Todd Marinovich's plummet from can't-miss prospect to drug-addled fuck up is a tale most sports fans know intimately. But this month's Esquire reveals so much more about the quarterback's disturbing life.
Marinovich's problems with drugs, legal issues, and genuine aloofness are the only things left of his legacy as a football player. The accepted notion was that Todd was raised by a demanding, insane father, who had him lifting weights before he could walk, determined to create the perfect athlete, regardless of what toll it took on his son's personal life. Obviously, some of that upbringing did lead to Marinovich's problems but writer Mike Sager shows a man who just stopped caring about himself long before the Raiders ever made him the 24th pick in the draft. A stoner since high school, Marinovich discovered early on that weed was the one thing that made his life tolerable. Amazingly, I almost have more respect for Todd Marinovich after reading this just because he doesn't blame anyone but himself for the mess his life's become. But that could also be because he's so burned out that most of his childhood traumas have simply been erased from his brain.
Here are some of the creepier, crazier highlights from the piece:
At the conclusion of Raider training camp that summer, as tradition dictated, the first draft pick threw a party. Todd had gone twenty-fourth in the first round and signed a three-year, $2.25 million deal, including a $1 million signing bonus. He rented a ranch and hired a company that did barbecue on a huge grill on a flatbed truck. He turned the barn into a stadium with hay-bale seating. He hired strippers, ten white and ten black. The grand finale: three porn stars with double-headed dildos. "They say in the history of the Raiders, it was the best rookie party ever," Todd says.
Once, during halftime at a home game, Todd retrieved a premade rig out of his locker and went to the bathroom to shoot up. Sitting on the toilet, half listening to the chalk talk, he slammed the heroin. As the team was leaving the locker room for the second half, he struggled with the screen in his glass crack pipe - he wasn't getting a good hit. Then the pipe broke, and he lacerated his left thumb. By the time he got out onto the field, his thumb wrapped in a towel, the game had already started. He took up the clipboard, his only duty. "I didn't even know what play they were calling," Todd says. "Nobody looked at the shit I wrote down anyway."
Todd returned to football for the last time in the spring of 2000 - a mercurial stint with the Los Angeles Avengers in the Arena Football League. His first year, he tied the record for most touchdowns in a single game despite undergoing severe heroin withdrawal; after shitting his pants during warm-ups, he came out and threw ten touchdowns to win a game against the Houston Thunderbears. That same year, at age thirty-one, he was named to the all-rookie team. The next season, he became L. A.'s franchise player. The day he picked up his signing bonus, he was busted buying heroin. With him in the truck was $30,000 cash in an envelope. Toward the end of the season, he was ejected from successive games for throwing a clipboard and a hand towel at officials. Finally, he was suspended from the team.
Three months from now, in early February, feeling pressure from all directions - the deaths within two weeks of his uncle Craig and grandma Virginia, the upcoming gallery show, Marv's health problems, a new life with his fiancée, questions about his future - he will drive on a Sunday afternoon to his old hook spot in Santa Ana and buy some black tar. As soon as he smokes the first hit, he will throw the dope out the window and call his probation officer, then drive directly to the county offices to give himself up. Sixteen months of sobriety lost in an instant. His penalty will be one week at the Farm; it could have been two years. As he drives across town to surrender, he will see in his mind a picture of Alix, the swell of her belly. He wants to be a father to his son.
The Man Who Never Was [Esquire]