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Marinovich Documentary Raises Question of Nature Vs. Nurture

Todd Marinovich was bred for greatness, but had his career derailed by drugs. (Photo by Ken Levine)

If you will indulge me, I would love to play ‘pop psychologist’ for a moment.  For hundreds of years those who study human behavior have wondered whether nature or nurture have a bigger impact on the human psyche.  The general consensus seems to be that both play an important role.

That leads me to Todd Marinovich.  Marinovich gained national attention in the late 80s when Sports Illustrated profiled him.  Simply stated, Marinovich was engineered to be a quarterback.  Marinovich’s father Marv dedicated his life to ensuring Todd would be an NFL quarterback.  Todd trained when other kids played, and ate organic vegetables when others ate Big Mac’s.  Because of his unique upbringing and skill set Marinovich was dubbed ‘Robo QB’ by the media.

Marinovich was the subject of a recent ESPN film entitled ‘The Marinovich Project.’  The film told the Marinovich story with first person accounts from Todd, Marv, and various people who interacted with Todd at some point in his life.

There was just one problem with Marv Marinovich’s grand plan.  Somewhere along the way Todd Marinovich hated being Todd Marinovich.  He had severe social anxiety and found his escape through marijuana.  The marijuana use then escalated into cocaine, meth, LSD, and eventually heroin.

Even in the ‘robo qb’ days Marinovich was living a double life.  The carefully crafted image of the perfect specimen hid the fact that a teenage Todd Marinovich was becoming a junkie.  The drug use eventually derailed his NFL career and subsequent attempts to play football in other leagues.

The easily digestible explanation is that Marinovich was rebelling against his strict upbringing.  There could be some truth to that, but it is also highly possible that Todd had a genetic predisposition to addiction and any upbringing would have steered him in that direction.

The beautiful part of the ESPN film is that is presented the facts in an unbiased manner and allowed the viewer to draw their own conclusions.

It seems to me that both nature and nurture played a huge role in Marinovich’s fall from grace.



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