In a lot of ways, Steve McNair was a pioneer. Here was a guy who made it all the way to the NFL from a town smaller than my neighborhood. Someone who got to the top by way of Division I-AA Alcorn State, where he almost won the Heisman. And perhaps most significant of all, McNair became a star at the highest level when being black was still considered detrimental for quarterbacks.
He was the type of athlete we’d all like to believe we would be with the type of overcoming-all-odds story we’d all need to have to ever come close to playing on Sundays. He was the type of role model we wanted our kids to have with the work ethic we want all players to possess.
He should still be that guy today.
But he’s not. Now, as we learn more and more about the secret life that appears to have led to his murder over the weekend, the Steve McNair story becomes a lot more typical. He now comes off as the type of guy we believe all athletes and celebrities are – unfaithful, selfish, egotistical types who think they can get away with anything because of who they are and what they do.
It should be made clear that famous people aren’t the only ones who cheat on their wives and run out on their families, but I also find it hard to believe this would have happened if McNair never made it to the NFL and just remained in Mount Olive, Mississippi his entire life. His fame played a role here. It allowed him to pick up a woman half his age and his money allowed him to hide their relationship from everyone in his life.
Not everyone has the ability to pull off that double-life, but athletes can and many of them do. McNair’s story should serve as a cautionary tale for those guys. It’s not that sleeping around will get you killed – that’s extreme. It’s that getting into these situations can and more than likely will lead to jealousy and resentment from one of the parties affected. That’s where problems come from.
But you know what? It’s hard to have faith in the unfaithful athlete. They haven’t learned from Magic Johnson, who could have died from sleeping around. And they clearly haven’t learned anything from Shawn Kemp (who has seven children with seven women) because Travis Henry actually topped that number. So why should anyone think they’ll learn from the guy whose girl friend murdered him?
That’s the thing with athletes. We expect them to be superhuman, but that doesn’t make them super humans. Steve McNair, it turns out, was no different. He’s gone now and so is his wonderful story. All we have left is an all too familiar athletic legacy.
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