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
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 fiancee, 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.
They say joy and woe are woven fine. Hell, no, he wouldn't wish
this past year on a tax collector, but there was this funny light
that leaked out of his darkness. Marv started thinking how lucky
he was. He took time to really know Heather and was humbled that
she was still sitting there next to him.
"Most of my friends said 'Leave,'" she says, "and it would have
been so easy. But we have something strong and wonderful. We love
each other. You don't just throw someone away when times get
hard. I didn't do anything for him that he wouldn't have done for
You knew the old Marv was dead the day he bought a dog.
Actually, he bought two--two pugs. He took them to the park. He
accompanied them to puppy school. He'd fall asleep on the couch
with them to the gentle tones of Sacramento versus Toronto.
Last week Marv Albert was hired back where he started 31 years
ago, calling Knicks games on radio. He'll also do the nightly
Sportsdesk highlight show on MSG. That's it. No national
glamour. No four gigs at once. No going months between deep
breaths. "I don't ever want to go back to the way I was," he
says. "I want to leave a lot of windows open."
That day, when he got home, he opened the door a crack and the
pugs ran straight out. Then they ran straight back to him.
B/W PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Rick Reilly]
I never thought it was sex Marv Albert was obsessed with. I
thought it was work--every day, every night.