First they were friends on the football field, then they were friends in the fight against autism, and now they’re friends in their fight to beat each other at mini-golf.
Former star quarterbacks Doug Flutie and Dan Marino have been best buds for over two decades after coming up with an idea following a charity event to support autism, the developmental disorder with which both of their sons are afflicted. The two decided to arrange off-season playdates for their sons and haven’t looked back since.
"It was simple," said Marino. “Your son has autism, my son has autism, you’re a QB, I’m a QB. It just makes sense that we pal around.” It started in the summer of 1995, when the four of them went out for pizza, ice cream, and a round of miniature golf.
Flutie fondly recalls their first outing: “My son Dougie had some trouble with his putting, but it was more about having fun than hitting a hole in one- or ten, even. But between me and Dan, things got competitive pretty quickly.”
It didn’t take long for the retired athletes to start gambling on their games. It started innocently enough- betting ice cream cones, or soda pops, but Marino remembers it escalating rapidly. “The highest the stakes ever got was when we put our yachts on the line. I took that game with a perfect shot through the windmill. It was bittersweet though, because I had, and still have, quite a bit more money than Doug. I’ve sold most of my other boats from that time, but that one I still have. It’s special- probably my favorite.”
The father-and-son duo’s relationship continued to develop as they indulged in extravagant delights such as boogie boarding, pheasant hunting, and even bowling. However, their bond almost came to an abrupt halt in 1997, when their sons had a major falling out. “Dougie and Michael [Marino] never really got along,” recalls Flutie. “Things started to get ugly- I wouldn't say either one of them is much of a people person. It got really crazy when Michael tried to drown Dougie in the ocean while me and Dan were drinking Coronas. It was a close call. That Michael’s stronger than your typical kid.”
However, the incident would not hold them back and the pair would soon reunite. “A few weeks later I got a call from Flutes and he said to me 'Hey Dan, I know our sons can’t stand each other, but why should that stop us from having all the fun?' I immediately cleared my schedule and we rented a house in North Carolina for a whole week,” Marino squealed. “It turned out to be the most fun of any of our playdates.”
Despite the falling out, the two sons continue to live their lives to the fullest. Michael is a professional DJ and is happily married to his beautiful wife, Laura. Dougie lives at home with his family and enjoys activities such as swimming and pizza.
Dan and Doug have also helped each other cope with life’s tragedies. In 2015, both of Flutie’s parents died within an hour of each other from unrelated heart attacks. Marino called Flutie as soon as he heard the news. “If we’re being honest, I was hoping to get his answering machine,” admits Marino. “I mean really, 2 parents in one hour. That’s gotta be a record. Hopefully Peyton [Manning] doesn't smash his records like he did mine.”
The bond between Flutie and Marino has only continued to flourish. Sometimes Doug flies down to Florida, other times Dan flies up to Massachusetts, one time they even spent a weekend in Brazil. The two have flown kites, gone kayaking, and plan to go bungee jumping in 2017.
“The kite flying, admittedly, is a little boring, That’s more Doug’s thing.” explained Marino. “But we like to mix it up. Today we might fly a kite and tomorrow we might jump off a cliff. We’re all over the spectrum.”