Did he ever plant his flag on moral high ground and hold forth on the inadequacies of others?
The works he performed through his charitable foundation, the fact he was an admired teammate and leader, is it all diminished now that he’s been murdered perhaps because of his marital infidelity?
It wasn’t long after Steve McNair was found dead Saturday when the tsk-tsking about being unable to believe everything about sports heroes began. Suddenly, McNair wasn’t just tragically killed but a hypocrite too?
"They are what they do." That’s what the great baseball writer Roger Angell once wrote about athletes. And he was exactly right. Just because a person has superior athletic ability, why do we need to presume he is superior in every facet of life?
Einstein was smart. Would we have expected him to be able to rush for 1,000 yards? Sinatra and Elvis could sing. Would they have been great international statesmen?
Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Roger Clemens, O.J. Simpson, Bill Clinton ... should we keep going? ... Kobe Bryant, Brett Favre ... that enough? Every one of them and many, many more have shown that they are (gasp) human and capable of either utter evil, immorality or weakness. Just like the rest of us.
The money, the fame, the enablers, the temptation, the "go ahead, take it" world a professional athlete resides in is a Utopian minefield.
It takes a very strong character to remain true to your values to keep it "real" in an unreal world where you are told time and again to believe you are superior just because you can throw a ball hard or knock people down easily.
Some athletes are able to do it. Some try, fail, and try again. Others fail completely. Just like some plumbers, accountants, financial advisors and sports writers.
McNair’s longtime coach, Jeff Fisher, said Monday that, "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 the best interests. Please forgive me.' The Steve McNair that I knew would want me to say, 'Celebrate my life for what I did on the field, for what I did in the community, the kind of teammate that I was.'"
There were times when Steve McNair could seem superhuman on the football field. But that he was tremendously human away from football – complete with the flaws and qualities – should have been a surprise to no one.
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Gone, not forgotten
Take a look at notable sports deaths of 2009.
A Titan dies
See the career highs and lows of former NFL quarterback and Tennessee Titans legend Steve McNair, who was found dead on July 4.
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