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Guys Named Rocco

Guys Named Rocco

Stephanie Longo (June 22, 2008)
The Mascot
Anti-Italian cartoon from The Mascot newspaper, 1888

Why do we accept the unacceptable?



     His name was probably unknown to most people before he went head to head with Tiger Woods in this year’s U.S. Open. Rocco Mediate, this year’s U.S. Open runner-up, could have even dethroned the reigning golf king but, instead of focusing on his athletic prowess, one commentator, NBC Sports golf analyst Johnny Miller, decided to focus on his ethnicity.
     Last Sunday during the fourth round of competition, Mediate held a one-stroke lead over Woods. Miller said that Mediate “looks like the guy who cleans Tiger’s swimming pool” and then “guys with the name ‘Rocco’ don’t get on the trophy, do they?”
     Today, the Associated Press reported that Miller apologized for his remarks, saying, “My intention was to convey my affection and admiration for Rocco’s everyman qualities and had absolutely nothing to do with his ethnicity. I chose my words poorly and in the future will be more careful.”
     What if the situation were reversed? What if Miller said those things about Tiger Woods? Chances are he would have been sent packing from NBC.
     There is obviously a great deal of ignorance surrounding our heritage. We Italian-Americans are constantly stereotyped as Mafiosi criminals or as blue-collar workers. Television shows like the Sopranos do nothing to highlight all of the positive contributions that Italian-Americans have made to society. Instead, the promulgation of the stereotypical view of Italian-Americans has permeated our national consciousness so much so that a sports analyst could get away with making such ignorant comments on nationwide television and be let off the hook with a slap on the wrist after making a halfhearted apology. Miller’s words had “absolutely nothing to do with his ethnicity”? Oh yes they did.
     Perhaps Miller should be forced to take a class on positive Italian-American contributions to the history and culture of this nation and then go on nationwide television to report on what he learned. But, I’m not here to talk about Miller. I am here to talk about us, the millions of proud Italian-Americans who are sick and tired of being stereotyped.
     When our ancestors came over from Italy, they, too, were treated as unworthy of being in this country. It is a sin that in what is supposed to be the most industrialized nation on earth we are still stereotyping certain ethnicities. What is worse is that nothing is being done about it. Why is it that we tolerate this nonsense? Could it be that we Italian-Americans are too lazy to really unite to fight the stereotypes? Are we so comfortable now with being “American” that we have forgotten that most of our ancestors got here at least 100 years ago? Are there some Italian-Americans out there that are ashamed of their heritage?
     Rocco Mediate is an example of an Italian-American contributing positively to American society. As are Nancy Pelosi, Rudy Giuliani, Sylvester Stallone,  Giada De Laurentiis, and many, many more. Why do people tend to focus on the Al Capones of the world when it is so clear that Italian-Americans are more than just a stereotype?
     It is time for Italian-Americans to unite under the common mantle of our proud heritage and show the rest of the world that we will no longer tolerate these appalling insults.
     Oh, and Mr. Miller, guys named Rocco do win competitions. Ever hear of Rocky Marciano (Rocco Francis Marchegiano)? He didn’t make a career out of cleaning swimming pools, either.

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Guys Named Rocco

Yes! Although Italians have MANY qualities, the commonly stereotyped ones you listed out very well; all perpetuated by The Sopranos, Casino, Godfather (all), etc. In today's society the mafioso is probably considered the "sexiest" of all qualities, which is a shame.

Highlighting The Sopranos, one of the lost but truly emphasized story lines is "family". When I think of Italians I think of large gatherings and support for birthdays, holidays, wedding and funerals; all shown extremely well in The Sopranos- but never commented on.

The main example of Italians in positive light is the slogan for the Olive Garden: "Once you're here, you're family." It's a start. :)

I believe the largest gift Italians brought to this fine country is family values. Hopefully someday that will outshine the mob.

"Miller:" Your ignorance is

"Miller:" Your ignorance is shameful, though to you it is more likely blissful. Obviously you have not had to weather these sorts of slings and arrows your entire life, as many Italian Americans have. You [and Johnny Miller] think "Rocco" isn't referring to any particular ethnic group? That's not only ignorant, but stupid, too. From childhood to even today, I have had to deal with people either joking about or just plain out assuming I was "connected" or inferior intellectually because of the implied ethnicity of my last name -- others, like Rocco Mediate have had to deal with morons who would joke or assume the worst based on both first and last names. Maybe you folks don't get it because you haven't had to deal with it all your lives. Lucky you.

Stephanie, thank you for such an eloquent article. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say.


Im sorry but I dont see what the outrage is. Miller didnt say anything about Italian-Americans I didnt think. Wouldnt he have said the same thing if Rocco had been Canadian or Saudi Arabian or Polish? I dont understand how Italian-American came into play.

Am I totally missing the boat here? Have Italian-Americans been stereotyped as pool cleaners for years and I somehow just didnt know about it? Honestly, I dont understand.

I dont see the ethnic remark in his comments. It didnt even occur to me when i was watching. And it doesnt make any sense now after hearing people complain.

It would be one thing if Rocco was hispanic because you see a lot of hispanics doing that kind of work here in America. Or if he had said Rocco looks like he should be doing something stereotypical of Italians. But again, unless im totally missing the boat here, I never thought pool cleaning was one of those stereotypes.

Excellent Blog


That was a wonderful blog and really shed some good insight on a touchy subject. I highly enjoyed reading it!