Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Contemplating What Might Have Been

Thanks for the heads-up from our friends over at the Newport Beach Voices blog for this sad little bit of information. The Orange County Register Police Log contains the following entry:

W. Balboa Boulevard, 1300 block:
arrest, Aug. 26. Todd Marvin Marinovich, 38, of Newport Beach, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance.

Anyone who follows football, particularly those who are University of Southern California fans, know the name well. They also won't be surprised to see it on a police blotter.

There is probably no sadder story of unfulfilled potential than that of Todd Marinovich. While a pretty good summary of his life can be found on Wikipedia, the short version is that he was molded from birth by his father, former Trojan and NFL lineman Marv Marinovich, to become the perfect quarterback. Marv almost succeeded. He created a perfect physical specimen - a kid who was the best high school quarterback in the country while at Capistrano Valley High twenty years ago. He was an outstanding quarterback at USC during his brief career there. Somewhere along the way, though, Marv apparently forgot the mental part of his creation. He forgot to teach Todd that personal discipline is a cornerstone to a successful life, regardless the profession you choose.

Since leaving USC after his freshman year to sign with the Raiders, his career was marked by a couple brilliant moments, overshadowed by frequent mental and moral lapses.

As you read through his biography you cannot help wonder what might have been. While in high school he passed for nearly two miles - 9194 yards! In the twenty years since he left high school Orange County has produced many outstanding quarterbacks, including Trojan Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinert. Anyone who saw them all play would tell you that Marinovich was better than either one of them. If he had stayed at USC for a complete career - or even three years - he likely would have set collegiate records that would stand for decades. In the pros, you had visions of greatness for him.

For the past decade it seemed like the only time you saw his name in the newspapers was when it was linked to a drug arrest or other infraction. The above entry from The Register is just the most recent in this long, sad tale.

I'm sure there's a message in here for young athletes today. I suspect, though, that the broader message is for the parents of those athletes and deals with the priorities in their lives and those of their kids. I just know that every time I read about the most recent episode in Todd Marinovich's life I look around my neighborhood and am grateful for the wonderful parents who have given their children outstanding guidance. They've taught them that it's important to be a good person first, a good athlete second.

Todd Marinovich lived the first half of his life in the spotlight an athlete of his skills and potential deserves. He's spent the second half of it in a different spotlight - one that is also deserved. Each time he's arrested I shake my head and wonder just when the light will go on for this young man - and I, once again, contemplate what might have been.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

His is a tragic story. A cautionary one as well. All of us should learn from it.

8/28/2007 09:58:00 AM  

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