Steve McNair

Nashville is a young town when it comes to professional sports. For generations, most football fans here cheered for the University of Tennessee Volunteers…college ball was the sport of choice and the SEC was king. Professional football was in Dallas and Pittsburgh and Green Bay. But that all changed in 1997 when the Houston Oilers left Texas and headed north.

For the first couple of years, the team was known as the Tennessee Oilers. That first season, the games were played in Memphis. The next year they played at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville.

In 1999, the renamed Tennessee Titans took the field at their brand new stadium (now known as LP Field) on the banks of the Cumberland River and, it’s fair to say, that a love affair with the team began.

Back then, the team was led by a trio of charismatic athletes…Eddie George at running  back. Frank Wychek at tight end and Steve McNair at quarterback.

I have to admit that in the early days I really didn’t pay much attention to the Sunday games. But as the years passed, I became more and more interested in what was happening there. To be sure, the NFL changed Nashville. No longer did the college world dominate local sports radio or the newspaper pages. I’ll never care for the Titans the way I care for the Vols, but I do have a soft place for them.

If you love football as much as I do, then you lament its short season. In college, 12 games are all you get. In the pros, it’s 16. Compared to the snoozefest that is baseball, the football season lasts a nanosecond. So gradually, I started taking more of an interest in the Titans. Soon it became clear that Steve McNair was a special player. He had a smile that lit up a room and tolerance for pain that was off the charts. Time and again he spent the weekdays on the sidelines or in rehab, watching his teammates practice. But every Sunday, there he’d be, no matter how bad he was hurting. He retired last year, after spending two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, but he and his family remained in Nashville.

That competitiveness, that drive to play no matter what, endeared Steve to his teammates and to his fans. Not only that, he was very visible in the community…loading trucks with supplies for the Mississippi coast after Hurricane Katrina…pitching in to clean up after tornadoes hit Nashville…donating items to silent auctions, signing autographs and just being a good guy.

But, as we learned on July 4, Steve wasn’t always the good guy we thought he was.


The married man and father of four was shot to death–murdered–by his 20 year old girlfriend, who then (it seems safe to say although the police won’t confirm it yet) killed herself.

Make no mistake about it, this is BIG NEWS around here. Far bigger than Michael Jackson’s death or Obama’s trip to Russia. This was our guy. The man who fell one yard short of scoring the tying touchdown  in Super Bowl XXXIV. He fell short then, and he fell short on Saturday. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong person.

So what’s his legacy? Great competitor? Ole number 9 in the blue jersey? The big guy with the big smile?

Turns out, Steve McNair wasn’t Superman after all. He was human, just like the rest of us.

Charles Barkley once said that we shouldn’t make athletes into role models. Might just be the smartest thing he ever said.


Filed under Sports

12 responses to “Steve McNair

  1. I stopped looking towards the famous to inspire me a long time ago and I’m going to try and convince my daughters to not start. He’s just a man. Really great sex will make us turn into someone that nobody recognizes. It’s that simple. It’s biology.

  2. Good post. I don’t think the circumstances surrounding his death diminish any of his athletic accomplishments, nor do they take away from the good he did for his community. However, those circumstances do make me think less of him as a person and feel incredibly sad for his wife and children.

  3. This is so tragic for his wife and kids, I just feel sick for them.

  4. Julie Fisher

    I never understood why we can’t and shouldn’t separate the performer/athlete/artist from his private life. I also can’t appreciate the desire so many have to meet these people. Their gifts I do love and need. These gifts make our lives so very much richer. But what they do as mortal men/women. . .it’s just none of my business, I figure.

  5. mongoliangirl

    Yet another reason hero worship doesn’t work for me. I’d rather just admire a person for their skills (football in this case) and leave it at that. Otherwise, I’m always disappointed.

  6. Niece Lash

    I second what Julie said. They are human like us. They stumble and fall like us. I wish people would quite focusing on his fall and focus on what he did for our Nashville community and the community at large, his commitment to football and helping others, and not his poor judgement. He is just a man after all. Steve Fisher put it best when he said,”The Steve McNair that I knew would want me to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not perfect, we all make decisions sometimes that are not in our best interests, please forgive me.’ The Steve McNair that I know would want me to say, ‘Celebrate my life for what I did on the field, for what I did in the community, for the kind of teammate that I was.”

    Rest in peace, Steve.

  7. No one person can be a role model in their entirety … because we are human, and humans have flaws, and when we our flaws are exposed, we’re no longer fit role models. I’ve never heard of him, but he looks like a bear. I want to squeeze him.

  8. UB–That will be a great lesson to teach your daughters. Here’s to your success.
    Sarah–I think that’s how most of us feel. And the rumors going around suggest that there may be even more seedier things under the surface.
    Trouble–You echo the sentiments of the entire community.
    Julie–I know…it’s like all that’s being said about Michael Jackson. Genius entertainer or pedophile?
    MG–You’re right–best not to place anyone on too high of a pedastal. They’ll always fall off.
    Lash–Fisher made me cry…it was just so poignant.
    Ellie–He was definitely squeeze-able…a great smile.

  9. They all are – the celebrities that we, as a society, worship. They are all mortal and they are all flawed and I think it is easy for some people to forget that.

  10. At the end of the (game) day, athletics are men and women with ongoing demands and pressures that few of us non-famous folk can comprehend. They still eat, drink, walk, poop and have human needs that are sometimes difficult to fulfill given their celebrity status. I couldn’t imagine trying to develop friendships and relationships after becoming famous….who would you trust…how would you ever think that this person likes/loves you for YOU?

    Steve McNair should be remembered for his efforts and accomplishments on the field, not his personal life.

  11. AFM–well said. Personally, I tend to worship alcholic writers, so it’s hard to be let down by them.
    Dad–thanks for visiting Franklin. Around here, famous people are a dime a dozen and I think we have a little better handle on celebrity life than some communities. That being said, it’s still surprising when someone as well-liked as McNair tumbles from his pedastal.

  12. I go back and forth on the athlete/politician/celebrity philanderer dichotomy, if it is a dichotomy.

    I tend to overlook my friends’ less good personality traits if I’ve made an overall decision that they are good people.

    That said, I have a problem with with the famous if part of their celebrity is premised on their “goodness” and their feet turn out to be made of clay.

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