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Marino shakes his head no, he has his TV show to do later. "Claire used to like wrestling," says Marino. "In Pittsburgh. She waved a rebel flag for somebody."
Claire is Marino's wife, mother of his three young sons (a fourth child is due in the spring) and a chum from his Pittsburgh days. Claire's O.K., just as these guys and these wings and these brews are O.K. He's a stylish guy who doesn't go for pretense; Marino likes old friends, simple things, loyalty. He went out with Jensen recently and didn't like the out-of-it clothes Jensen was wearing, a "Bob Griese outfit," as such things arc known among the Dolphin players. A couple days later Jensen found two $500 suits hanging in his locker, courtesy of Marino. When Marino went to Hawaii in February to compete in the made-for-TV Quarterback Challenge, he took along equipment manager Bob Monica and Monica's wife, Donna, for the nine-day trip, all expenses paid. "Danny's the greatest," says Monica. "They don't make 'em like that anymore. When he's gone, I'm gone."
A kid comes into the joint, selling chocolate bars to raise money for his grammar school. "What is this for?" Marino asks. "PTA," says the kid. "I don't know. Something."
Well, the boy is honest and cheerful, and he's not sugar-coating things just to make a sale. Marino buys five bars. He was a happy kid, too, an altar boy who got up only 15 minutes before school started each morning because St. Regis, which he attended through the eighth grade, was only 10 seconds from his house. "He's still the same way as when he was little," says his mom, Veronica, who lives with Dan Sr. in the same small house in Pittsburgh where they raised their three children. "He was always sensitive and giving. He used to watch Lassie, and every week he'd end up crying. He always cared about other people's feelings."
The soft touch now asks Jensen for a dip of snuff "for the ride home" and heads for his car, a family-sized sedan. The rear window on the driver's side is missing, smashed in a recent forced entry by Marino after he locked the keys inside. Oh, well, he has a lot more distractions these days than he did when he arrived in Miami from Pitt, the sixth quarterback taken in the 1983 draft, behind Todd Blackledge and Tony Eason, both of whom are out of the NFL now; Ken O'Brien, who has found moderate success starting for the Jets; and All-Pros Kelly and John Elway of the Denver Broncos. Marino was an All-America as a junior, but not as a senior. Pro scouts thought he threw too many interceptions that year, forced the ball and maybe had a bad attitude. Of course, none of those things turned out to be true.
Now, in the driveway of his home in Fort Lauderdale, Marino steps out of the car and is surrounded by distractions. Two small boys race up, followed by four more, and then Claire comes out of the garage holding another. Three of the children are the Marinos'—Dan, 5; Mike, 3; Joe, 2—and the rest are neighborhood kids. There is a great deal of commotion as somebody tries to get a battery-powered car to function. Little Dan holds a Pittsburgh Steeler umbrella and wears soccer shoes and seems to run in circles.
"Danno had an excellent soccer practice," says Claire, and Marino nods through the tumult. He wonders if his boys, with all their toys and comforts, will have any kind of athletic hunger whatsoever. "If you looked in my garage back home, what was there?" Marino will say later. "A bat, a glove, some balls. No wonder these kids don't play catch."
The family dog, Touchdown, trots up, a tennis ball in its mouth, its fur filthy from sitting in the pond in the backyard. A neighbor's dog arrives, a smaller one with an electronic device on its collar that is supposed to keep the pooch from crossing an invisible electric fence bordering the neighbor's yard. Claire screams, "Colors!" as the dog walks in the front door of the Marino house. The Marinos' housekeeper steps out onto the driveway and surveys the scene. A child shoots another child in the chest with a plastic arrow from a crossbow. Colors enters the house again and Marino stands where he has taken root since he stepped out of his car. "It's hectic," he will say, "but I guess that's the fun part. It makes me feel proud to have a family."
A few hours later, in a limousine on the way to the taping of the weekly Dan Marino Show, at a Hooters restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Marino and his marketing agent, Ralph Stringer, discuss some of Marino's endorsements. The steadiest of them all is his deal with the makers of Isotoner gloves, an arrangement that calls for Marino to do an annual TV commercial that runs before Christmas. Typically, Marino hands out gloves to teammates off-camera and then gets bombarded with snowballs. "We did this year's in June in just two takes," he says. "The snow was fake, but the crew really drilled the snowballs at me. The director said, 'Act like they're not coming.' Yeah, right."
Marino has gotten nibbles from some really big accounts, the fast-food gang and the soft-drink types, but all have implied that he needs to win a championship before they can get serious. As the highest-paid player in his sport, Marino can survive without ancillary revenue. But the recognition would be nice because it would mean he has reached the pinnacle.