Love-Child Daddy Dan Marino to "Restore Respect" to Dolphins

Try not to laugh when you read this. The Dolphins, whom the Bucs clobbered last night, are in an obvious tailspin. So now, following l'affaire Incognito, team owner Stephen Ross, who solemnly declared himself "appalled" yesterday, has assembled a few Men of Honor to Restore Respect to the Dolphins.

These men include Don Shula, who lives on the ultra-exclusive and sometimes anti-Semitic Indian Creek Village, and none other than Dan Marino, CBS stalwart and the father of a love baby.

These are the men who will restore the dignity to the organization?

Earlier this year, a New York Post exposé on Marino's personal life plunged his infamously squeaky-clean image into some muddy waters. The findings? In late 2004, Marino knocked up a 35-year-old CBS production assistant named Donna Savattere, who gave birth to a daughter in June 2005.

Marino then paid her off to keep quiet. At the time, it was unclear exactly how much dough the father of six and longtime husband gave her, but it was apparently a substantial haul. She split her time between a home on the Upper West Side and a place in the Hamptons, where she hatched into quite the social butterfly.

"This is a personal and private matter," Marino said at the time. "I take full responsibility both personally and financially for my actions now as I did then. We mutually agreed to keep our arrangement private to protect all parties involved."

The best part? None of the local sports journalists -- who all let the story be plucked by an outlet 1,300 miles away -- seemed to care. Enter sports columnist Dave Hyde, who wrote a homage to Marino called "My Life in Football" at exactly the same time the quarterback was impregnating a woman who was not his wife. Hyde summed it up thusly: Go easy on the guy, will ya? He's flawed. Like all of us.

"It's always uncomfortable traipsing through someone else's private affairs," Hyde sighed in an interview, before extolling the "hundreds of thousands" Marino has helped. "As much as Marino is a public figure," Hyde continued, "there's a seamy side to this."

That sentiment is exactly what's wrong with sports journalism and in part explains the national umbrage over the Incognito imbroglio. We've all become tacit participants in a conspiracy to lionize our athletes -- with talking heads and "journalists" serving a narrative that we quickly gobble down.

But this episode involving Dolphin owner Stephen Ross is an especially juicy slice.

It won't be long before football pundits are discussing the happenings exclusively in cliché. Men like Marino have been brought in to "do their part" as onetime "locker room leaders" and restore prestige "both on and off the field" to the bewildered franchise.

Then the local journalists will funnel those same ideas straight back into the column inches. The Miami Herald's front page headline this morning? "Restoring Respect: Shula, Marino to help."

Send your story tips to the author, Terrence McCoy.

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