Every season of Survivor has at least one villain, and for Season 29, San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water, it's easy to guess who it might be.
CBS announced the cast today, and on the list is one John Rocker; the former MLB pitcher was a walking controversy for most of his career. Despite that, he thinks he can win.
"I have world class athletic abilities and leadership skills. I have the ability to read people and morph my personality in a way that lets me mesh with people from all walks of life," he says in his official Survivor bio.
All walks of life? That remains to be seen.
Rocker played for the Braves in the late '90s but was demoted and then traded away after making insensitive, homophobic, and racist comments in a Dec. 27, 1999 Sports Illustrated interview. For example:
"I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark looking like you're [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing… The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?"
Though he apologized at the time, Rocker continued to use homophobic slurs in the years following. And he called his mandated sensitivity training a "farce." Time hasn't mellowed the outspoken former player, either. Last year, in a column on a conservative website, he claimed that the Holocaust would never have happened if Germany had had looser gun control laws.
Since his baseball days, Rocker has become a conservative writer, released an autobiography, and has dabbled in acting (what, you didn't see the 2002 horror comedy The Greenskeeper?).
Survivor isn't his first foray into reality television, either. In 2006, he appeared on Spike TV's Pros vs. Joes.
Now he's trying his hand at outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting, alongside girlfriend Julie McGee, owner of a spray-tan business. But Rocker doesn't think his past controversies will make him a target:
"I see these folks that I'm getting ready to play this game with as very similar to the 13 years of professional baseball that I played, and the teammates that I played with," he told Entertainment Weekly. "Some of my biggest supporters after that SI debacle were my current and past teammates."
[Photos: Meet the Season 29 Castaways]
Still, considering his very public statements about race and sexual orientation, it'll be interesting to see how he gets along with some of those other contestants — like chatterbox Sri Lankan twins Nadiya and Natalie Anderson, who competed on The Amazing Race.
Then there's gay couple Reed Kelly and Josh Canfield, who are seasoned performers on Broadway. Will they be Rocker's "biggest supporters," considering all the homophobic comments he's made in the past?
Perhaps McGee will help him make friends. In her bio, she compares herself to former player Colleen Haskell, who was known for her sweetness. "I am the most observant person. I'm told by everyone that knows me that I can figure out someone's state of mind and intentions within minutes," she says.
Should make for some interesting tribal councils.
Survivor premieres Wednesday, Sept. 24. at 8 p.m. on CBS.
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