“He’s done to me what he’s done to 30 other people.”

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The wife said I shouldn’t blog about John Rocker.

But, really, I’m not blogging about John Rocker here. I’m blogging about journalism. Which is, truly, my passion.

Yesterday afternoon, somebody Tweeted me the link to a recent segment on Vice, the HBO news series that I absolutely love. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s 100-percent worthwhile. The pieces are edgy, hard-nosed, informative, sharp. My sister-in-law’s boyfriend first told me about Vice a couple of years ago, and his raves were right. It’s sort of like 60 Minutes meets Rage Against the Machine, if that makes any sense. Quality journalism with a pronounced oomph.

Anyhow, the new segment (you can watch it above) is about Rocker, the apparently misunderstood inspiration behind the Kenny Powers character in Eastbound and Down. And it’s entertaining. The reporter, a woman named Gianna Toboni, follows Rocker around for (it seems) a couple of days. She shows a side to him the public hasn’t seen. He’s thoughtful, he’s caring, he’s charitable. And, truly, I have no problem with this. Yeah, I’m skeptical. But maybe, just maybe, John Rocker: 2014 is thoughtful and caring and charitable. It’s certainly a possibility.

But then, 14 minutes into the piece,  Rocker sits across from Toboni and says this: “If people just wanna be so rudimentary, so naive, so sheepish that they just want to read that SI article and just accept what Jeff Pearlman has to say and ignore the fact that … that Mr. Pearlman has done to me, maybe not in the vein of racism or bigotry or whatever, he has done to me what he’s done to 30 other subjects that he’s written about. And take it with a grain of salt. And how about a little more research into what John Rocker has to say, and not the cut-and-splice version that Jeff Pearlman tries to portray.”

Um …

Here’s the thing: Rocker has every right to say this and think this. He does. And if he views my journalism career as one long effort to bait athletes into calling black teammates “fat monkeys” (as, ahem, he did), that’s OK. I have, indeed, written biographies that contained some spicy (for lack of a better word) material. Walter Payton’s infidelity. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds’ PED usage. Michael Irvin slicing a teammate’s neck with scissors. This comes with interviewing hundreds of people, and not simply wanting to tell the brainless stories of glorious on-field battles performed by our perfect heroes (or, Vice, telling the story of an athlete’s long, hard journey without mentioning that he was a non-prospect before PED).

I am not mad at John Rocker. Not at all.

But if you’re Vice, how do you allow this comment (“He’s done to me what he’s done to 30 other people.”) without so much as a call? Without a five-second, “We spoke to Pearlman, and he called Rocker’s depiction ____________”? I truly don’t get it. I assure you, 60 Minutes makes the call. The New York Times makes the call. And not because I’m a journalist. You call because, when someone attacks another’s record or professionalism and it airs, you are required—by journalistic code—to give the targeted a chance to defend himself.


9 thoughts on ““He’s done to me what he’s done to 30 other people.””

  1. It’s a bad piece of journalism, and hard to watch in spots. Whatever the interviewer is, she’s hardly impartial. I felt at times like I was intruding on someone’s first date.

    I’m not surprised no one at Vice bothered to call.

  2. Jeff you were quick to label Officer Wilson a racist based on rumors that turned out to be lies without ever talking to him.
    You hardly gave the targeted a chance to defend himself. Now a man recently married with a child on the way is unemployed and unable to pursue his career.
    I think you are a good man but you are often a hypocrite

      1. You didn’t say in clear words that he was a racist you only implied that the reason Brown died was because of his skin color.
        The obvious implication is Wilson would not have shot him if he was white.
        The fact is if you attack a police officer you can expect to get shot no matter what color you are.
        In your post “White Thought” you came at it as what many white people were thinking but clearly you implied Wilson shot Brown because of skin color. Maybe I just didn’t read your post well or maybe you didn’t do a very good job of clarifying that what happened was possibly not race related.
        In your post “Facebook, Ferguson” you side with the protesters even though you don’t appreciate the destruction. The protesters are claiming race was a factor.
        In “Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.” You try to tie Wilson to the what happened at Staten Island.
        “And, once again, the police walk off into the sunset …

        Free. ”

        You side with the protesters.
        When did you mention Mr. Brown was a 6’4″ 294 pound adult male that struck officer Wilson in the face?
        You were quick to create a racist angle but never have you presented the other angle. You know the one the evidence and facts support.
        The reality is you have created racism issues when there never were any.
        I do get where you are coming from there are many true incidents of racism but the three you decided to use to fan the fires were not racist………. at least the evidence doesn’t support racism just the rumors and lies.
        Why do you allow yourself to be manipulated?

      2. I think you are a good man Jeff and for the most part your politics and social beliefs run parallel to mine.
        Often times you seem to jump too quickly on the popular bandwagon.
        In the 3 so called racial issues you have recently brought up none of them were actually racially based issues. The result of falsely identifying them as racial injustace creates more racial strife and division not less.
        Officer Wilson was doing his job. He stopped Brown because he matched the description of a suspect in a robbery.
        Instead of respecting a man that put his life on the line every time he went to work you aligned yourself with the protestors that claimed Brown was shot because of the color of his skin (racism).
        Because people such as yourself, journalists, spread the lies instead of investigating the truth officer Wilson is now unemployed with a child on the way. He has no career and it is all because so many, like you, chose to follow the rumors.

      3. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a black man, just murdered two NYPD officers. There is a possibility it was because of the recent Staten Island protests that many have attributed to racial issues.
        That is the problem with being controlled by rumors.

  3. I don’t think this piece from Vice was meant to be journalism. It’s a sort of slice-of-life vignette human interest piece. It doesn’t appear in the Vice News section of their website.

    I understand how you would be annoyed about being painted as a liar by Rocker in that moment, but I don’t think Vice presents Rocker in that moment or any others as a reliable narrator about his thoughts and intentions.

    I think the average Vice viewer who would find this piece is usually educated and curious enough to look up what you wrote about Rocker if they didn’t already know.

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