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Charges Stun Those Who Know Marv Albert

NEWSDAY

People who feel they know Marv Albert heard the news last week; they didn’t want to hear it.

Art Kaminsky, the sports/literary agent who handled one of Albert’s books, heard his car radio say, " . . . more about Marv Albert,” and immediately flashed to illness.

That would be startling and unhappy to hear, but that’s life. But we learned that Albert, 53, has been indicted on charges that he assaulted a woman and forced her to perform oral sex in February in Arlington, Va. He is to present himself to the court on Wednesday.

Indictment is not to be confused with conviction. Albert may be cleared completely, but the grand jury in Arlington County thinks there is evidence enough to prosecute.

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This does not compute with everything we have seen about the man’s public life. “I’m startled, stunned and skeptical,” said Marty Glickman, who was both model and mentor for Albert’s soaring career as sports broadcaster.

“This is like the cliche about the killers who live next door,” said Newsday reporter Arnold Abrams, who went to Lincoln High School in Brooklyn with Albert and still keeps in contact. “Who is she and what really happened? Obviously, something happened, but I don’t fully believe it.”

Albert is the kid from Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn who was a ballboy for the Knicks and created the Jim Baechtold Fan Club. He met Benita, who became his wife, as a result of a newspaper story about the lovely usherettes when Shea Stadium opened in 1964. This is a man who created a broadcasting dynasty with his brothers, Al and Steve, the father who mentored his son so that Kenny Albert does radio for the Rangers at 27.

I’m startled, too, because I never heard a hint of even rudeness about the man, and our paths have crossed back and forth for 35 years. The public marriage was exemplary; they appeared to share a life. She was often at the games; she and the children traveled with him on occasion. We don’t know of secret lives, but even their divorce several years ago was executed without a hint of public rancor.

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I am not so skeptical, however. Athletes and public figures are often targets for women who climb into bed and then cry rape, and the public figure pays a price the rest of his life. Careers are ruined because the accusation is always most publicized. Sometimes stars get off because they’re stars. But sometimes the court decides they aren’t phony charges and Mike Tyson goes to prison. We’ve heard a lot of accusations lately.

Sometimes we learn that a star has a secret life, something we couldn’t have imagined. This goes beyond Albert’s shaving a few years off his age or wearing a hairpiece.

The alleged incident took place after Albert worked a Knicks game in Landover, Md., Feb. 11. The 41-year-old woman, who has known him for 10 years, said she went to Albert’s hotel room, an argument ensued and, she said, he forced her to perform sodomy. Police spokesman Tom Bell said Tuesday that it took this long to indict because of Albert’s high profile. “We wanted to make sure she checked out, that she was not some kind of gold-digger or something, and she is not,” Bell said.

I don’t think you need to read details here.

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“He was the quietest, shyest kid I had ever met,” Glickman said. “I didn’t think he could be a broadcaster.”

Albert made himself a star. One of his books is titled “I’d Love to, but I Have a Game: 27 Years Without a Life.” Job after job sought him--sports news at 6 and 11, Knicks, Rangers, the leagues, football, always more jobs until recent years.

The star has privileges, and sometimes he thinks he should have more privileges. Marv Albert is a star of great magnitude all across the sports landscape. He doesn’t have Michael Jordan’s aura, but few athletes are stars in basketball, hockey and football--and David Letterman’s show--as Albert is. A couple of winters ago, Albert was working a basketball game in Los Angeles when actress Dyan Cannon approached his workspace and gave him a big, affectionate public kiss. Albert appeared nonplussed, but it was a star acknowledging another star.

He is a terrific broadcaster; he is a star. Arnie Abrams, who was the sports editor of “The Lincoln Log” when Albert--then Marv Aufrichtig--was a sophomore reporter fascinated by sports. They’d go to play basketball in the park and Marv would stand on the sidelines with a tape recorder doing play-by-play. He’d go to Knicks games and broadcast the play of Carl Braun and Baechtold for himself.

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“He wanted to be a broadcaster and Glickman was his model,” Abrams said. Not just a broadcaster, but a terrific broadcaster who will use humor and is willing to make a sharply critical observation of the hand that feeds him.

When he was ballboy, he would take his tapes to Glickman, the master, for criticism. He did statistics for Glickman. Marv Aufrichtig went off to college at Syracuse, finished up at NYU. Glickman did a nightly radio show and Saturdays would do the football roundups. He had Marv read the high-school scores from the area.

Glickman was the Knicks’ broadcaster, his story goes, and Albert did odd jobs around the booth. Glickman was coming back from Europe when weather forced his plane to land in Newfoundland. He phoned New York and asked Marv to do the game; he was the most prepared.

The way Albert has told it, he thought, Glickman deliberately delayed himself, giving Albert the understudy’s opportunity.

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If you detect a bit of Glickman in Albert’s work, that’s only natural. They did work together to develop a distinction.

Some years later in the late ‘60s, after Albert was established as a basketball star, he was hired to succeed Glickman doing Giants’ football. Albert wasn’t conversant with the language of football so he sought Glickman, who was calling the races at Yonkers.

“Several nights a week he’d come to the track and we’d work on football,” Glickman recalled. “He didn’t come to watch or bet; he worked at learning how to broadcast football. He couldn’t be as good as he was that young without working at it.”

Basketball, however, made Albert, and his broadcasting did a world of good for the NBA. It was his voice on radio we all remember from the Knicks’ championships of 1970 and 1973. “Yesss!”

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This is sounding like an obituary. We know these things can be lethal. Proved innocent or proved guilty, it will have a devastating effect.

And just this month, the 31st of May, he is to be honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame for a lifetime of contributions.


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