By Ken Reed
Every few years, some reporter checks in on Todd Marinovich, the one-time superstar young quarterback (USC, Raiders) with the crazy dad who turned to drugs to cope with the insanity of his upbringing.
This year, that reporter was Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated. Rosenberg wrote an excellent, albeit quite disturbing, profile of not only Todd Marinovich but the entire dysfunctional Marinovich family for SI’s January 14 issue.
I thought I knew the sad Marinovich tale pretty well — overbearing dad turns son into a sports robot via an extreme scientific regimen — but it turns out I didn’t know the half of it.
Marinovich’s dad, Marv, has almost completely ignored Todd’s sister, Traci, throughout her life. (For one reason, she wasn’t devoted enough to athletics.) He verbally and physically abused Todd and Todd’s mother Trudi.
He was a “raging beast,” according to Todd, who grew up in fear. Todd knew only one thing to do in his youth: keep pleasing his dad in order to prevent the insanity in his home from escalating.
Marv messed with Todd’s mind so much that Todd completely lost his true self, his soul, and turned to drugs and alcohol to fill the gaping hole in his being.
“I missed Human Being 101,” says Todd. “I was anesthetizing, covering up the very vitals of me being human.”
Todd has gone through trauma therapy, group therapy and individual therapy in an effort to try to come to grips with his maniacal sports-obsessed father. He has been in and out of alcohol and drug rehab so many times now (he’s nearing his 50th birthday) that he and everyone around him have lost count.
Today, Marv is 79 and dealing with Alzheimer’s. He lives in an assisted living facility. Traci, despite being ignored by her father growing up, takes care of his financial affairs and will stop by to see him every couple weeks and show him old family photos.
She says she “can count on one hand things that he’s actually done for me.” Yet, she can’t abandon him.
Todd has, for the most part, detached himself from his father.
“The only time, perceived or real, that I felt loved, is when I was performing, which is super sick,” says Todd.
There are very few — hopefully, none — over-the-top youth sports parents of Marv Marinovich’s ilk in the country today. But, sadly, there are thousands — maybe millions — of performance-based youth sports parents in the United States. Their kids sense — whether true or not — that the only way mom, dad or both, will truly love them is if they perform well in sports.
These young athletes wake up with a knot in their stomach on Saturday mornings because they know they have to go out on the field, court, or ice and play — i.e., perform — for their parents’ approval that day.
It’s sad but it’s real.
As such, performance-based parenting is something we must vigilantly be aware of, and constantly fight against, in our youth sports world.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
Listen on Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor and others.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
More Episodes on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts; PocketCasts; & Anchor
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon