‘Survivor’ Castaway John Rocker: ‘I Chose to Look Like an (Expletive)’

'Survivor: San Juan del Sur' (CBS)

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No new player has ever entered the game of “Survivor” with more baggage than former MLB reliever John Rocker. His controversial “Sports Illustrated” article came into play last night during the immunity challenge and resulted in insults being lobbed back and forth between the two tribes.

Is that why John was sent home? Doubtful, Rocker’s alliance didn’t trust him due to his side deal with Jeremy and the fact that he didn’t immediately reveal that he had found an idol.

I spoke with “Johnny Rock” the morning after his elimination and had a chance to ask him about the challenge explosion, his relationship with the other players, and the article that changed his life…

Gordon Holmes: I hate to start this interview on an awkward note, but in the interest of full disclosure, I have to let you know that I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan.
John Rocker: Ooo…I was not told that. I told CBS to screen these guys.
Holmes: (Laughs)
Rocker: Nothing against the Cards. I don’t know how you did it, but you beat the Dodgers.
Holmes: I don’t know how they did it either.
Rocker: I was very impressed. I don’t know how you beat Kershaw twice.
Holmes: And they’re giving Kershaw all this grief over losing, but he was awesome through six innings each time.
Rocker: That’s October baseball. They just waited him out. I was very impressed with the way you guys played that series.
Holmes: I like how you say “you guys” like I had something to do with it.
Rocker: (Laughs) In spirit maybe.

Holmes: Alright, what the heck happened during that challenge last night? I know you were doing the “Caddyshack” thing to try to distract them. Is that what set Natalie off?
Rocker: I guess just being me, my presence. What’s so funny is I’ve actually become pretty good friends with Natalie and Nadiya and Jeremy and Val. We were all on a Skype phone call last night. I was watching them watch the program. And Natalie’s yelling at me on the TV and I said, “Really, Nat?! Really?! Look at yourself! Are you proud of yourself?”
Holmes: But, it had to start on Exile with the deal that didn’t work out with Jeremy.
Rocker: Jeremy and I made a pact. And when I couldn’t protect Val because she was so adamant that she had two idols. And I told her, “If you’ve got an idol, play it.” And I was waiting for her to tell me if she had them and she insisted that she did. When Jeremy saw Val gone it got his ire up and he spread a lot of vitriol through his tribe about me.  He probably told Natalie that I was the reason his sister was voted out. So, prior to that challenge, my name was mud in that tribe. And I know from the previous challenge, the water challenge, every time they would win, Natalie would leave the challenge field, flicking us birds, (expletive deleted) us, (expletive deleted) us.
Holmes: Wow.
Rocker: Just wearing us out, dude. They had all the wooden whatever stuff you had to crawl under. She was crawling on top of that stuff, looking at us, flicking us off saying “(expletive deleted), you guys. (expletive deleted), you (expletive deleted).” And when she got to her mat she started singling me out. And this (expletive deleted) talking went on for about a minute, minute and a half. So, I wanted to tell her, “If you were a man I’d want to knock your teeth out.” I wanted to get that little (expletive deleted) dig in there. And it may be an inappropriate comment.
Holmes: Maybe.
Rocker: Obviously I was never going to punch a woman. But to make that comment? That literally came after one-to-two minutes of verbal assault from her. And once she got to her mat, Jeremy started chirping, then Jon. At some point enough is enough. You can either sit there and look like an (expletive deleted) because people are talking (expletive deleted) and you’re not defending yourself. Or, fire back and look like an (expletive deleted). So, I chose to look like an (expletive deleted).

Holmes: (Laughs) Were you worried at all that by firing back you were going to put Julie in a bad position?
Rocker: When I was made aware of the fact that I wasn’t going to fly under the radar like I was hoping, I knew that was going to put a target on Julie’s back right then and there. And then getting voted out, I think that took the target off of her back. So, I wasn’t too disappointed to get voted out.
Holmes: What do you think of Julie so far? I think she’s playing a really solid game.
Rocker: She is. I was very proud of her. When we were talking to Lynne Spillman, she’s thinking she’s got the hair extensions and the perfect manicure and the fake boobs and yada yada, and she thinks she’s going to get eaten alive out there. Julie says, “Trust me, I’m not.” She’s a good old country girl, she grew up in Augusta, Georgia. She spent a lot of time out on the farm, riding four wheelers and getting beat up by his brothers. I  think she held her own quite nicely and tolerated it about as well as you’d expect a female to tolerate it. I was very proud of her.
Holmes: Does she still give you grief for losing to her in that challenge?
Rocker: A little bit, yeah.

Holmes: Your alliance turned on you. It seems like a lot of it had to do with the moves you were making that Josh didn’t know about. You shared info with Val. You’d found an idol.
Rocker: I thought the other players, Baylor, Jaclyn, played kind of a funky game. If someone has an idol you try to align with them or find a way to convince them that you’re not going to vote for them and get them to sit on their idol. It’s risky. But, my tribe, if they found out you had an idol, they were gunning for you. Josh was a real student of the game. When everyone was saying, we need to get rid of Val. Josh was more of a voice of reason. He came to me separately and was like, “Maybe we should take Val and her idols and align with her.” Dale, Baylor, and Jaclyn had negativity toward anyone with an idol. When I told Josh I’d found an idol, I told him I could let him use my idol. But, Josh wouldn’t extend the hand and keep me a part of the alliance…I didn’t see that one coming.
Holmes: Where’s the idol now?
Rocker: Production took it.
Holmes: They’d have to wrestle it out of my hands.
Rocker: They said they’d give it back to me after the finale.

Holmes: Alright, word association time.
Rocker: Oh no.
Holmes: Oh yeah. Let’s start with Josh.
Rocker: Ripped.
Holmes: Wes?
Rocker: Redneck.
Holmes: Dale?
Rocker: Mouthy.
Holmes: Jaclyn?
Rocker: Blonde.
Holmes: Baylor?
Rocker: Ugh…that’s my word…ugh.
Holmes: Alec?
Rocker: Spicoli.
Holmes: Jeremy?
Rocker: Good dude.
Holmes: Natalie?
Rocker: Loud.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Julie.
Rocker: My sweetie.

Holmes: People have an immediate opinion of you due to the Sports Illustrated article and other things. How have you approached that over the years?
Rocker: There’s no good answer for that. It’s like “When did you stop beating your wife?” They think you’re a wife beater. People ask me if I’ve changed.  That implies that that article is correct. I haven’t changed from 15 years ago, I was never like that to begin with. If you look at Jeff Pearlman and his writing style, that’s just what he does to everyone he writes about. He disparaged Walter Payton in an entire book. How do you disparage Walter Payton? Go out and find anyone who knows me. It could be guys I went to high school with, guys I played in the minors with, the majors with, associates. Find anyone out there who can say anything bad about me who knows me? That’s exactly what happened when this article came out. They interviewed people I went to high school with, my teachers, my parents’ friends, my friends…they left no stone unturned trying to get some kind of parallel story to go along with Jeff Pearlman’s story and nobody got anything. They got the opposite. So, when people ask if I’ve changed, I’ve never had to change. I got a hatchet job by Jeff Pearlman.
Holmes: What do you want people to know about you?
Rocker: That I’m not any of those things in that article. You see the way I was talked about by the other tribe and some of my own tribe mates prior to knowing me. Now they all know me.
Holmes: During last week’s interview with Val, she did say you were a nice guy.
Rocker: I was in New York about a month ago with Jeremy and Val and Natalie and Nadiya. We went out for dinner, had some drinks. Last night I had a Skype call with them. I was on the phone with Jeremy. Now these people know me and Jeremy and Natalie have both apologized, “Sorry, you’re actually a good guy. Sorry for the way we talked (expletive deleted) about you.” Both of them apologized for calling me, “Homophobe! Bigot! (Expletive deleted)!” We’re already planning a trip for the finale. We’ll come out to LA a few days early and hang out together. One article, can’t encompass the entirety of a person’s being. The media has allowed that to happen. That’s not me. It never has been and it never will be.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter at @gordonholmes.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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