Just you try explaining Marv Albert to your kid

September 28, 1997|By Susan Reimer

I'LL BET YOU HAD NO idea who Marv Albert was.

If you are reading this, I can guess a few things about you. And one of the things I can guess is that you could not have picked the "Voice of the New York Knicks" out of a police lineup.

Until, of course, he was actually in a police lineup and his sex life started making headlines in the only section of the newspaper your teen-age son reads.

And suddenly, of course, you found yourself in the awkward position of explaining rough sex, oral sex and cross-dressing to kids who have barely enough information to get their imaginations around the concept of the missionary position.

Well, I'm right there with you. In spades.

My husband, the father of two adolescents who are just waking up to the idea that they were not found under a cabbage leaf, covered the Marv Albert sex trial for the sports section of a major national newspaper.

And I quickly ran out of ways to explain why Daddy was leaving so early in a jacket and tie and coming home so late, only to insist on taking a hot shower before he touched anyone he loves.

When my husband called me to say that he would be late for a date he'd made with our son because a surprise witness had taken the stand to say that Marv Albert bit her, too, while wearing women's undergarments, I was at a loss for words to convey the reason for this postponement to my disappointed child.

"Come on, Mom," he said, because he's no dummy and he knew the story his dad was covering. "If I don't hear it from you, I will hear it from my friends at school. Is that what you want?"

He had me there, so I stuttered through some nonsense about how sexual play between consenting adults can take many forms. My voice trailed off and then I added hastily: "But not any adults you know."

I confess, this teachable moment was far, far beyond anything for which I was prepared. Explaining where degrading sex fits on the continuum of human emotions was not covered in any child-rearing book or any women's magazine I had read. And it was far beyond any advice I had ever had from any wiser woman friend.

So I started shrieking, as I often do as a parent, "Why am I having this conversation? I can't believe I am talking to you about this. Your dad will be late. End of story."

I was having that conversation because Marv Albert's sexual tastes have become part of a court record and even the most high-minded news organizations considered that fact a green light to report a lot of stuff nobody needs to know.

It reminds me of little kids who are dying to say the f-word and do so by reporting that one of their friends said it.

Just like those little kids, the networks and the nation's newspapers consider themselves blameless when they are are reporting what somebody said in a court of law.

And they used the fact of Marv Albert's semi-celebrity to excuse them further, because the truth is, if a postal worker had done this to a school teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, nobody would give a damn.

I make my living in the journalism game and so does the man I married, but I am sick to death of the headlines I am required to explain to my kids:

What O.J. Simpson did or did not do to Sydney and Justin's mother. What happened to JonBenet Ramsey and why everyone says her parents did it. What happened to William and Harry's mother and why she and William and Harry's father got divorced.

Those were sensational news stories, but they were news stories. I don't think that case can be made for Marv Albert and what he was wearing when 10 years of kinky sex got out of hand.

I know this stuff goes on, but does it have to be part of current-events day in middle school? That becomes inescapable when the mainstream newspapers and evening news shows feel they are obliged to repeat whatever is said in open court. The reporting of this trial makes the Internet look like Highlights magazine.

I hate to sound like the Rev. Jerry Falwell, but look where we have come. For no earthly reason than because it is part of a public record, millions of women now know who Marv Albert is and what turns him on.

And, because our teen-agers are slipping from our grasp and into the world, we have to find the words to explain it to them.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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