There’s the story that gets printed in a publication. Then there’s the story behind the story.
Often, the latter is just as interesting.
Jeff Pearlman has decided to tell what happened before, during and after his infamous story on John Rocker that ran in Sports Illustrated in 1999. He writes about the weird encounters on his JeffPearlman.com in response to Rocker knocking him in a recent interview.
Rocker said of Pearlman:
Pearlman spent nearly 10 hours with me that day and we engaged in numerous very long-winded conversations on everything from how to throw a breaking ball to the effects of a flawed U.S. immigration policy. Strategically extracting a sentence fragment here and separate thought there Pearlman painted the exact picture of me he intended from the very beginning and in doing so remained true to form and consistent with his long and decorated history of trash journalism. In my research I have found that Pearlman has done eerily similar hatchet jobs to dozens of other subjects during his 20 year career.
Pearlman decided he couldn’t let the comments go. He goes into the details of how Rocker went off his rocker.
Rocker has said and said and said that his words were taken out of context; that, in and of themselves, they sound awful. But that we were actually discussing, oh, foreign policy and race relations and the such. This, of course, is a complete lie. Like, not even close to the close to the close to the truth. He said what he said because he was—and still seems to be—quite stupid. Stupid people call black teammates “fat monkeys,” and berate “queers with AIDS” on the New York City subway. At the time, Rocker was dating Don Sutton’s daughter. He was also dating another young woman. One of his girlfriends (I can’t recall which) was in the car with us. When she left, he called the other.
My favorite moment actually never made print. We were driving around Atlanta—girlfriend in the front seat, me in the back—when Rocker asked whether I’d ever been to Disney World.
“I have,” I replied.
“You know all those characters who walk around the park—Mickey, Donald, Minnie …”
“Sure,” I said.
“Well, they’re all faggots,” he said. “They’re all fucking faggots.”
Pearlman also writes about Rocker threatening him in a clubhouse encounter after the interview:
Rocker spent the ensuing two minutes (felt like 10) in my face, jabbing his finger into my chest, blasting me for ruining his career, his family. He said, “Do you know what I can do to you?”—and I thought, “Yes, beat the living shit out of me.” My only strong moment came midway through, when he said, “I even bought you lunch!”
“Actually,” I said, “I paid.”
“Well, fuck you …”
Read the entire piece and tell me who you’re going to believe.