Geez … where to begin on this one?
Sure, you could go with the star at USC. Or the first-round Raiders flameout. The drugs. The arrests. The flop of a career. The fact his father was a psycho. That Todd Marinovich never ate a Big Mac as a kid. That he’s a painter now.
How about that he is a Ginger?
Not only that, but he played on my two favorite football teams from my childhood – USC and the Raiders.
Needless to say, I had a mini-redheaded crush on Todd Marinovich.
The unfortunate thing was that as he was getting arrested, I was starting to read the newspaper on an everyday basis. When he was washing out in the NFL, I was cognizant of his shady character. I was no longer a kid who just cheered for a team or players. I was becoming a sports fan getting disillusioned with athletes that I had previously held in such high regard.
It was like living in Cleveland.
I liked Marinovich when he was at USC. He was Cali-cool. Claimed he surfed naked. That he was molded to be a quarterback. That he threw lefty and was the first QB I saw do that. I liked that he wore No. 13 and that he rocked a sweet redheaded mullet. As a Ginger, I liked that he was too. And he was successful.
Or so I thought.
Well, Mr. Peppery Nipples seemed to revolt against his overbearing father. (Whaaa?!) That Marv Marinovich (great name, by the way) put so much into his son becoming a quarterback that his son did drugs. In the locker room. He shot heroin, took painkillers, mixed a volatile cocktail of drugs into his body because he didn’t give a shit. (If you’d like, take a few minutes and read this exceptional piece in Esquire about Todd from 2010.)
It was around that time that I started to get so interested in sports that I would want to read a lot about them. I was subscribed to both Sports Illustrated and Sports Illustrated for Kids (huuuuuge difference in how sports are covered) and would religiously read the Sports section in the paper. I was more informed on sports than all of my friends.
So, I knew exactly what was going on with Marinovich. Or Marijuanovich as he got to be known.
Marinovich’s career stunk. Too much pressure. Too many drugs to get away from the pressure. Too much revolting against The Man, which can easily be traced back to his dad.
It’s unfortunate. But in a way, it’s good. All kids need an athlete to let them down. It’s eye-opening. It’s more real that believing your favorite player is a good person when he clearly isn’t. It’s about pulling the curtain back a little bit and seeing what life has to offer. It sucks sometimes. Yet, it’s also an important lesson. I wish for all kids to have their own version of Todd Marinovich. Just to let them know.