How will you remember Steve McNair?
There’s always been a weird line that has existed since I became a full-fledged sportswriter in 1996.
Up to that point, I had been a big sports fan, which is, partially anyway, why I moved from news to sports when an opportunity arose.
But that move killed the fan in me. Really, it had to. I began dealing with professional athletes as part of my daily grind. Suddenly, I didn’t care who won; instead I looked for the best story angle. Ethically, I couldn’t treat one player differently than another. And I learned in many cases I didn’t want to. Those heroes of yesteryear weren’t the same as their public personas.
A true rooting interest is gone; however we can’t erase who we cheered for in the past.
I bring this up because the death of Steve McNair hit a chord with me. As I have written before, I grew up as a Baltimore Colts fan, but they were so bad when I was a pre-teen that every football fan in my elementary school had two teams – the Colts and another club that actually had a chance of winning. Back then, most of the kids in my school adopted the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers or Oakland Raiders.
Me? I’ve always trudged uphill. I chose the Houston Oilers, who at the time had the incomparable Earl Campbell. He was my first out-of-Baltimore sports hero.
When the Colts abandoned Baltimore, I stuck with the Oilers, making them my No. 1 team. And I suffered through some terrible squads before Warren Moon arrived. Then it was a bunch of heartbreaking losses. Still, I remained a fan.
And I remember watching the 1995 NFL draft, hoping the Oilers would take that huge Air McNair kid from Alcorn State.
By the time McNair began realizing his promise, the Oilers had moved to Tennessee, the Ravens had moved to Baltimore and I had moved on.
My true football fanaticism had evaporated as I had to do more and more NFL coverage. But I still followed McNair’s career. I was quietly pulling for him in the Super Bowl, and quietly pleased that he had become a Raven.
If Campbell were my first non-Baltimore sports hero, McNair was my last. It certainly wasn’t the same feeling, but it was something.
So, honestly, the McNair murder struck me a little harder than some other sports tragedies. I’m sure there are people who will remember McNair mostly for his death. But I’ll remember McNair the competitor, with the huge arm and the warrior mentality.
I am curious as to how he will be remembered here, since he once was a fierce rival and then became a respected veteran.
Daily Think Special: How will you remember Steve McNair?