Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Georgia On Our Mind

I'm actually sick of this story, but I have to give kudos to my colleague Andrea Peyser for the "unfair" slam at the South in her column today (free registration req'd).

Front Page

I mean, I've curtailed any inherent biases I may have against the states of the former Confederacy (I mean, let bygones be bygones). However, since the election, the whole red-state/blue-state thing has meant an outrageous beating up on the blatant immorality/amorality that allegedly exists on the Coasts and Northwest/east.

But the Jennifer Wilbanks/John Mason "runaway bride" saga should remind everyone that no region has a monopoly on familial dysfunctionality (though 600-guest/14-bridegrooms/groomsmen in a non-Trump setting is, I think a bit rarer north of the Mason-Dixon line).

Meanwhile speaking of the clash of Peach State and Big Apple values, look who's back: Yep, the one-and-only John Rocker. The former Atlanta Braves stopper is now on the comeback trail working with an independent league team on Long Island. Rocker basically blew up a promising career as a closer six years ago when he told Sports Illustrated said that he hated playing in New York because he had to go to Shea Stadium (home of the Mets) on the No. 7 train, an experience he described thusly:
Imagine having to take the (No.) 7 train to (Shea Stadium) looking like
you're (in) Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with
AIDS, right next to some dude who got out of jail for the fourth time, right
next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing.

The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You
can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English.
Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people
and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?

For some reason, more than a few people took offense at these words. Anyway, the typical media maelstrom kicked in. A rather savvy Braves coach predicted that Rocker probably wouldn't survive the ordeal professionally. Within a few years, between the media scrutiny and injuries, Rocker found himself traded several times and by 2002 was out of major-league baseball.

He exchanged words with a fan in Atlantic City who needled the Macon, GA native thatwas "a long way from Atlanta."

Rocker responded, in my view, in a rather New York manner: "I'm still a millionaire, [expletive]."

Good for him.

I came around to sympathizing with Rocker rather early. Were the things he said back in 1999 bigoted and narrow-minded? Yeah, probably. Does that mean he must be condemned for his entire life for sentiments he expressed (as he himself has noted recently) as a dumb 23 year-old? Of course not. His "punishment" -- in both public opinion and in the downhill trajectory of his life -- has far exceeded his "crime."

And, of course, New York is a great place for second-chances. So, if some fan of his minor-league team's opponents gives him a hard time, his response was the appropriate one. But, John, don't let it get you down that you are still a "whipping boy." Not letting the "#%&^@$s" get you down is what a) living in the New York area is all about and, b) what competing in professional sports is all about.

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