The head-shaking saga of the Marinovich family is reaching its concluding chapters. And it’s predictably depressing.
A short primer: Marv Marinovich, a two-way lineman at USC in the early 1960s who played one game for the Oakland Raiders in 1965, set about building his son Todd into the ultimate athlete, a perfectly engineered quarterback. A trainer (Marv worked for the Raiders after his cameo as a player), he combined his vast expertise and radical practices and turned Todd into what some called a robo QB.
In an attempt to create the consummate environment in which to incubate his young athlete, Marv controlled Todd to the granular level, down to what to eat and when. Sweets and fast food were not on the menu.
Todd was a starter for his high school team — as a freshman. He started at USC and was picked by the Raiders in the first round of the 1991 NFL draft (team owner Al Davis disregarding the advice of his scouts to select Brett Favre, according to the book “Al Davis: Behind the Raiders Shield“). Todd played eight games before substance abuse torpedoed his NFL career.
Present day: The Jan. 11 edition of Sports Illustrated checks in with a 6,400-word update. It’s hardly uplifting.
According to SI, Marv Marinovich, 79, lives in Mission Viejo and is wracked with Alzheimer’s. Traci, his oldest child, drops ’round every couple weeks, shows him old family photos, makes him smoothies.
Writes author Michael Rosenberg:
“She does not want to be here. It’s not just because he is a shadow of a man now. She remembers the man he was. All he seemed to care about was Todd. He neglected his daughter on a good day and insulted her on a bad one.”
Rosenberg reports that “Marv’s disease affected Todd (now 49) in a most unexpected way: As Marv’s memories disappeared, some of Todd’s came back.”
It’s ugly stuff. Marv knocking the teeth out of a bystander watching a basketball game at a community center. Marv smacking Todd in the face as they drive home from a practice or a game. (Marv, co-captain of USC’s 1962 national championship team, was ejected from the 1963 Rose Bowl for fighting.)
There is a revelation to be shared. For years it was assumed that Todd was in lockstep with his dad, forsaking candy and chips and doing whatever he was told. According to the book, Todd once was made to take his own, sugar-free cake to a friend’s birthday party. A compassionate parent at the event slipped Todd some of the good stuff.
Todd’s lust for junk food was also sated by his grandparents, and friends at school willing to trade “fruit for Cheetos.”
Todd began making some of his own decisions about the time he enrolled at USC. One of those decisions was to smoke dope and party hard. He played two seasons for the Trojans, completing 61.6 percent of his passes for 5,001 yards. Davis gave him a $2.25 million contract. “The culmination of his precise and carefully planned athletic career,” Rosenberg writes, “and he felt empty.”
The ensuing three decades (give or take), have been a blur of disturbing memories, bad acts, regrets, recriminations, periodic efforts to get clean and the inevitable relapses.
It’s a long story that never seems to change. And it’s getting older.
“The end,” Rosenberg writes, “shrinks us all.”