Not heard from since his last Yard Work entry, former professional athlete John Rocker visits the Crestview, Florida Rotary Club.
Bill Barnhill, who hosts the annual event on his Gum Creek Lodge property, invited Rocker, 31, to be the guest speaker at the dinner, which was preceded this year by a day of quail hunting.
“We don’t have anything to lose,” Barnhill said a few weeks earlier, adding he hadn’t given Rocker any suggested talking points. “It probably won’t be anything about subways in New York. We’ll have some students there, so I hope it’s pretty positive.”
It took Debi Curzio a few years to convince Rocker he needed a publicist. That may be the most significant way he has changed in seven years: His politics and opinions haven’t, but he recognizes they should come with a professional escort. Curzio is even ghost-writing a book Rocker hopes will be published by June.
It’ll contain his thoughts on current events, politics, the media. John Rocker on racial profiling. John Rocker on immigration. John Rocker on the context that was lacking from that Sports Illustrated story (if not for which, he admits, he probably wouldn’t be writing a book).
“People never really sat down and asked me, ‘John, why did you say some of these things?’” Rocker said after his quail hunt and before the big feast. “Well, I’ve got very good reasons. I don’t just fly off the handle, don’t just spout out diarrhea of the mouth.
“I would have told you about immigrants,” he continued. “These are the percentages, this is what I know is going on with this country, where a lot of them want to come in and be integral parts of the society and assimilate themselves and be Americans. There are those kind of people; every one of them can come over here and build this country to be as great as it is today. But a lot of them come over here and just freeload off our good fortune, and those are the ones I have a problem with. People that in venues like this all over the country, they have a problem with it, too.”
“I’m going to go into a lot of issues and stuff that the media would say ‘got me in trouble.’ I’d just say I’m sticking up for small-town America,” said Rocker, a native of Macon, Ga. “I grew up in a place just like this. New York City is not America. L.A. is not America. Chicago is not America. Those are big cities; they’re melting pots with people from all over the world.”
The crowd applauded on cue, a few people whooped, but just as many seemed preoccupied with the quail stew.