When I think back at my childhood memories as a sports fan, they are filled with aqua and coral. I remember pretending to be Bob Griese, scrambling in my back yard and throwing a touchdown pass to win the Super Bowl. As I got older, the #12 jersey was replaced by a sparkling new one; the # 13 of Dan Marino.
I grew up an avid Marino fan. From his first touchdown pass in 1983 to Joe Rose in the hallowed stadium that was the Orange Bowl, to his final scoring toss to Oronde Gadsden in the debacle playoff loss to Jacksonville in 1999, I followed his career with the caffeinated enthusiasm of a fan girl. I was Dan in every pick-up football game I ever played. As I grew older and Marino pursued endeavors beyond the football field – most notably the Dan Marino Foundation – I admired the standup community person he’d become.
In short, Dan Marino was my hero.
You can imagine, then, how devastated I was to hear the news my childhood idol had fallen from grace. Revelations surfaced in January that Marino had an affair in 2005 with a CBS intern. The relationship produced a child, and Marino paid the intern millions of dollars to keep the issue a secret. Reportedly, Marino previously disclosed the details of the affair with his wife Claire, to whom he’s been married for 28 years. Dan and Claire have six children, two of whom are adopted.
Whereas many of my Miami-born friends – and mutual Marino devotees – turned to immediate backlash and varying degrees of vitriol, my initial response was a sense of dejected empathy. Not only did this story hit home because the squeaky-clean image of my childhood hero suddenly become irreversibly tarnished, but also because I can relate to the shame Marino was forced to endure.
My life journey saw me travel down the road of infidelity and dishonesty. The selfish mistakes I made in my first marriage left an emotional scar I will carry for the rest of my life. I can say I am blessed in having been able to grow from that event and make a new life for myself as a result. Yet it was only with the passing of time and the grace of my ex-wife that I was able to begin anew, the pain of that period moving further and further into the rear view.
Did Claire find it in her heart to forgive Dan for his indiscretions? We may never know. Nor should we. The personal lives of ANY athlete are none of our business, with the possible exception of someone who publicly proclaims one lifestyle yet lives the opposite in private (e.g. someone who advocates against drinking and driving and is then arrested for DUI).
As a sports-crazed, 24-hour news cycle devouring, instant gratification society, we tend to be consumed with the private lives of our public figures. As a result, it’s so easy to get sucked into the conversation and lose perspective of what’s really going on with any given situation. I know I jumped on the anti-Manti wagon, and I was publicly critical of Te’o and his whole ordeal. In hindsight, I wish I would have shown more restraint or simply kept my opinions to myself. With Marino, watching the public shame being cast on the person I had idolized for so long gave me the perspective I needed. It also reminded me of something very important. Every person is measured neither by the lowest point nor the highest point in his/her life.
If Claire Marino and her children find it within themselves to forgive Dan and move forward, that’s all the really matters. In the end, we are all human, filled with flaws and destined to make mistakes. Everything else is just noise.