Sunday, May 7, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Marinovich Has Other Outlets, Which Produce A Happy Life

Orange County Register

Armchair psychologists have worked overtime on the subject of Todd Marinovich. Now, even casual observers can see him playing guitar in a rock band, out of football and without a million-dollar salary by age 25, and think they know why.

He is living the childhood he never had, goes the opinion. Usually, it is said with pity, as if some great shame were perpetrated.

Shame for what? Marinovich worked hard for 20 years and is enjoying the good life. Where's the shame in that? Who doesn't aspire to that?

Upon closer inspection, Marinovich is a happy man, about his present and past. Friends, family and even Todd himself declare that this is the good life, not the pressure-filled, political world of football.

He rose to great heights in his original profession, accumulated wealth and now does what he wants. He performs music, dabbles in painting and sketching, lives in a modest home he bought near one of Southern California's prime beaches and runs on the sand with his Labrador retriever puppy.

Family and friends are nearby. The former Raiders quarterback is young enough to return to his previous occupation, should the desire or financial need arise. By most definitions, this isn't suffering. It is success.

Todd Marinovich, once again, has struck a loud chord.

"People love to pass judgment on what I should and shouldn't do with my life," Marinovich said. "That's what makes me giggle. They say, `Oh, don't let it all go to waste.' I just don't understand that they think they know me, for one. For another, it's like that (football) is all I have to offer.

"I'm not a one-dimensional person. I sure enjoyed playing while I played, but in my mind, I have nothing to prove if I never play. Because I feel a lot of people are sour because they never reached a certain level and I've been at the highest level (and) played with the best. And that's the one thing . . . is I know I can play with the best at that game. So, if it never comes around again, I'm not going to lose sleep."

He does many mornings after being awakened by his labrador, Mims, whom Marinovich named after San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Chris Mims because of the similarity in their hand/paw sizes.

This is Marinovich's life now: It includes pets. Mims is his first since the day at age 5 when the family gave away the pet boxer, Blitz, rather than subject it to a four-month quarantine upon moving to Hawaii.

However, some of Marinovich's old ways remain.

He eats right. Not the macrobiotic, superbionic, wheat-germ popping, no-burger bopping diet he supposedly followed per father Marv's orders from infancy through high school. This is more acceptable stuff, like eating lots of fish and fresh foods.

And he still likes sports, especially basketball and surfing. He just can't do them until his left knee completely recovers from surgery.

But the new life includes going to his art studio any time he wants to. If that means 1 a.m. after a concert, perfect. He has the key; all materials are primed and ready for dabbling at any hour.

"The worst is when you get that feeling (to be creative) and don't have anything set up," he said. "You've got to go out and get stuff. By the time you've got it all set up, you don't feel like doing (expletive)."

Marinovich's new place is a half-block from the sand in Laguna Beach with a small yard. It's like a starter home compared with the spectacular three-story European-style house he roamed in Manhattan Beach after joining the Raiders.

But this fits the new Todd - more comfortable, lower profile. So low that he has no ocean view, but who cares? Marinovich runs on the beach with Mims almost every morning, so he - they - see plenty of water.

"I like to lead the simple life," Marinovich said. "I don't need to be driving the big black Mercedes or sleek sports car. People (don't) have to be looking and saying, `Ooh, that's the starter for the Cincinnati Bengals.' That doesn't get me off and I don't think it ever did."

Now he has Scurvy

The band walked on stage without fanfare, just four guys plugging in and tuning up. Predictably, the one at center stage was the leader. He looked the most comfortable in front of a crowd. You could tell he had been in the spotlight before. It was not Marinovich.

While singer/bassist and frontman Marco Forster led the band Scurvy through a 50-minute set at the famous Whiskey A Go Go nightclub in Hollywood on a recent Saturday night, Marinovich played rhythm guitar off to the left, eyes cast down on his instrument and body facing across the stage rather than at the audience.

For a former star athlete, Marinovich's stage presence was more like that of a rookie reserve. Musically, he is a rookie, having first strummed a guitar nine months ago.

"I can't let my mind wander and start smiling at the crowd or something," he said. "I'll blow it."

It wasn't the toughest crowd Marinovich has faced. By the time fans of the earlier bands on the bill cleared out, about 75 people were left, many of them friends who hadn't seen Marinovich since he attended USC from 1988-91.

Nine months after he learned to play the guitar, Marinovich made it to one of the reknowned local stages in rock.

"Uh-huh, pretty classic," he said, shaking his head in near-disbelief.

Ahead of his time, as usual.

"I can relate the band thing to a team," Marinovich said. "It's unbelievably similar, just the fact you've got to be communicating and in tune with your players. Just like with your receivers, knowing where they're going next before they go there. Same thing with a song, being tight, knowing when the changes come about.

"And being in front of people is just the same, the fact that you're a little bit nervous before it. I've always been nervous before I've played. I've been nervous so far when I've played in the band. It's always a good thing. I think if I wasn't nervous, I'd be worried.

"It (football) has helped me. Most beginners on the guitar wouldn't step foot on a stage, especially a place like the Whiskey, or anywhere else. My background has definitely helped me with that."

So has dealing with criticism. Rarely has a kid been the subject of so many sofa psychoanalysts in such a short time.

When he was 15 and named starting quarterback for Mater Dei High's varsity before he had attended a class as a freshman, the public first lashed out. Mostly, ire was directed at his father, Marv, who was pegged as the ultimate overbearing Little League parent. People knew that Marv enlisted numerous specialists and unusual methods to train his son.

But Todd felt the sting, too, when classmates teased him about his carefully engineered diet; when national publications portrayed him as a robot; and when kids from other schools chanted, "Gra-no-la!" from the stands when he touched the ball as a high-school basketball player.

Through it all, Marinovich - insisting he liked his lifestyle - passed for more yards than any other high-school quarterback in U.S. history after two seasons at Mater Dei and two at Capistrano Valley. And what happened? He was criticized when his teams didn't win the CIF titles that El Toro rival Bret Johnson's did.

The thing was, Marinovich's biggest talent turned out to be a defensive maneuver: a thick skin.

Not only did he excel under the microscope of his athletic world, Marinovich developed an incredible "normalcy." He was an above-average student. He surfed. He amazed people with pencil sketches. His mother, Trudi, nurtured that "other side" by taking Todd and sister Traci to art museums, zoos and movies. Once when Todd was in junior high, Trudi "kidnapped" him without Marv's knowledge and spent an entire weekend with her son in San Diego touring Balboa Park, among other non-athletic activities.

What makes Marinovich apparently different is his assimilation into other interests - the band and art, for instance.

"My first response as a psychotherapist is that I'm so hopeful this is helpful, that he is moving into life on his own terms," said Bruce Ogilvie, a clinical psychotherapist in Los Gatos who has worked among professional and college sports teams for 30 years. "It could be a wonderful positive. It could be his break for freedom. He might be blossoming into a very healthy social and psychological period of his life.

"The fact he has outlets that are fulfilling and self-enhancing is wonderful."

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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