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April 8 - Off Their Rocker

We were sitting around at work on Tuesday, the day of Reggie Miller's last game at Madison Square
Garden, discussing one of those great debate topics:

Who is the most hated athlete by New York fans in recent memory?

Obviously, Miller was one of the prime candidates. However, I contended that he was too respected to
really be "hated". I said he would get his due from the Garden fans that night and get a standing O,
which he did. And that removed him from the debate in my eyes. We moved on to Curt Schilling, who
seems to be the embodiment of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry these days. But he is also too respected,
despite his recent comments. Anyone who doesn't respect him after his performance last post-season
doesn't understand exactly what he accomplished.

No, I said. The person who tops this list needs to turn a New Yorkers' stomach. He has to piss you off
on AND off the field. A couple of rude comments isn't enough. Reggie and Schilling are too good to have
a couple bad moments ruin it for them.

And then, it hit me.............

John Rocker.

The scourge of baseball and the most hated New York opponent in recent memory. He brought out a
reaction like no other. I was at Shea Stadium for a game in the 1999 League Championship Series
when the Braves beat the Mets and Rocker established himself as a first class jerk with his taunting of
Met fans. Not tongue in cheek, playful taunting like Miller's, but deep-rooted, mean taunts - middle
fingers, screaming at fans, barroom antics. I was at Shea Stadium for the game in the Summer of 2000
and he was coming back to Shea for the first time since his infamous and ridiculous article in Sports
Illustrated the previous off-season. There were armed guards surrounding the Atlanta dugout. The
number of media members there that night made it feel like a playoff game. And when he came in, the
jeers were louder than any I've ever heard at a sporting event. Both nights, you had to fear for the guy's
safety.

And THAT is what puts him atop this list.

Guys like Reggie and Schilling, while disliked, are respected. The fans may taunt them, but they are still
safe. No one will harm them (except maybe Kramer, but he and Reggie will just go to a strip club
afterwards). No, they can't top Rocker.

I'm not going to rehash all of his white trash, redneck (OK, make that ignorant) comments. That kind of
behavior is below me. But at the same time, I'm sure you are all wondering exactly why I have gone
down this road.

Well, he's back!

This week, Rocker signed a contract with the Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks. That's right, Rocker
is playing in the New York area. Now, I know independent teams need to do things to draw attention and
ring fans in, but I think they have gone in the wrong direction with this one.

Fans aren't going to come to the park in this area to cheer for John Rocker. They just can't. The wounds,
while five years old, are just never going to heal. Just his name makes people's skin crawl. Attention?
Yes, the Ducks will get some. But unless their ideas for him involve pies, his head stuck through a hole
and a $5 donation to charity, they aren't going to make a single dime off of this guy. In fact, I'll go this far. I
wouldn't be a bit surprised if others, besides myself, refuse to buy a ticket for a game there as long as
he is on the team.

It isn't anything against the Ducks. They are great for Long Island. It is a fun night out at a great park. But
sometimes, a team just makes a mistake.

Please fix this one, Ducks. Before Rocker can open his mouth.