Monday, July 6, 2009

Watching It All Come Crashing Down

There I was just sitting on the floor, playing with my puppy, and watching the greatness that is America's Game.



That's when the breaking news came across NFL Network. Steve McNair had been shot and killed at age 36. It prompted an audible "whoa" from me which means never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to see that headline. From the articles I've read, I'm not alone.

The fact that a great former NFL player was cut down way too early isn't the most numbing part of this story. Yes it's stunning, no one ever gets over a sports star dying in the prime of his life. But the craziest part of this tragedy is that of all the former NFL players, it was Steve McNair who died violently.

During his playing career, Steve McNair had come to symbolize everything that was right with the NFL. He was a quiet man who preferred to spend time on his ranch down near Brett Favre's part of the country. Yet on the field he was a fiery leader who was tougher than leather. He was the greatest quarterback in Titans/Oilers history (that includes Warren Moon) and was one yard away from being immortalized as an NFL champion. He didn't rewrite record books, marry supermodels, or get overexposed in 200 different commercials. He just won ball games.

Would we be as stunned if Ray Lewis or Michael Irvin were tragically and violently killed? Probably not. When Sean Taylor was shot, I recall several articles were written about how his "lifestyle" probably lead to his death. (That was disproved since it turned out to be a robbery attempt.) Plaxico Burress nearly killed himself by accident because he's an idiot. McNair had no obvious character questions despite being in a high profile position (he did have two kids out of wedlock before his NFL career began, but that situation seems pretty stable.)

That's what makes the nature of his death even more bizarre because his entire lifestyle has been called into question now. This is a family man who's been married for 12 years and his wife didn't know he may have been having an affair with a 20 year old. This could be an isolated incident, but what if it's not? Even the biggest cynics have to feel a bit verdant. What's next, Peyton Manning has a Ponzi scheme?

That may be the worst aspect of McNair's death. Not only is an NFL great dead at age 36, but the player we admired may be forever remembered a man just as flawed as anyone else.

It's not a good day for idealists.

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