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Why Football Fathers Aren't Superior
January 11, 2011 8:19 AM   Subscribe


 
The Fallbrook Midget Chiefs...

Winner of the 2011 championship for least PC team name.
posted by lizarrd at 8:27 AM on January 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


His parents had divorced just before his transfer, and he was sharing a one-bedroom apartment with Marv near Capistrano. "Probably the best part of my childhood was me and Marv's relationship my junior and senior years," Todd says. "After the divorce, he really loosened up. It was a bachelor pad. We were both dating."

Ewwww.
posted by anniecat at 8:29 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it the first annual Bonkers Parents Week on Metafilter?
posted by Thin Lizzy at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2011 [39 favorites]


The problem with these kinds of stories is that the target of this 'engineering' inevitably has the genes of at least one parent who thinks it is a good idea.
posted by srboisvert at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


His story has all the ingredients for a bad TV movie: the overbearing father, the attempted making of a human superman, the apparent success, the fall from grace, drugs, etc.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2011


See also:
Bred to be a Superstar
The Minefield
One Troubled Trojan

"Project Marinovich was engineered by Marv, an offensive lineman at USC and co-captain of the 1962 national champions. He was the prototypical stage father. In most ways, Marv didn't have a life. He had Todd's life."
posted by the painkiller at 8:32 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's with all the off the wall parenting stuff lately? It's one thing to give your child every opportunity for success but these parents who think they can decide the day their kid is born how they are going to turn out and engineer it for them like a hamster in a cage are just plain control freaks. Five minutes with my kids and their heads would explode.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:32 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This article is part of one of the Best Magazine Essays books that I've read - it really is an interesting, and sad, read. Todd seems like a nice guy who was incapable of dealing with the pressures that came once he achieved his/his father's dreams.
posted by hepta at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2011


Here are some things Todd was never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin."
posted by fixedgear at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2011 [77 favorites]


I skipped to the end to see what happened. Kind of tragic :(
posted by delmoi at 8:46 AM on January 11, 2011


It's one thing to give your child every opportunity for success but these parents who think they can decide the day their kid is born how they are going to turn out and engineer it for them like a hamster in a cage are just plain control freaks.

The thing is, one time out of a million it works - it worked for Venus and Serena Williams, and it worked for Tiger Woods - and when it works, the parents get a heckuva lot more attention (and moolah) than the millions of times it doesn't work.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"In most ways, MarvTodd didn't have a life. He had Todd'sMarv's life."

The most obvious "FTFY" of 2011 so far.

Every sports fan in Los Angeles knew how it ended. And half of us knew that was how it was going to end.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:51 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marv is still going strong in the field of vicarious sporting achievements, and is still quite mad. Last I heard he was training UFC champ BJ Penn via some rather unorthodox means that drew a lot of criticism (and even more laughter). In a lot of sports communities, "Soundly destroyed son's emotional and physical wellbeing through lifelong program of neurotic domination" is a good thing to have on your CV.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:52 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


But then, when it works, the kid is STILL screwed up...
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:52 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Secretly training your child to be a ninja's still cool though, right?

A man can dream.
posted by ODiV at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Should have put "works" in scare quotes. :)
posted by muddgirl at 8:55 AM on January 11, 2011


My parents successfully engineered me to be only moderately lazy and to stop procrastinating when it would result in serious adverse effects. They did a good job. I'll thank 'em one of these days when I get around to it.
posted by Babblesort at 8:55 AM on January 11, 2011 [25 favorites]


Tiger Woods was only able to keep inside the thin-walled bubble of "perfection" a few years longer than Marinovich.

The "World's Greatest" of anything in sports, simply by being "one in a hundred-million," is always going to be some kind of human freak. Better to be a naturally occurring freak than artificially created. I dream of the day when we realize that; it will promote tolerance of those whose freakiness doesn't result in becoming the "World's Greatest" in anything.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:58 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Certainly Tiger Woods never had any problems.
posted by josher71 at 9:04 AM on January 11, 2011


A friend of mine with domineering parents pulled a Todd Marinovich when he got out from under their thumbs at university. In the end he managed to get his act together but it was largely despite his mother and father, whose immediate reaction to academic and personal slippage was a futile attempt to tighten the screws even further.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:06 AM on January 11, 2011


Dear Mr. and Mrs. Ratio Senior,

You made some mistakes raising me, some of which I am still dealing with today. But I am very grateful to both of you for not being crazy, crazy douchebags.

Love,
Ratio Jr.
posted by Ratio at 9:10 AM on January 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Those interested in this subject might want to take a look at André Agassi's autobiography. Without giving too much away, the father-son story is at once infuriating, compelling, hilarious, and, in the end, tender.
posted by No Robots at 9:15 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Fallbrook Midget Chiefs...

Winner of the 2011 championship for least PC team name.


This will not come as a surprise if you know that Fallbrook, CA is also the adopted home town of Tom Metzger, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon for California.
posted by i'm offended you're offended at 9:15 AM on January 11, 2011


Man, any parent that would willingly feed a child carob needs to go away for a very long time.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Frozen kidneys to gnaw?

Easy Hannibal Lector.
posted by stormpooper at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2011


Needs a "Coach Fail" tag.
posted by buzzman at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2011


So, if his parents were, say, Chinese, would he have turned out the same?

All snark aside, and to be honest, it really doesn't matter if your parents were douchbags, helicopters, or whatever - you are who you make yourself out to be. There are a lot of failed athletes who were not Todd Marinovich and don't have the excuse of Todd Marinovich's father.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2011


The Todd Marinovich story is one of my pet topics; I was a sportswriter in Southern California at the time he was a high-school phenom. Most of the stories from his camp were overheated, like the junk food thing -- his fellow high school players reported he just never indulged in public, and consider that this was all happening long before there were such things as "papparazi" to catch someone making a public mistake. And while most of the "Russian training methods" were ahead of their time, they're considered pedestrian today (e.g. plyometrics).

The simple fact is that Marinovich was as dumb as a rock; Michael Vick has 100 times his brainpower. And while Todd was good, he was never great. And then he started smoking heroin at USC.

If you want to point a finger at someone, point at USC coach Larry Smith, who never gave a rat's ass about his players' well-being.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


This will not come as a surprise if you know that Fallbrook, CA is also the adopted home town of Tom Metzger, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon for California.

Was the adopted home town - until he was sued out of his ass and had to move back in with his mom in Tiny Town, Indiana.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:21 AM on January 11, 2011


Does this remind anyone else of Spike Hammersmith in "Little Giants"?
posted by milkrate at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2011


As a baby, Todd was fed only fresh vegetables, fruits, and raw milk

Because boobs aren't manly enough?
posted by dunkadunc at 9:26 AM on January 11, 2011


it really doesn't matter if your parents were douchbags, helicopters, or whatever

Being able to tell people you were raised by helicopters would be the greatest pick up line. Ever.
posted by greenhornet at 9:30 AM on January 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


> All snark aside, and to be honest, it really doesn't matter if your parents were douchbags, helicopters, or whateve

Eh, while adults are ultimately responsible for themselves, usually, how you are raised in your early years has a tremendous impact on everything about you for the rest of your life. This really shouldn't be surprising.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:32 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Fallbrook Midget Chiefs...

Winner of the 2011 championship for least PC team name.


I can't defend the Chiefs part of the name, but the Midgets part comes from Pop Warner, not from Fallbrook.
posted by librarylis at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2011


He'd just been blasted by two big studs from the celebrated front line of the Fountain Valley High School Barons.

Why do I have a feeling the author had a different window open, in which he was writing an entirely different sort of story, and got distracted by something for a moment?
posted by Shepherd at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


Chinese moms, Todd's dad...One truth out there is that your mileage may vary. The results of peer influence are stronger than we parents imagine. And genetics...well, our opinions on that are all over the map, but still...

My daughter could hardly have had a more laissez-faire upbringing, with a couple of slacker introvert hippie parents who forgot to assign her chores and let her quit dance lessons when she got bored and never gave her a curfew. She turned out to be a straight-A student council president, off-the-charts extrovert etc. Any connection between our parenting and her personality would be theoretical. Freedom produces strength and independence? Well, that's what I like to think. (Then, there is love...)
posted by kozad at 9:39 AM on January 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Great read, thank you!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:40 AM on January 11, 2011


Man, any parent that would willingly feed a child carob needs to go away for a very long time.

Seriously! When I was a kid, some adults tried to pass it off as an acceptable substitute for chocolate. CHOCOLATE!
posted by callmejay at 9:55 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marv Marinovich seems to have been honestly trying to give Todd the upbringing and life he would have wanted for himself. This is quite different from what Amy Chua claims to be doing, and it goes a long way to explaining why the Marinovichs have a thriving, if unorthodox, father-son relationship.

I suspect one major difference lies in Chua's tactic of withholding of love/acceptance when her daughters disappoint her. Marv Marinovich, whatever his faults, didn't resort to this and spared Todd that particularly pernicious type of damage.
posted by grounded at 9:58 AM on January 11, 2011


Surely the Williams sisters are prime examples of how an ambitious patriarch managed to achieve his goal - twice!
posted by dumdidumdum at 10:00 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suspect one major difference lies in Chua's tactic of withholding of love/acceptance when her daughters disappoint her.

Yeah, umm ... one famous (apocryphal) story was that Marv was unhappy with one of Todd's Pop Warner games, and while Marv drove home, he made Todd run the six miles home.

Like I said, most of these stories were overheated, so you can't tell truth from fiction. But at the very least, Marv had several screws loose. I wouldn't hold him up as a positive example of anything.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2011


All UW Huskies love Todd...after a huge game in which the Huskies killed the 5th ranked Trojans, Marinovich said "All I saw was purple. No jerseys, no numbers, just purple".
posted by vito90 at 10:05 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Surely the Williams sisters are prime examples of how an ambitious patriarch managed to achieve his goal - twice!

For every Serena and Venus, there's a hundred examples of Mary Pierce, who's batshit insane father actually managed to get a rule named after him. The "Jim Pierce Rule" allowed event organizers to ban disruptive parents and coaches from events.

In filing for a restraining order against him in New Jersey Superior Court on July 20 before she played in an event in Mahwah, Mary asked for protection, declaring that Jim had made "terroristic threats" and "threatened [her] life." She also stated that Jim had told her, "If you think there was a nut in Waco, Texas, you haven't seen anything yet."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:07 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being able to tell people you were raised by helicopters would be the greatest pick up line. Ever.

Baby Huey?
posted by zippy at 10:15 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


And then there's Jennifer Capriati ...

Richard Williams and Earl Woods, though ... gotta give them some credit. They managed to develop world beaters without their kids hating them.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:20 AM on January 11, 2011


Yeah, umm ... one famous (apocryphal) story was that Marv was unhappy with one of Todd's Pop Warner games, and while Marv drove home, he made Todd run the six miles home.

Not the same thing as emotional withholding.
posted by grounded at 10:20 AM on January 11, 2011


I'm not sure that I'd describe Tiger Woods as an example of it working. I mean, even before it all went to hell with the wife, he struck me (admittedly not an expert by any stretch) as...somewhat one dimensional. I mean, a guy that obsessed with winning-was it any surprise he wanted to "win" with lots of different women? And even in the case of the Williams sisters, who turned out okay, I don't think the off chance of that happening is worth the emotional anguish of the other 999,998 kids who it didn't work with. Or maybe it's just sour grapes because not only can I not get my kid to play tennis, we're still stumped by potty training and I highly suspect my kids will never make tons of moolah that I can live off of. Damned underachievers.
posted by supercapitalist at 10:35 AM on January 11, 2011


Todd Marinovich: Painter
posted by basicchannel at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that I'd describe Tiger Woods as an example of it working.

Like I said, should have put scare quotes around "working". I thought it was pretty clear that we're speaking in context of what, say, Marv Marinovich would consider a success
The question I asked myself was, How well could a kid develop if you provided him with the perfect environment?
Remember that Marv's idea of a perfect environment was in the context of sports. In that context, Woods was undeniably a success.

And even in the case of the Williams sisters, who turned out okay, I don't think the off chance of that happening is worth the emotional anguish of the other 999,998 kids who it didn't work with.

Yeah, my math comes out the same way, but some people have a strange calculus. That doesn't make it right, but it makes it understandable.
posted by muddgirl at 10:50 AM on January 11, 2011


Or as my buddies who went to USC with him called him, "Marijuanavich."
posted by En0rm0 at 10:56 AM on January 11, 2011


Thanks for posting this. A family member of mine has a very similar story. He did not have the same parental pressure, but growing up with natural talent in a family where football was so important certainly did a number on him. He even had a similar disposition and attitude to the way Todd is described in the story: easygoing, lovable, vulnerable in spite of his addiction.

By the time he was playing in college, he had a love-hate relationship with the game, and couldn't play sober. Later, he simply couldn't be sober. It was devastating to watch his descent, and especially difficult to see so many people (coaches, family, university officials) trying to get him help while not wanting to draw attention to his problem or get him kicked off the team. Certainly genetics played a role, as I've struggled with my own addiction and escaped the pressure of football by simply being a female.

His struggle with opiates continues. It's hard to explain the complicated emotions I feel reading a story like this. I hope Todd is able to stay sober, and I hope my brother gets that gift one day.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 10:58 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suffered under a father who had the dual curses of being mad and inventive. He had a theory that Hebrew was the language of God, the original language, and so a child who never experiences language will spontaneously start speaking Hebrew.

So, for the first five years of my life, I never heard a word uttered, and was never let near anything with language on it, including televisions, radios, books, street signs. Functionally, this meant I either had to remain home, which I did most of the time, or had to be shuttled from place to place wearing ear plugs and blinders.

I did not speak for five years. I communicated through a series of self-invented signs and occasional nonsensical noises. But we are creatures of language, and eventually I was likely to start forming words. And my father watched to see what my first word, created by myself, would be. And one day I came to him with a strange look on my face. I gestured for a moment, but then stopped, and my mouth started moving. I was about to form my first words. My father leaned in close to hear what I might say. And, suddenly, spontaneously, I spoke.

"Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!" I said, and bit one of his cheeks off.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:04 AM on January 11, 2011 [35 favorites]


A vision specialist in Westwood made Todd wear prism glasses, stand on a balance beam in a dark room, and bounce a ball while reciting multiplication tables.

I will never complain about my vision appointments again.
posted by amicamentis at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it the first annual Bonkers Parents Week on Metafilter?

I keep hoping for the Last Annual Bonkers Parents Week, but again and again I'm being disappointed.
posted by DreamerFi at 11:27 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have been some other successful parents. Judit Polgar's dad deliberately set out to raise chess geniuses and it seems like every Korean LPGA player has a batshitinsane daddy/coach/caddy right behind her.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2011


The results of peer influence are stronger than we parents imagine

Absolutely! Case in point: myself and my brother. Obviously same parents, same household, school, etc., but radically different in how our lives have turned out, all because of our own choices we made in life, starting with who our friends were.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:36 AM on January 11, 2011


"After the divorce, he really loosened up. It was a bachelor pad. We were both dating."

anniecat: Ewwww.

Well, presumably not each other.
posted by The Bellman at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sounds like he needed to be more of a parent and less of a personal trainer. The carrots at the birthday party is weird; the not noticing your 9th-grader went to a kegger is, well, something worse.
posted by SMPA at 11:58 AM on January 11, 2011


Todd Marinovich: Painter

Painting is good for the soul. Hopefully he keeps it up.

This abstract is pretty damn good.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 12:42 PM on January 11, 2011


Story: heartbreaking.
Article: terribly written.
posted by Night_owl at 12:48 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love his Nick Cave. I wonder what artistic expression he was allowed growing up. I was surprised that although sports and athletes are featured in his work, they aren't the dominant theme.
posted by amicamentis at 12:59 PM on January 11, 2011


I'm not even brave enough to click on the link. The excerpt is already breaking my heart. It's hard enough to grow up; this kind of pressure...it makes me ill.
posted by epj at 1:57 PM on January 11, 2011


I'm surprised by how much I like his paintings.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:08 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Crazy parents should come with a health warning. Can we get Congress to ban them from coming to within 1,000 ft of any child?
posted by arcticseal at 6:02 PM on January 11, 2011


FTA: A vision specialist in Westwood made Todd wear prism glasses, stand on a balance beam in a dark room, and bounce a ball while reciting multiplication tables.

I'd be self-medicating, too.
posted by eegphalanges at 9:16 PM on January 11, 2011


Being able to tell people you were raised by helicopters would be the greatest pick up line. Ever.

Only if you like Harrier men .
posted by srboisvert at 3:26 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was gonna say I read enough about Todd Marinovich 10 years ago, but now I'm glad I know about his paintings.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:35 AM on January 12, 2011


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