By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Troy Drayton was relaxing in front of his locker, and I asked him about this animosity between high-priced football players and the allegedly free press. "Anytime you get a camera shoved in your face, it gets under your skin," Drayton said. "And you get a lot of stupid questions. Look at the question. Look at the circumstances it's asked under. There's your answer."
I drove over to a friend's house to watch the Dolphins-Bills game. In my mind it was a foregone conclusion. The preposterous Bills, quarterbacked by an underpaid, longhaired gnome named Doug Flutie, would stomp the crap out of the vanilla-flavored Dolphins, led by an inscrutable, aging legend with a bad-luck number on his back.
And that's just what happened.
The Dolphins aren't a great team this season; they don't deserve to win any Super Bowls; and none of this is the fault of Dan Marino, a bona fide sports legend trapped in a labyrinth built by moneymen, fickle fans, and media mopes.
What will become of South Florida when Marino moves off stage into a Percocet haze of knee transplants, cameo spots on Yuletide razor commercials, and charity golf? It will feel like a death of sorts, and Marino will have died for our sins.
But a new legend will be bought or manufactured. Finally no one will even notice Marino's absence, and the slow eclipse of a superstar will be complete.
The new prince could come from anywhere. Going into the Bills game, a press release announced that Dolphins quarterback Craig Erickson's elbow was damaged enough to take him out for the rest of the season. Suddenly Damon Huard, the team's third-string quarterback, was in a position to replace Marino if the legend failed to get back up from his next sack. This omnipresent possibility was enhanced by the recent injury and removal of All-Pro tackle Richmond Webb, who guarded Marino's blind side.
Huard was basking in the sudden attention. He described his recent personal background -- how he played an exile year in the World League in Europe and how he spent another year off from football working as a PR man for Phil Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks. That job, which paid $30,000 per year, involved a lot of speaking dates before chambers of commerce and Rotary clubs, drumming up support for a grotesque piece of corporate welfare -- Allen's bid to build a new stadium with public money. "I had to be very persuasive," Huard said. "Basically I was a lobbyist. It was awesome."
Junior lobbyist or no, Huard still possessed disarming candor in comparison to Marino. He said he was thinking of naming his new cat Gypsy, after the Fleetwood Mac song.
"How do you think Marino would adjust to being backup -- number two -- if that should ever happen?" I asked Huard, knowing it to be mainly a hypothetical question.
"I really wouldn't like to comment on that," Huard said, laughing. "I don't know what to say to that question."
"How hard is it to tell the truth, in the position you're in?" I asked.
"It can be hard sometimes, real hard," Huard said, taking the question seriously. "It can be tough, there's no doubt about it."
I never got the chance to ask Saint Marino the real questions, the ones like: DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT THROWING A BIG COCAINE PARTY AT THAT MANSION OUT IN WESTON AND INVITING ALL THE CHEERLEADERS OVER FOR SOME SERIOUS SKINNY-DIPPING?
But you and I know the answer to that one.
Before last weekend's game against the Indianapolis Colts, I put in a final call to Harvey Greene. I asked him if I could arrange to be tackled a few times by linebacker Zach Thomas. This would give me a feel for Marino's work-life.
Greene said this was impossible. Thomas might get hurt, he explained.
"Well," I said, "I appreciate you spending time with me, Harvey. You've been very helpful."
"No, I haven't," Greene said.
I reminded him that if Marino ever wanted to chat, I am listed in the phone book. He said he'd pass the message along.