Samson goes out of comfort zone on 'Survivor'

Marlins president talks of reality show, defends time off

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When Marlins president David Samson disappeared last summer, rumors began inside the team. He was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, some staffer said. A few others thought he was in sex rehabilitation.

"I only wish that was so,'' he said upon returning.

Some got it right: Samson was on a reality show. "Survivor" was the TV show he always told his family he wanted on. He watched its replays at midnight on summer nights after baseball games with staffers and beers.

"I'd get asked, 'Why would you want to do that?' " Samson said.


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And? Why would he want to live on the remote Philippine Island of Cagayan? Why start your own fire? Why build your own shelter? Why subsist on minimal food in a cut-throat environment that would make you an inviting target of criticism on national TV?

"I love being out of my comfort zone,'' he said. "It's why I've done the Ironman (an ultra-race in Hawaii), done the double marathons, loved getting the ballpark done when others couldn't do it. I love things that aren't easy.

"This all started when I stopped growing. It's not a Napoleon complex. It's the realization I couldn't dunk a basketball. I couldn't practice enough to dunk a basketball. I couldn't work hard enough.

"I figured for the rest of my life I'd do extraordinary things that anyone could do. It's not like I can hit a 95 mph fastball. Everything I've done just took discipline and fortitude to do."

You don't have to like Samson. I haven't always. He once introduced me to his daughter with, "Here's the guy who's never written one good word about me." (Not true. But close enough.)

But how can you not be fascinated by him? And admire how he puts himself out there? Oh, people will sniff that he missed several weeks of the baseball season last summer to tape "Survivor." And if you want to say he was derelict of duty, go ahead. That's an open seat to take.

"The team is going to win or lose without me, because I'm not involved in the day-to-day of who gets called up, who gets sent down,'' he said. "When it was filmed, I knew it wasn't a time to negotiate contracts or get budgets for next season. It was the day-to-day grind of a season.

"A better criticism than that is, 'You don't have enough people coming to games and your team's no good.' That's a criticisim I agree with. But a criticism for me doing something outside of work, I don't accept."

He then dropped a line from the movie Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. ' ''

This "Survivor" season starts Feb. 28 and consists of 18 contestants trying win $1 million by being the last one on the island. The group is split into groups of Brains, Beauty and Brawn. Samson is on the Brains team (former NBA star Cliff Robinson is on the Brawn team).

Fill in your own joke about Samson not fitting in the other two groups. Or not fitting in all three.

" 'Survivor,' is both a physical game and a social game,'' he said. "Those things are real. I think I underestimated them. It is so different when you just watch from the couch.

"Everyone wants to be in baseball until they're in baseball and realize, 'Wow, I've got to work very hard. It's a serious job.' Survivor is like that. It's not glorious at all. And if you're doing it for any other reason than to win, you shouldn't do it. I wanted to win the game."

He can't divulge if he wins. He contractually can't discuss any details of his experience, other than to say, "The accomodations aren't up to major-league standards."

It's unusual. It's interesting. It's so Samson. Take it how you want. And if you don't like it there's more coming from the team president.

In March, he'll be in the South Florida play, "Not Ready for Prime Time Players." He'll be in a primary role as Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.

"It's a lot of lines to remember, a lot of work,'' he said.

No wonder why the Marlins are awful, right?

"It's how you allocate your time,'' he said. "I hate it when people say they don't have enough time to do everything. Whether you work two jobs, three jobs or zero jobs, you have time."

He says, "I just don't sleep a lot."

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