GATOR, MARK OBLOW, AND APOLOGIES
There's a Thread and It's Narcissism
On Monday, April 11 The Nine Club released an interview with Mark Oblow. Oblow’s worked in skateboarding for decades and wears a lot of rings. He started Prime Skateboards, Vita Shoes, helped establish Gravis’ and Quiksilver’s skateboarding programs, does something with RVCA, and details all his accomplishments over almost three hours of interview time where the hosts barely ask a question or interject.
I want to talk about that bolded section above before getting into a much larger and more important discussion.
Podcasts. People love them, people hate them, people make them, and some claim they’ve never heard one as if it’s some cultural badge of honor. That’s cool. I listen to plenty of them ranging from fans riffing about things they love to well-funded news outlets that take years to produce highly researched, fact-checked, serial content about serious news stories.
The democratization of media that highspeed internet connections and smartphones created can be problematic as we’ve seen over the last few years with conspiracy theories, plots to overthrow the government, disinformation about viruses, bogus “truth” exposing “documentaries” about what you should eat, drink, or think, and even the most basic one of all: Having a hot take about a headline without reading the actual article.
You see, according to The Literacy Project, the average American reads no higher than an 8th Grade level which means you can forget nuance, people often can’t discern what sources are valid, and even more concerning, they tend to relate more to things written and spoken in a language that’s closer to their reading and comprehension level.
This is why people love Donald Trump or Joe Rogan or even Elon Musk. These figures all confidently say whatever the fuck they want in a humorous way, with varying degrees of intelligence but always with authority. They all could also be classified as narcissists or even worse, exhibiting behavior known as the “dark triad,” which is a cocktail of the most toxic shit ever.
So yes, Mark Oblow and The Nine Club podcast. No one on the Nine Club is or considers themselves a journalist. They are “Skaters Supporting Skaters,” in their own words, having conversations, and rarely debating or sharing conflicting views. There is nothing wrong with that as it’s their show and—depending on the guest—it can be a very entertaining show. This is also what Mr. Rogan does but unlike the Nine Club, Rogan has an agenda outside of talking about primitive man, psychedelics, and whatever topic du jour he’s triggered by. He’s a comedian who promotes himself and other shit to make money and his podcast is the biggest advertisement for his brand. Neither Rogan nor the hosts of the Nine Club are skilled interviewers who know how to push back or ask follow-ups on hot button topics because they aren’t trained in journalism—it’s that simple. Rogan carefully chooses guests who often agree with his biases, so when the transphobic or homophobic takes fly, he often doesn’t push back because he agrees. That is not journalism, that’s some bros talking and cameras and mics happen to be on.
Scorching takes on The Nine Club are rarely challenged because that’s not their thing—host Chris Roberts often proudly states that he doesn’t prepare for interviews which is a little arrogant but OK. Roger Bagely—who was once a co-host but now works behind the scenes—often interjects as the show’s fact-checker, correcting dates and names of skate history and happenings. It’s quite amazing since most of skateboarding’s history is unwritten and Rog is truly an encyclopedia of skate.
During Oblow’s episode there was plenty of skewed timelines, bold claims, and wonky statements made over the lengthy interview but the segment in which gave his version of the events that lead to the murder of Jessica Bergsten by former pro skater Mark Anthony“Gator” Rogowski in 1991 were so egregious, disgusting, and completely inaccurate that anyone familiar with the details of the event was appalled and offended.
You can watch the now-deleted segment here but watch with caution as it is triggering and offensive.
Oblow reduces the murder to a case of “rough sex gone wrong” and “the media twisting the facts.” This is completely false. He also flippantly turns a horrific murder into a cautionary tale of why you “shouldn’t choke a chick during sex.”
None of the hosts push back on his comments until Kelly Hart asks him (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t retrieve the clip) how he knew “what really happened” with the incident. Oblow responds that he “pieced it together on his own.”
It’s hard to believe that in 30 years, Mr. Oblow had not read or seen the documentary about his friend that stated exactly what happened in Rogowski’s own words. Rogowski’s court confession is shown after the credits of the documentary Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator, appears in several archived news articles, and on Wikipedia. I will paste it below so you can see how wrong Mr. Oblow’s take is.
On March 20, 1991, Rogowski talked with 22-year-old Bergsten for the first time in years. Bergsten asked Rogowski to show her around San Diego. They spent a day together on March 21, 1991; shortly after, Bergsten was reported missing. According to Rogowski, he and Bergsten went back to his condo to watch movies, smoke weed, and drink wine. He admitted to coming up behind her and hitting her in the head with a Club (a metal auto anti-theft device). After knocking her semi-unconscious by way of several strikes, he handcuffed her and dragged her to his bedroom on the second floor, and raped her while she was shackled to his bed. Afterward, he placed her in a surfboard bag because he was concerned about the neighbors hearing the noise. Rogowski placed his hand over Bergsten's mouth until she stopped breathing, then drove the body to the Shell Canyon desert, then disposed of the corpse in a shallow grave.
Bergsten's body was found by campers on April 10, 1991, but it was so decomposed, it could not be identified. Plagued by guilt, Rogowski informed Constantino: "Remember that girl from the poster? She was the one I killed." Constantino encouraged Rogowski to confess his crime to the police, which Rogowski did, thereby waiving his legal rights.
Rogowski turned himself in on April 11, 1991, and led police to the grave of Bergsten's body. Police searched his home and found evidence of blood-soaked through the carpet padding and into the floorboards in two small spots, adjacent to where Bergsten's head allegedly rested. In his confession, Rogowski conveyed he killed Bergsten in a misplaced act of revenge toward McClain, calling Bergsten the "mold Brandi was made out of." Entering prison, Rogowski was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
So why would Oblow offer this alternate and completely false version of what happened?
Why did The Nine Club choose not to edit this section out? Why did it take message boards and social media lighting up to draw attention to this? Why are people defending Mr. Oblow’s actions? Why did he also post a very hamfisted apology on his Instagram account that features a video of him saying “I’m so sorry” and then a slide of Jessica Bergsten’s face?
Narcissism is a very possible answer, and in the case of The Nine Club, perhaps a combo of insensitivity and lack of journalistic experience. Unlike Mr. Oblow, I don’t want to present these scenarios as fact but rather, as my personal take on toxic behavior that needs to be called out.
Here is Mark Oblow’s apology. I bolded some sections and addressed them below:
yesterday i had an interview air on the nine club podcast where i made ignorant and insensitive comments in regards to the murder that gator committed on an innocent young girl named Jessica Bergsten. for 30 plus years I believed the story that i was told by gator.
Oblow stated in his interview that he “pieced this together based on things he heard and figured out on his own” (paraphrasing) He now contradicts his own interview.
i’ve always tried to see the good in people and i should’ve educated myself much better, especially before speaking in any capacity, either in public or private, about such a horrendous and senseless murder.
If you’ve seen or heard Gator speak about the murder, he often does so without remorse. He’s now a prison pastor who believes God is the cure for everything.
Oblow’s comments about it being a “senseless murder” are a terrible choice of words. People often lean into cliches without really knowing what they mean. A senseless murder is when the victim and perpetrator don’t know each other and there’s little motivation for the act.
In his confession, Gator lays out intent and cause. He saw the murder as an act of punishment and revenge. Calling it “senseless” trivializes what happened completely.
yesterday i searched the internet to learn about the murder of Jessica, but more importantly, who she was as a person. reading gator’s confession made me physically ill. what gator did to Jessica was unfathomable. It was pure evil.
what i learned about Jessica was that she was a tall, beautiful blond young girl who was tough, savy and adventurous. she was from arizona and by all accounts a promising woman with her whole life in front of her. looking at pictures of her i couldn’t help but think what she could’ve been if she didn’t cross paths with gator. a loving mom, a wife or the kind of friend that’s just there for everybody. she could’ve been a doctor that found a cure for cancer, a counselor that helps kids or so many other things. unfortunately gator cheated not only Jessica out of those opportunities, but the world as well for taking the light which was Jessica.
OK, wow. The “first thing you learned” was about her physical appearance and that’s how you open your “enlightening”? Then he details what she “could have been” starting with a “mom” or “wife” before saying that maybe she “could have cured cancer.” It’s as if you can hear his brain thinking as he typed this out. He lists some stereotypes before saying maybe she would cure the thing that took the life of his friend Dylan Rieder. It’s not remotely empathetic (in my opinion of course).
I am SO SORRY for my insensitive and ignorant comments, SPECIFICALLY to the Bergsten family and Jessica’s friends, but most importantly Jessica herself. I will always try and be better and conscious of what comes out of my mouth in the future. If anybody has any memories of Jessica they would like to share please do. I’d love to learn more. forever jessica.
He ends by saying sorry to the family and to a person who is no longer here, then asks her friends to recall their memories and educate him about her. He doesn’t promise to really do anything or work with anyone or educate anyone or donate to anything or ask that his comments be removed or really atone in any way.
No, he ends by asking the friends of a victim to recount their memories of her for his benefit without thinking about how traumatic that would be or why they’d be on his Instagram account in the first place. OF COURSE, they would come to hear and read his apology. He’s very important (in his opinion, not mine).
In the age of social media, we all feel compelled to comment on things. You often see people eulogize someone who passed by talking about how it impacts themselves. There are people defending Mark Oblow as we speak, completely ignoring the facts and parroting the “accidental death” take he gave and retracted on The Nine Club. And some will throw out “cancel culture” and “virtue signaling” and whatever terms they read or hear on podcasts and IG handles because it emboldens their views or gives them a dopamine rush to know that someone they idolize might see their words of encouragement.
We all need to be more responsible, sensitive, and understanding. That’s it. If you’re in media, take it seriously, even if you’re just “having a conversation” because words can hurt people deeply and often have very serious repercussions.
It’s Wednesday, April 13, 2022.
As I finish typing this out the last post by The Nine Club reads:
*this post was edited to reflect the correct date. Be careful writing in the AM, folks.