Balls for Brains

Kenny Rogers has a history of sneak assaults

So the fans cheered Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers next time he took the mound after attacking two camerapersons at Ameriquest Field in Arlington on June 29. All that tells me is that fans like cowards. Somehow I'm not surprised.

Look at the video again on Channel 11's Web site (, video library, June 29, 2005, 6 p.m.). Rogers doesn't attack KDFW Fox4 cameraman Larry Rodriguez head-on. I say he sneaks up on him.

Watch the tape. It's not a fighting move. It's more like stalking a guy who's standing on a stool and then kicking it out from under him.

"Hey, that's Kenny Rogers," KDFW cameraman Larry Rodriguez thought when Rogers suddenly appeared in his viewfinder. Then Rogers punked him.
Mark Graham
"Hey, that's Kenny Rogers," KDFW cameraman Larry Rodriguez thought when Rogers suddenly appeared in his viewfinder. Then Rogers punked him.

Rogers walks toward Rodriguez but turns his head slightly away when he gets close, as if he isn't even especially aware Rodriguez is there. I'd call it a feint. It works. Rodriguez has no warning.

"I had no idea Kenny was present until I realized in my viewfinder, 'Hey, that's Kenny Rogers,'" Rodriguez tells me. "I heard arguing. I heard the commotion and turned to my left. When I recognized it was Kenny, I thought, 'OK, it's Kenny,' and next thing you know the camera went over."

Rodriguez and Rogers have never had a beef, according to Rodriguez. "I didn't expect anything like that from Kenny," he says. "Maybe somebody who was a face that he didn't know, a face he didn't recognize from around the ballpark, but not me."

It's cowardly. I've worked around professional photographers all my life. They're completely vulnerable when they have their faces shoved into their viewfinders, especially when they're balancing heavy equipment, especially when they have no reason to think somebody might attack them. Going after them when they don't expect it is just dirty. Rogers is a punk.

Tim Evans, an attorney representing Rogers, went back and viewed the tape I'm talking about after discussing it with me: He thinks I'm wrong and trying to read something into it that isn't there. "I've looked at the video, and there's no way Kenny Rogers is trying to sneak up on anybody," he told me over the weekend.

I asked Evans what possible warning Rodriguez could have had. He declined to speculate beyond disagreeing with my assertion that Rogers was sneaking up on his victim. That's OK. We agreed to disagree.

I say the guy's a punk--a certain kind of spoiled athlete sissy who's always had moms and dads and coaches and private cops around to finish his fights for him. I'd love to dump Kenny Rogers out on the streets of East Dallas by himself and see how long it takes for his little punk-ass act to put him in the Baylor ER.

The point is that a photographer trying to carry and protect all that equipment can't fight back. "Any type of misdirection, just taking a wrong step with the camera on your shoulder, you can injure yourself," Rodriguez tells me.

Almost every professional photographer I work with seems to develop some kind of serious back trouble eventually, especially when they enter middle age. It's an occupational hazard that even puts some of them out of the business.

Rodriguez, 45 years old and in the business 25 years, is no exception. He had to recover from a serious back injury 11 years ago, and he's worried this recent incident may have reinjured him in the same place. "Right when that camera went off, I felt that shooting pain right up the back of the neck that I felt back in '94.

"My doctor is telling me that I cannot return until the 21st, only because I'm still sore in my neck and my lower back. My wrist pain is gone, but it still tingles quite a bit. It feels like it's asleep."

I hope he sues.

What Rogers did was the same thing as me standing around the ballpark one day with my reporter's notebook in my pocket, waiting until I see Rogers in an intense conversation with a coach with his pitching hand spread out on the concrete curb of the dugout, then moseying over there real cool and stomping on his fingers as hard as I can with my heel.

Right after the incident, Channel 11 reporter Babe Laufenberg interviewed Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, who told him, "I'm upset for Kenny. Kenny's certainly not a kid of mine, but he's a member of our team, and it's like when one of your kids does something you wish they hadn't done. You get concerned. I'm concerned for Kenny. Obviously he's got some anger management issues. That's why Kenny's so competitive."

So what was the competition? How many guys can you blind-side without getting hit back? And who's ahead?

I spoke last week with Dallas Morning News photographer Brad Loper, who confirmed he was the person referred to rather elliptically by Morning News columnist Gerry Fraley recently when Fraley wrote, "The Rangers cannot again look the other way, as they did during spring training when Rogers fired baseballs at photographers."

Rogers threw a baseball at Loper, a veteran sports shooter at the News, while Loper had his face in the camera photographing someone else. When I spoke with Loper, he minimized the incident somewhat and said he thought if Kenny Rogers had wanted to hit him with that ball, he would have, instead of whacking it off a wall nearby.

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