But being in the spotlight makes Allen uncomfortable. "I don't trust many people," he says. "Everybody always seems to want something from me. I try not to go to personal appearances alone. You know why? I'm not impressed with myself, so I have this awful fear that when I show up at these functions, nobody will be there.
"I'm in awe when I'm asked for my autograph. I wonder, Wow, what do these people see in me? I intimidate some people. They think I'm totally unapproachable. They're scared to death to say hello. They think I'm larger than life. Well, I'm no more important than anybody else."
Allen often holes up alone in his spacious two-bedroom Brentwood condominium. He has four unlisted phone numbers, which he changes every three months, and he screens every call. "It is so hard for me to say no," Allen says. "I have relatives who think I'm the biggest jerk. Instead of facing up and telling them yes or no, I'll do my disappearing act. My attitude is: Out of sight, out of mind."
During the football season Allen is likely to withdraw even more. He calls his home the Dead Zone because there is so little life behind the front door. "Last season I was sore all over—everywhere," he says. "But I never let anybody know it. I couldn't appear vulnerable. After most games I came home, laid around and watched TV.
"I'll never get used to the pain, but I can ignore it somewhat. Last season, in the Cleveland game, somebody hit my shoulder and bruised it badly. I literally cried on the plane ride home."
Allen sometimes spends hours playing the piano and singing. Nothing classical, only mellow love songs. He collects teddy bears. He is a highly religious, studious man and reads the Bible regularly. He has studied French and Russian, and there is usually a pile of books on his kitchen table, among them, scripts for the HBO series, Training Camp: The Bulls Are Back, in which he has a role. He is a softy who has been known to give generously to the L.A. street people. "I continually thank God for how lucky I am," he says.
Allen invites Darius to Brentwood for weeklong slumber parties. "He bought me a bike last trip," Darius says. Harold Jr. was given the Pontiac Trans Am that Marcus won as the Super Bowl MVP. Gwen has been given a full-length mink coat and a BMW. "Who would have thought I deserved this for just being a good mother?" she says. For their 25th anniversary Allen sent his parents on an all-expenses-paid Bahamas cruise.
In return he relies on his family to help maintain a balance in his life—to make sure he is, in his words, "heading down the middle of the road."
"We have six tickets to the Raider games," Gwen says. "Marcus looks up in the stands and sees us there. It has always been that way, since he started playing football. Afterward, he'll come out of the locker room and kiddingly say, 'What are you guys doing here?'
"The first game of last season, we weren't there. We'd left early. He had a fit. He said, 'Don't ever do that again!' His family is his support system."