The Funny 115 - The Third One

#99. 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 the castaways.

John Rocker

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 about him.  

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 late 90's.

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 John Rocker.

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 wouldn't.

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 one.


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 game.

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 tribe is.

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 something?

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 the end.

Okay, so here we go.  Wes interrogates John about if he is John Rocker.

"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."

Rocker:  "Oh."

"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."

Annnnnnd scene.  

John Rocker's lie about not being a famous former baseball player has lasted all of about thirty minutes.

Triomphe, Napoleon.

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?"

John Roker

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 Roker Rocker 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:

As 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 picture **

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