Even as a boy, Marv Albert hated dogs. "Every time you open the door," he'd complain, "they run away."
That's the lousy thing about dogs. They need attention and hugs. Marv never had the time. Come to think of it, Marv never had time for life. Marv always had to get to the Rangers-Nordiques game.
As a kid he worked as an office boy for the Brooklyn Dodgers, wrote a New York Knicks fan club newsletter, was a regular on a segment of Howard Cosell's radio show and served as a Knicks ball boy. As a man he worked the NBA on NBC, the NFL on NBC, the Knicks on the Madison Square Garden cable network and, on his 10 free nights a year, Rangers radio. Rangers radio, for crying out loud.
I never thought it was sex Marv was obsessed with. I thought it was work—every day, every night, every season. Five years ago I wrote a book with him, and it was always the same: I'd go to his hotel suite and see the gorgeous bowl of uneaten fruit, the gorgeous unplayed piano, the gorgeous view hidden behind the gorgeous unopened drapes. And I'd see Marv sitting there, head buried in work.
You work as crazily as Marv did and all you're left with for free time is midnight to two. You get weird. Pretty soon, Marv let his life get away from him. When the news broke in May 1997 that he'd been charged with assault and sodomy for biting a woman during forced sex in his hotel suite, my first reaction was, Marv had time for sex? I figured he never had time for anything more than the Dolphins' depth chart.
Suddenly, he was being flayed by the tabloids as some lingerie-wearing, butt-chomping sicko. Probably half of what came out was lies and some was truth and it doesn't matter anyway. Marv screwed up. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, lost all four jobs and, just like that, the music stopped. For the first time since he was 12, there was nothing in front of him but an endless row of empty days.
At first his feet just kept running, like a cartoon character who just went off a cliff. He cleaned his closets. Twice. He answered every piece of mail. Thousands. He learned to program the VCR and watched every NBA game on satellite. You'd call and ask what's up. " Sacramento versus Toronto," he'd say—and he wasn't kidding.
When the West Coast games were over, he'd lie in bed alone with an emptiness you can't imagine. "I was scared," he says.
He had to go out or go nuts. He went out. He started taking long morning walks in Central Park. He even stopped and watched the puppet shows. "I'm not sure Marv knew there were puppet shows in Central Park," says his fianc�e, Heather Faulkiner, a freelance producer. "I'm not even sure he knew there was a Central Park."
He read. He wrote. He went to court-ordered therapy. He spent days with his widowed dad. Got closer to his two brothers. Bothered his four kids. Made coffee from the beans. Spent time looking out at the view. Spent time looking into himself.