America's First Test Tube Athlete

This article is for all the parents out there who have a kid that everyone says to them: "He can't miss making it" or "Let me tell you that I've never seen a girl who has so much potential."
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This article is for all the parents out there who have a kid that everyone says to them: "He can't miss making it" or "Let me tell you that I've never seen a girl who has so much potential."

Those two phrases for millions of parents, past and present, are like receiving word that you have just won the Powerball lottery. You immediately start thinking to yourself, "Wow, now if I play this right and push my kid as hard as possible, my family and I will be set for a lifetime; and we'll be the proudest family in America, or maybe the world."

Throughout my career I have met dozens, if not hundreds of people, who have fit in the category above. They followed every step of their kids' lives in sports. They wouldn't dare miss a practice and in far too many cases overstepped their boundaries as they criticized their kids' coaches and shouted at almost every move their kid made in a game; most of the time delivering criticism.

Oh yeah, you've seen these type of parents, but let me remind you of the story of one of the most vicarious parents of all time. I do so, so that the next time you live through your kid on the ball field or court or wherever, you might think about how dangerous it could be.

The story is about Todd Marinovich. Todd was bred by his father to be a professional athlete, a superstar. (So now you're saying to yourself, Yeah, that sounds pretty much as to what I would do with my kid.)

As Todd grew, his parents carefully monitored his diet, his physical condition and his psychological development with the express intent of molding him into an NFL quarterback. (Ok, I get it, but what's so wrong with that? Seems like they really cared for their kid.)

His father Marv enlisted the help of more than a dozen doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, trainers, coaches and computer experts to aid in every aspect of the development of his young son. (That's a little bit heavy, but I guess if I had their kind of money I'd do the same. I'm sure it would pay off.)

Marinovich became an outstanding high school quarterback coveted by college coaches nationwide. (Now that's what I'm talking about. I just knew that all that devotion would pay off with this guy. That's exactly why I push my kid so hard. Scholarship baby!)

He wound up at the University of Southern California and led the Trojans to the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl victory in his freshman year. (See, I knew it!)

However, Todd Marinovich began to self-destruct under the weighty expectations imposed on him by his family. (Uh oh. Ok, so I'm figuring he must have been a wimp all along. I know my kid would never self destruct. I've made him tough as nails. I make him run extra laps when he gets home from practice and when he complains I call him a big baby who will never amount to anything. You just gotta be tough on kids these days, right?)

Marinovich was benched his sophomore year and was later arrested for possession of cocaine and marijuana. (If I ever caught my kid doing that I'd beat the hell out of him; but not to worry, I know he would never touch drugs.)

He gave up his final two years of eligibility and moved to the NFL, becoming the 24th selection in the 1991 draft. (See, I bet his father beat the hell out of him too and it straightened him up.)

He had a short-lived career with the Los Angeles Raiders and the team cut him at the end of the 1993 training camp. (Oh well, like I say, he must have been a real wimp in the first place.)

Since then, Marinovich's life has spiraled downward. He watched the 1998 Super Bowl from the inside of the Orange County prison cell. He played a couple years in the Canadian league and then it was all over. Today he's an artist.

(Wait, you're telling me that with all that work, time and money those parents put into making him a superstar that he ends up in jail? And never makes it big time? Give me a break! What an ungrateful kid! An artist? See, I told you he was a big wimp all along!)

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