Rocky: The One and Only

I am now in my eighties so maybe it's just age, but I would have sworn there used to be a heavyweight champion named (let's see if I can remember -- ah Ricky -- no -- Rocky Maratello -- no -- Marinelli -- no -- ah, Marciano. That's it -- Rocky Marciano. With my aging eyes I might have missed it in your sports review of the century ("At End of Century, Hundreds of Heroes: Through the Years, Sports Entertained and Defined America," Dec. 31), but I swear I read every word and never once saw the name of Militello -- darn, I mean Marciano.

The fights with that name I remember on TV, on his worst day would have beaten the hell out of a fighter named something Ali on his best day. I mean knocked him out. Yet, I gather from all the ink about him that Ali was some sort of fighting sensation, based on what I don't know.

I believe Joe Louis could also have defeated Ali, except, if hit just right, Joe also has been known to collapse. But not Rocky -- nobody could put him down without him bouncing right back up and winning the bout -- every one of his 49 consecutive fights. And throughout it all he behaved like a fine gentleman -- no glitter, no glitz.

Please check your records to verify if there ever was such a fighter (Rocky Marciano -- that's it). If there wasn't, I'm getting out of this universe fast before I accidentally hurt somebody.

-- PETER N. RUNFOLA SR.

College Park

Money Changes Everything

Liz Clarke's piece on Tre Johnson ("Tre Unique: Redskins' Johnson Challenges Image of Modern NFL Player," Jan. 1) was very nicely done. Clearly, Ms. Clarke put a lot of effort into the story, and the results were generally splendid. I was troubled, however, by the end of the ninth paragraph and the 10th as well: "Johnson toys briefly with the idea of hiring a driver for his daily commute to Redskin Park in Ashburn before dismissing it as a foolish expense that only would reinforce stereotypes he finds laughable. `I think they think we have an endless supply of money, we have a maid -- that what we do is not work,' Johnson says."

But a "stereotype" in today's parlance is something widely held to be true that really is not (or often is not). Professional athletes do have an (almost) endless supply of money. Tre Johnson apparently doesn't have a maid, but if he wants one he can certainly have one, or buy an entire maid service. If he wants a Mercedes, Volvo, an SUV, a Lamborghini, any and all -- whatever he wants he can have. Each year he makes more money than most Americans make in a lifetime. Why is the money "stereotype" laughable when it is so true?

And the front page of the Sports section Jan. 1 has an article about Rod Strickland, not even the highest-paid player on the Wizards. Strickland's salary (before endorsements, etc.) averages $10 million per year, higher than the average lifetime earnings of a physician, a profession widely criticized as obsessed with money. Furthermore, physicians have a job with, oh let's say 500 times the responsibility of Strickland's, not to mention the four years of pre-medical study, four years of medical school, up to seven years of internship and residency. Strickland, like Juwan Howard and others on the Wizards, can buy anything he wants; indeed, he has essentially an "endless supply of money."

-- PETER TAYLOR

Fairfax

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