What he really wants to talk about is the house he's going to build outside Miami in a planned but as yet unbuilt community. "It will be on a peninsula on a lake," says Marino of his house. "And it'll have about 42 hundred square feet of space. Is that a lot?"
"I think 24 hundred is about average for a house," says one of the men. The deal is this: Marino gets a substantial amount off the price of the house as long as he promises to live in it at least two months of every year and act as a sort of figurehead for the development.
This is one of the blue-chip deals Stevenson has lined up for him. Last season, in a rookie frenzy, Marino was ready to put his name on almost anything. "He would have endorsed pesticide," says one friend. Now, says Stevenson, "Whatever it is, it has to be first class." It also should be something that is part of the South Florida community because Marino is becoming tied to this particular place the way Tony Dorsett is linked to Dallas and Joe Montana to San Francisco.
Tom D'Amico, the man who produced the '84 poster of Marino that shows him in black tux, gripping a football and standing against the Miami skyline, says, " Miami has adopted Marino like a son. And it wants to watch him grow up."
Simply being in Florida is still somewhat dazzling to Marino. He could have been drafted by the Steelers and lived his whole life without straying far from his old South Oakland neighborhood. And don't the Steelers now regret that they didn't draft Marino No. 1 when they had the chance. But each day spent in this subtropical lowland moves Marino further from his roots.
Outside the restaurant he'll note that here it is the Christmas season and look at this balmy weather. "Last year I went home for Christmas and it was 12 below, but it was the greatest 12 below ever. There's just something about the place you're from."
But even that is getting mixed up now. "Yeah, sometimes I'd rather be in Pittsburgh," he says. "I loved those big snows, when you're young and you take your car to a parking lot and do donuts forever, do 'em till your tires fall off. But when I'm there now, it's funny, I start thinking I'd rather be here."
It's the night before a Dolphin home game, and Claire, Nicky, Billy and Carmine sit in Marino's living room watching The Big Chill on a LaserDisc. Claire pets Dan's new puppy, Touchdown, who has already eaten a number of things in the apartment. The guys drink beer. Marino himself is with the Dolphins at their hotel, observing curfew.
Nicky looks at the framed black-and-white photo above the couch, a shot of Marino playing for Central Catholic High School. In the foreground a ballcarrier dives over a pile of bodies into the end zone, while in the background a storklike Marino leaps high in the air signaling the score with his arms. "We were on the sideline drinking beer that night," says Nicky, thinking back. "Look at how skinny Danny is."
Marino isn't skinny anymore, having had to struggle some weeks to make his Shula-appointed weight of 218 pounds. If Marino were here, though, he'd appreciate the ribbing from his pals. One Sunday morning last spring he got so lonely for the gang back home that he jumped on a plane to Pittsburgh and tracked them down at a USFL game at Three Rivers Stadium.