Sunday, July 05, 2009

It's hard for me to be a fan of any football player who doesn't or didn't play for the Browns.

But I was a fan of Steve McNair.

He represented everyone who came from a small college. Most people couldn't tell you where Alcorn State was, and there were skeptics when the big-stat quarterback moved to the NFL. The school is too small, the competition not good enough.

McNair faced critics and answered them, putting together a strong career with the Oilers/Titans and Ravens. When he led the Ravens to 13 wins in 2006, I pulled for him, if not for his team.

I loved McNair's guts. Like most quarterbacks who have a long career, he was beat up and wasn't able to run towards the end. But he still found ways to make his team win. In 2005, I watched him lead the Titans in a final drive at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Titans' losing on an interception in the end zone.

By now, though, we know that we don't know athletes. We may see them on the field for three hours every Sunday, but there's much more to a person, most of which fans will never know.

So when the news broke on Saturday that McNair and a woman had been found dead, I wasn't shocked. Not because of any other reason that these things have happened before. Darrent Williams and Sean Taylor, each an NFL star, had been shot within the past three years. McNair was retired, but he played his last game in 2007 and was just 36. Suddenly, the prevailing thought is sadness, not shock.

We still don't know what exactly happened. What is apparent is that McNair is the victim of a homicide. The evidence released seems to point to a murder-suicide.

There may be some who will ask what a man who is married and has children is doing with a a 20-year old woman. I'm tempted to ask the same question, but the reality is, it's none of my business.

My heart goes out to his family, as well as the family of Sahel Kazemi. Let's not forget there are two families grieving here.

I hope people remember McNair for his play on the field before remembering his tragic end. That may not be possible, but one can at least hope.

From my 2006 season preview of the Baltimore Ravens:

Steve McNair will start for Baltimore. I’ve long been a fan of McNair. Last season, he almost single-handedly willed Tennessee to a win over the Browns in a game I attended. It just confirmed what I have always believed, that McNair has as much guts as talent.

And though McNair is no longer the multi-dimensional quarterback he once was (his days of rushing for over 600 yards in a season are long gone), only a fool would believe he is done.

Rest in peace.



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