`Hog' lover Marchetti feels for Steelers QB

June 15, 2006|By MIKE KLINGAMAN | MIKE KLINGAMAN,SUN REPORTER

When Pennsylvania repealed its motorcycle helmet law in 2003, Gino Marchetti considered buying a hog and tooling down the roads near his West Chester home, gray hair waving in the wind.

"The thought passed through my mind," said Marchetti, then 77. "But my wife probably would have shot me."

Even now, the thought of riding a Harley bareheaded, as he always did, brings a smile to the face of the former Baltimore Colts defensive end, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Never mind what happened on Monday to Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback recovering from injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash. Or to Marchetti's own grandson, Keith Carter, who suffered a fractured hip three years ago in an accident aboard his Kawasaki, ending a promising football career at UCLA.

"I know that riding is dangerous. I had a motorcycle most of my life," Marchetti said. "Cars don't respect you. It's like you've got a big old `yield' sign hanging on you.

"I rode until 1976, when [Pennsylvania] said I had to wear a hat. That took the fun out of it. With headgear, I couldn't feel the wind or [sense] that freedom. So I sold the Harley."

Marchetti said he understands Roethlisberger's wont to ride in spite of the risks.

"You run through these spells. When you want to do something like this, you do it," he said. "When I got out of the Army after World War II [having fought in the Battle of the Bulge], I bought a cycle and rode the hills of Yosemite National Park with about 30 other guys until the rangers `escorted' us out."

His family feared for his safety, Marchetti said. Once, he found his older brother, Danny, standing over Gino's cycle, drunk and peering into the open gas tank, a lighted match in his hand.

"Danny wanted to blow the thing up because he was afraid I'd get hurt on it," said Marchetti, 20 years old at the time. "When he sobered up, I made him realize that if he'd dropped that match, he wouldn't be around to argue with me."

Eventually, Marchetti's urge to joyride passed. During the 13 years he played for the Colts, he mothballed his motorcycle, cranking it up only long after he retired in 1966.

Given Roethlisberger's hefty contract, the Steelers quarterback might do the same, Marchetti said.

"Hand a guy a $10 million check and you ought to have certain rules," Marchetti said. "They may put [a no-cycle clause] in his contract. I can understand that. I might not like it, but I can understand it.

"If I'm [Roethlisberger] and I want that money, I can wait to ride that thing for 10 years down the road."

As for Marchetti, he gets his kicks in other ways these days. An avid bowler, he rolled his best game last year in senior league competition.

He finished at 299, one pin shy of perfect.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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