"Survivor: Cagayan" premiered last night with an episode that featured two Tribal Councils and two contestants ousted from the game. Of this season's 18 players, two of them can be considered celebrities, at least in the world of sports. First their is the former NBA star Cliff Robinson. And then there is the current President of the Miami Marlins, David Samson. In a shocking and perhaps inexplicable blindside, David was the first person voted off the show and today he joined me to talk about Survivor, and baseball. (If you missed the episode, you can find the full Episode 1 recap here).
Now David's last-place Survivor finish is just waiting for a punch-line, since his Miami Marlins team also finished in dead-last in the National League in 2013. He was placed on the Brains Tribe and was given a blazer to wear (wardrobe is often chosen for the contestants, so it's not like he wanted to wear it), but his attire led him to be selected as the Brains Tribe "leader" when Jeff Probst instructed each tribe to do so right at the beginning of the game.
As the newly appointed leader, David was tasked with selecting his tribe's weakest player and he did not hesitate for one second in selecting Garrett, the professional poker player with a chiseled body more fitting of the Brawn Tribe than perhaps the Brains. This decision was a big one that will undoubtedly have long-lasting affects in the game.
David felt threatened by Garrett, by his size, physicality and the fact that he was placed on the Brains Tribe, which meant he must be pretty smart. Soon after the tribe reunited, David suggested to his ally Kass that they vote out Garrett immediately, but his idea was squashed. Garrett, having been pinpointed as the weak link by David, had it out for David and ultimately was able to gain a majority four votes to blindside David at the very first Tribal Council, despite J'Tia's abrasive nature that had become a burden at camp.
I was able to speak exclusively to David Samson, the day after the premiere episode that saw him sent home as the very first person out of the game. We talk about his time on Survivor, being labeled the leader, and of course, I sneak in a question or two about baseball.
Tom Santilli: Hi David, great to chat with you, sorry to have seen you go so early on. How are you doing?
David Samson: Doing well, thank you.
Tom Santilli: So nobody would have guessed you'd go home first, but let's start at the beginning. You are placed on the Brains Tribe, a tribe that the other two tribes often called the "nerd" tribe last night. Do you identify with being called a nerd? Do you consider yourself a nerd or would have ever considered yourself one in the past?
David: No I don't think I'm nerdy. When they put together the tribe, they do it according to what they think works. For me, I didn't know what was going on. Especially once we got there and I saw that Morgan was with Alexis and that Tony and Cliff were together. Once I knew what it was, I perceived that I had a problem because I knew I would be a threat right from the beginning.
Tom Santilli: Then your tribe picks you as their leader. In that moment, even before you knew what you had to do, what was going through your mind?
David: The first thought that I had was that I would not win a million dollars.
Tom Santilli: (pause) That's all?
David: That was it. I felt as though I was labeled as a leader so the first thing I had to do was be a leader. Because if you're labeled as a leader and then act like a bumbling fool, I think that you lose even more credibility. So I though that I should make a decision, make it quick and with authority, and that would be my best chance to try to recover. But I think that from the beginning it was going to be tough for me and you saw in the episode, they viewed me as a threat and then got rid of me. I disagree with what they did obviously, but time will tell if it worked for them.
Tom Santilli: You made an interesting comment in your CBS.com "day-after interview" (to the left of this column) about how you realized that you had what it took to be the Sole Survivor, but not what it took to be on Survivor. Could you expand on what you mean by that?
David: Yeah, and it's funny, after watching that episode I still do feel that exact same way. I feel like I have what it takes to win, but it turns out that I didn't have what it takes to get past Spring Training. And that's what it was. I felt that if I could just get through the beginning, I'd be good. I really did think that I'd either be first or last. But I definitely thought that it was going to work out better for me.
Tom Santilli: Now, a man in your position doesn't necessarily play Survivor for the money. What would it have meant to you personally to have played this game and to have won?
David: My view of it was that I really thought that I wanted to win...it wasn't about wanting the money or needing the money, I mean of course who wouldn't want a million dollars? But what really what I wanted to do was to prove to myself that I could do something so different than what is normal for me. Everything about Survivor is different than what I normally do. Literally everything. Having that challenge, taking that challenge, it was a good lesson for my kids that if you really want something, you have to go after it. Even if you face criticism or people think that you can't accomplish something, you have to go for it.
Tom Santilli: Does it give you any satisfaction or pleasure in knowing that Garrett was blindsided right after you?
David: No. Because for me there are seventeen losers and one winner. So it doesn't matter. Seventeen of us will lose this season. So for me, there's no revenge, it just doesn't make any sense. J'Tia should have been voted out first, there's no doubt about it. I thought that it was going to be a unanimous vote so I was shocked when it wasn't.
Tom Santilli: Is there anybody at all left on the Brains Tribe that you think has any chance to go all the way and win this season?
David: For me, no. And I thought right from the beginning that someone fitting the description of a "brain" was not going to fit the description of victory.
Tom Santilli: You did seem to bond with Kass out there as an ally and she didn't vote for you. What was it about Kass that drew you to her as an ally?
David: I thought that Kass was someone I could work with and someone who couldn't win the million. Really I wanted to find an alliance of people who could make it to the end and not win. So I thought Kass fit that.
Tom Santilli: So Survivor as we all know is taped over the Summer (this past Summer), which is also during baseball season. Are you concerned at all with the perception of baseball or Marlins fans who may have been angered or surprised to hear that their Team President was competing on a show like Survivor during the baseball season?
David: No. Obviously in everything you do there will be critics. Sometimes people are critical of something that they don't want to do, or can't imagine doing, so they can't imagine someone else who wants to do it. For me, the lesson is as I said to you before, it's a lesson for my kids that if you want to do something, you go after it. I run the Marlins but guess what? Every day at 7:10 p.m. there's a first pitch and the game is played. The timing of the taping made perfect sense in terms of being the best of the worst possible times. So for the people critical of that, I'd say they shouldn't be and they themselves should go out and try to do pretty cool things.
Tom Santilli: Speaking of baseball, while I had you on the line I wanted to ask you about the controversial new "home plate collision" rule for the upcoming season. What are your thoughts on it?
David: It's a tough one, right? Because it's always been a part of the game. I think home plate collisions have been around forever and this sport is our national pasttime. So it's something that you want to be very careful in changing. On the other hand, you want your players to be safe and want smart decisions to be made by base runners and by catchers who have equipment that makes them feel as though they can take a collision, when in fact, they also can get hurt. We will see how it plays out this year, but it's definitely something that the players and the catchers are all worried about, in terms of how it will impact the game. But I think the baseball rules committee and Joe Torre really know what they're doing and they're doing things in the best interest of baseball.
Tom Santilli: I'm based in Detroit, so I have to ask you about the Detroit Tigers. What are your thoughts on the team, the organization and/or the hiring of Brad Ausmus this off-season?
David: They're a terrific organization. Dave Dombrowski was the GM of the Marlins right before I got there and they've got one of, if not the greatest, players in Miguel Cabrera, whom we had for many years as well. They have shown that a team is going to go through tough times and a team is going to go through great times, just like all organizations. They just do a great job every single year of getting ready and I look for them to be really good.
Tom Santilli: Last question for you: What are you excited about for the upcoming season with your team, the Miami Marlins?
David: Definitely hoping for more wins than last year. I'm really excited to just not talk about it and to just go do it. I'm really excited to get out there, we have our first Spring Training game tomorrow and then the season opens up March 31st. And it's a good feeling knowing that right now, we're tied for first.
For even more, be sure to watch David's day after interview to the upper or left of this column. Also be sure to subscribe to this column (above by my name) to receive email alerts of new postings and you'll want to follow me on Twitter too, @tomsantilli, and at tomsantilli.com as well!
Also, make sure you check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, Survivor Fever.