocker profile.

It’s weird. Ten years. Sounds like a long time. Is packed with monumental life moments: Got married. Had my daughter, Casey. Had my son, Emmett. Promoted at Sports Illustrated to senior writer. Left SI for Newsday. Left Newsday to write books. Moved from New York City to suburbia. Friends came, friends went. My Grandma Mollie died. We got a dog. Etc …

I babble. Am using much material for the story, so I won’t post it here. But one funny memory that I thought of earlier tonight. The Rocker story ran in the December 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated. The cover, for those who might know SI covers well (as I did as a kid) was THE 50 GREATEST SPORTS FIGURES from every state. Three of us—myself, Steve Cannella and Mark Bechtel—spent weeks upon weeks compiling that damn thing. I mean, it absolutely s-u-c-k-e-d in every way, shape and form.

Anyhow, the powers that be at SI had very high expectations for the issue, and even took the uncommon step of hiring an outside PR firm to handle the avalanche of media requests. Steve, Mark and I were briefed on what to expect; what would be asked; etc.

Then, the Rocker story broke.

When the issue hit stands, I received, oh, between 200-500 interview requests, RE: John Rocker (I only did one, at the insistence of SI, with WFAN).

Requests to talk about 50 states? One—from an AM radio station in Utah.

  • Mike

    Jeff,

    His career went downhill after the article. He made the on the record remarks and has shown a propensity thru the years to make stupid statements.

  • http://jeffpearlman.com Jim Dillon

    The fact that Rocker is and was an idiot doesn’t change the fact that in my mind you ambushed him…You didn’t go down there telling him you were going to write a story about his inner feelings about minorities and print his uncensored remarks..Not even Rocker would let a reporter near him in that context…Your story is the kind of writing that makes lots of athletes hate reporters..Yeah, it might have been true but did we need to know it..Did Rocker really need to be stripped naked in front of the world? How would you fare in that situation? By the way, I note you moved out of the big city to the ‘burbs..Couldn’t be because you and your family are tired of the charms of city life..The homeless, the squalid masses of people different from yourself, the derelicts and panhandlers…Bad place to raise kids Jeff? Why? Are your reasons that different from what Rocker had to say?

  • Pete R

    That just leaves the question: did you do the interview with Utah?

    (Oh, and were they surprised that Natalie Williams was ranked above Jim McMahon?)

  • K Neumann

    This is an old article but I think you ambushed him as well- did this get you a promotion- how sad that you had to destroy a ball player to be promoted. You did destroy him you know. It is nice that you were able to go on with your life as if nothing happened- can’t say the same for John Rocker, and the many fans that enjoyed watching him pitch. All we were able to do is watch him disinegrate in front of our eyes. I wonder if you live in a glass house I wonder how you would have fared if your private conversations were made public. You seem proud of that article and for me that is a shame!

  • Mike S

    Jeff you are a narcissist and everything that writing should not be. Instead of being objective and making the story about the athlete, you make the story solely about yourself and your own personal feelings about people based upon how much they appeased you. The writing world (and perhaps the greater world if you are truly as nasty a human being as you make yourself out to be) would be better off without people like you in it.

  • Ron F

    Jeff, you destroyed a man to enhance your own career, which has been anything but stellar. You should be in politics. Commiecrat politics. They would welcome you there.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      Destroyed a man? How so, Ron? By writing an accurate profile? Is a journalist’s job to coddle, or report? As you watch your Fox News tonight, try and decide.

      • John

        Jeff you’re a piece of shit. You did that article for your own personal gain. I’d love to ride along with you for a week in rush hour traffic and report the shit that comes out of your mouth. No one is impressed with your bullshit. That wasn’t an accurate profile. You took the worst of what he said and painted the worst picture you could of him.

  • Conor

    Jeff you are a rat for what you did to John Rocker. A snake in the grass. A cocroach. A cockroach’s genitalia. I cant go any lower than that but im sure you get the point. You embody everything wrong with journalism and it makes me ill you benefitted so greatly from John’s misery. If there is an afterlife im sure you will reap what you havr sewn in the bowels of hell.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life