Funny 115 - The Third One
No, I'm That Other Pitcher
San Juan Del Sur - episode 1
In the twenty-ninth season of Survivor, the producers
cast former Major League relief pitcher John Rocker as one of
Now, for those of you who don't know much about John Rocker (and I am
guessing that is most of you, considering that the Venn Diagram between
"professional sports fans" and "online Survivor fans" looks more or
less like a pair of boobs), let me give you a little backstory
John Rocker pitched for the Atlanta Braves between the years 1998 and
2001. And for a couple of years there, he was really quite
good. At the time, he was one of the hardest throwers in all
of professional baseball. Between his height (6'4"), the fact
that he threw hard, and the fact that he was a borderline lunatic, he
was one of those pitchers that nobody in baseball wanted to face in the
Oh yeah, he was also known for having a big mouth
Well, let's just say that, although he was successful for a while, the
John Rocker story didn't have all that happy an ending.
In 1999, he got in a lot of trouble for an interview where he said
some, uh, crude things about various minority groups in New York.
He also said, in the words of Jeremy Collins, "a lot of
homosexual things." Then, in 2000, he got in trouble for
threatening a reporter. Meanwhile, fans around the country
booed him every time he stepped onto a field. And since
Rocker was one of those guys who was unable not to respond when people
were taunting him, as you can guess, his career didn't end very well.
Rocker taunting some fans who were heckling him
Between the negative press, and the fans hating him, and the press
hating him, and the team wanting to get rid of him, it was only a
matter of time until Rocker was forced out of baseball.
Finally, his arm blew out in 2003 (probably because of years of
steroids) and he was done with being an athlete for good. He
slipped quietly into anonymity after retiring in 2005, and for most
people, that was the last time they ever thought they would hear about
But then, in 2014, he resurfaced.
No, not that way. I mean, in 2014, he randomly
showed up as a contestant on Survivor: San Juan Del Sur.
Now, before I get to this entry, let me point out two things about John
Rocker as a professional baseball player.
First of all, he was easily one of the two or three most controversial
(and hated) players of the past twenty years. Ask pretty
much any baseball fan about Rocker or a guy named Barry Bonds, and they
will probably hit you with an incredible string of curse words.
John Rocker IN NO WAY would ever want people to know he was
John Rocker. At least, not in a social game like Survivor, he
Although it would be tough for anyone to win Survivor with
those crazy eyes
Oh, and the second thing to know about him? Well Rocker might
be kind of a dick at times, but he was in no way the biggest
professional athlete dick to ever play Survivor. That honor,
of course, would go to Jeff Kent. I mean, Rocker might have
been a bit of a loose cannon, and he might have opened his mouth when
he shouldn't have, but at least his teammates all
generally liked him. Jeff Kent, on the other hand,
he was notorious for his teammates always hating him. So
yeah, Rocker might not have been the greatest guy in the world, but read
up on Jeff Kent and his history sometime. I would
argue that his reputation was even worse than Rocker's.
I eat pieces of shit like John Rocker for breakfast
Okay, so now that you know his history, let's get to the awesomeness of
John Rocker's first day in San Juan Del Sur. Where he not
only failed to hide his identity from a skilled inquisitor...
... he tried to cover it up telling one of the most ridiculous lies in
the history of Survivor.
Trust me, even if you are not a baseball fan you will appreciate this
That kid's like Torquemada. Somehow he got it out of me.
Okay, so it is day one of San Juan Del Sur, and John Rocker is trying
his best to make sure that nobody knows he is John Rocker. To
them, he just wants to be known as "John". Or, in a pinch, as
"John Hawkins, Landscaper". Basically, as long as he is able
to fit in anonymously, and nobody knows about his past, and nobody
knows how much money he made as a professional baseball
player, he thinks he will be able to fit in and be allowed to play the
Although it's tough when you are 6'4" and built like a tree and you
have a face like an Easter Island statue
So John is walking around the first day, minding his business, trying
to stay below the radar.
And that's when he runs into the mastermind who will unmask him.
Yes, it's Wes Nale, one of the sharpest minds to come out of Harvard
Law School, and one of the finest inquisitors of his day.
Wes has already recognized John Rocker. Two minutes into the
game, and he already knows who this big tall long-faced guy on his
In fact, unbeknownst to Rocker, Wes is already asking around, to see if
anyone else has recognized him.
Wes (to Alec): Do you know John's last name?
Alec: Why? You think he's, like, famous or
Oh yes. The anaconda has already begun to encircle its prey.
And this is where the fun happens.
"Man, that's my favorite team, everybody watches the Atlanta.
That was when they were in their prime."
Wes already knows who John is.
So he corners Rocker down by the beach, and let the unmasking begin!
This scene is like watching the Lincoln-Douglas debate
I swear to God, I am not going to make any jokes during
the rest of this conversation. Every single bit of
this scene I am going to post verbatim, with no embellishments at all.
Then, perhaps, I can offer a bit of commentary at
Okay, so here we go. Wes interrogates John about if he is
"What's your last name, John?"
"Wetland. You sure?"
John: "What do you think it is?"
Wes: "I think it starts with an R."
Wes: "Does it have five letters in it?"
Rocker (truthfully): "No, it's got, uh..."
Wes: "No! Six!"
"No, it's got seven. W-E-T-L-A-N-D."
"All right. I believe you. You just look like somebody I know."
"Someone you went to school with?"
"Naw, I saw on TV once."
"He was The Man. It was back in the day."
Rocker: "Back when the Braves were good?"
"Back when the Braves were awesome."
And with that, Rocker knows he is busted.
Wes: "I thought so."
Rocker: "Keep it under your hat though, please."
John Rocker's lie about not being a famous former baseball player has
lasted all of about thirty minutes.
Okay, so let me get to the commentary now.
First off, this encounter is funny enough just as a standalone scene.
John Rocker tries to hide his identity, and some kid from
Louisiana who likes to eat chicken nuggets manages to unmask him
almost immediately. I mean, right there, that is funny enough
on its own.
But what really
kicks the comedy in this scene into overdrive is WHO John Rocker is
trying to pass himself off as when he lies about his identity.
Yes, that's right. Instead of John Rocker, baseball player,
Rocker tries to pass himself off as another famous former
baseball player instead.
Tell me if you've heard this before, but John Wetteland was a famous
former Major League relief pitcher. He played THE EXACT SAME
GOD DAMN POSITION that Rocker played. They were two of the
best relievers in baseball and they played at the exact same time.
Only Wetteland was way better than Rocker, and probably also
a lot more famous because he pitched for the New York Yankees and
because everyone knows who the Yankees are.
John Wetteland, World Series MVP in 1996
So here's what John Rocker was doing. He was trying to hide
the fact that he was a baseball player, BY PRETENDING TO BE ANOTHER
BASEBALL PLAYER WHO WAS A LOT BETTER AND WHO WAS A LOT MORE FAMOUS.
Tell me that isn't one of the greatest attempts at a lie in
the history of Survivor.
So John Rocker tries to pass himself off as the guy who led Major
League Baseball in saves for all of the 90's. Which would be
flattering to John Wetteland, I guess, except for the fact that Rocker
DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO FUCKING SPELL THE GUY'S LAST NAME.
And let's not gloss over the fact that Wes apparently thought
John's name was spelled "John Roker."
"Does it have five letters in it?"
So here we have a scene where a guy denies being a former
major league pitcher, by pretending to be an even better former major
league pitcher, and he is called out by a guy who knows who he is but
doesn't actually know his last name. And meanwhile the guy
using the ridiculous pseudonym doesn't actually know how it is supposed
to be spelled either. As Christina Cha would say, they were
both wrong, okay, and they should both shut up.
Speak it, sister
In any case, I just wanted people to appreciate how awesome this scene
is, and how it is even better than it simply appears at first glance.
This is one of those glorious little character interactions
that I have come to love so much over the years on Survivor.
I mean, where else can you see a guy trying to hide his
identity by pretending to be a celebrity in the exact same profession
with the exact same name? And yes, I know I already made a
Gary Hawkins joke. I mean, besides Guatemala, where else are
you ever going to see that?
In the end, you know a Survivor scene is amazing when it has even been
written up in a non Survivor publication. Yahoo Sports even
wrote about this scene the day after it aired. Here is their
article, where they also found it amusing that John
was trying to pass himself off as John Wetland Wetteland. In fact, here is the paragraph they ended with, which wraps up this entry better than I ever could:
for John Wetteland, he had a much more distinguished baseball career
than Rocker. He won a World Series with the Yankees in 1996 and was the
World Series MVP. He was a three-time All-Star and saved 330 games for
the Yankees, Rangers, Expos and Dodgers. It's not much of an
addition, but Wetteland can now also say John Rocker pretended to be
him on "Survivor" once. And misspelled his name. Proud day.
He was The Man.
P.S. Rodney wasn't the only one who could do a DeNiro.
Thanks to Josh Lehmer for the Brad Culpepper/Da Vinci Code