John Rocker and the triumph of the therapeutic

Braves Answer Questions About Rocker
New York Times
January 9, 2000

By The Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves came Sunday to sign autographs. Instead, they wound up answering questions about John Rocker.

Outfielder Andruw Jones, shortstop Walt Weiss and manager Bobby

Cox were among those taking part in the promotion at the Braves' spring training site, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

``It's disappointing,'' Jones said of Rocker's remarks. ``But I lived with Rocker for one year and he always was kind of crazy, but not to say stuff like that. I don't know if it came from his heart, or it came from his head or just stupidness.''

Rocker told Sports Illustrated he would never play for a New York team because he didn't want to ride a train ``next to some queer with AIDS.'' He also said, ``I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. ... How the hell did they get in this country?'' He called a black teammate a ``fat monkey,'' mocked the driving skills of Asian women and insulted single mothers.

Rocker apologized for the remarks published last month and said he was not a racist.

On Friday, he began psychological tests ordered by major league baseball. The reliever reportedly left Baltimore after one day of tests to start a hunting trip, and it was uncertain whether doctors would recommend additional testing.

Cox said he will wait until baseball finishes its investigation before making any statement.

``I don't really want to comment on anything until I actually talk to John person-to-person and see what the league is going to bring out on this,'' Cox said.

Weiss said he doesn't expect the controversy to bother the team.

``When we all get together here at spring training, I think everyone will be focused on baseball,'' Weiss said. ``Everything kind of takes care of itself once you show up here and get into your daily routine.''

Get Rocker Therapy; Make Braves Go, Too

January 10, 2000



Sometime this week Bud Selig will drop the other shoe on John Rocker. He'll decide what action baseball will take against the Atlanta Braves' impetuous relief pitcher.

Last week, Selig, the baseball commissioner, ordered Rocker to undergo a psychological evaluation in the wake of disparaging comments he made about minorities and gays in an article in Sports Illustrated. He ripped teenagers with purple hair, called an African-American teammate a fat monkey and made racial and

homophobic slurs about New Yorkers. The tests were ordered Thursday. Rocker visited psychologists on Friday and then left for a hunting trip in Arkansas.

But in ordering psychological tests, Selig may have stumbled upon the beginning of a path to slay the wrenching beast of prejudice, intolerance, bigotry. Selig equated racism and bigotry to a psychological disorder to be confronted and wrestled with -- not to be shunted in a closet and hidden.

Nathan Hare has observed the Rocker matter from his office in San Francisco. Hare has also watched what seems like a series of blunders in judgment and widely chronicled miscues by college and professional athletes. Hare, 66, the co-founder of the Black Think Tank nearly 20 years ago, has been intrigued by the failure of teams to handle their young employees.

Born in Slick, Okla., Hare got his master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1957 and his Ph.D. from the California School of Professional Psychology in 1975. His first reaction to Rocker was amusement. "I'm more concerned by what people do to me, not what they call me," he said. But at a deeper level, he sees Rocker's outburst as one more example of an athlete's self-absorbed recklessness.

This incident was about a baseball player being loud and wrong. Tomorrow there will be something else. Next week another incident, and then another. Selig should order therapy, not simply for Rocker but for the entire team.

"I think a lot of problems young athletes have, being young, often fresh out of the slums or off the farm, they could handle better if they had this intensive group therapy all the time about all kinds of issues that they confront," Hare said last night. "People tell kids things and they tell young athletes things, but they don't really tell them in a way that really sinks in or in a way that is constant. Group-therapy requirement -- or whatever you want to call it -- would give them a constancy of these reminders and at the same time a social support for facing the world as a professional athlete.

"They tell them when they first get the job, but they don't come back and tell you again and again and again. And they need to be told again and again and again."

For all the predictions about how Rocker will get beaten up by his Atlanta teammates, the opposite may happen. Nearly everyone in the clubhouse has committed a blunder.

"Sometimes the blind lead the blind best," Hare said, "because you have the team factor: they can talk and laugh about things that other people can't even mention. It's better to have the social group talking about things rather than some grand therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist who is taking an authoritarian position.

"They could take the high road and make something out of this, of a preventive nature. The biggest gain in terms of heart disease and cancer has been change of lifestyle. If you change the lifestyle of people to effect physical health, you can change mental and social health by working on lifestyle -- educational programs, preventive programs, self-help peer-group therapy and whatever you might devise to work on making life better for the athlete and helping them live up to their potential."

People like Rocker see the world as a vise closing in, a world in which the human component becomes less significant with each merger, each downsizing, as the wealthy increase. Purple hair, a land filled with texture. People like Rocker lash out. "Society is going through so many changes, so many new twists and turns, nobody even knows what to do, even couples," Hare said. "Who is going to do what? What are you going to do when one is offered a job? Who goes where? Do you commute? All these things are changing."

Lee D. Kassan, a psychotherapist in New York, agreed with Hare. "Prejudice is ignorance plus fear," said Kassan, the author of "Second Opinions: Sixty Psychotherapy Patients Evaluate Their Therapists."

"People are scared by these changes," he said. "They don't know what the effect is going to be on their own life, and that frightens people."

Kassan also agrees with Hare that group therapy may be more effective than therapy for just one player. "It may be useful to have someone come in and do a group workshop," he said. "Face it: Rocker's going to alienate a lot of teammates, I'm sure. They're going to have to find a way to make this team work."

Hare offered one final shock therapy for Rocker. "I'd like to see him get a black therapist," he said. "If he sticks with it long enough, he might come out of it with some change in his attitude. He would come to terms better with any guilt he has about having said what he said."


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