Saturday, July 4th I was sitting at my desk getting things in order for my five o’clock newscast when I heard something come across the CNN “squawk–box” at our assignment desk:
“CNN is receiving reports that former Titans and Ravens quarterback, Steve McNair has been shot to death. We’re still trying to confirm these reports.”
Even though it was unconfirmed, I knew it was true. Sometimes you just know something’s true when you hear it. I started making calls and sending text messages to any and everyone I knew to see who else had heard. Then about an hour later:
“Former NFL quarterback, Steve McNair has been found shot to death along with an unidentified female victim in an apartment in downtown Nashville.”
Only a few days have passed since his death and more details are still coming out, about his relationship with this woman who’s body was found only a few feet from his. She was a waitress at a local restaurant where McNair regularly took his family. She also owned a 2007 Cadillac Escalade that was in his and her name.
Next photos surfaced on TMZ (surprise) of McNair and this woman, who wasn’t his wife parasailing. Authorities later stopped referring to the woman as the female victim and as McNair’s girlfriend.
They were found in an apartment that McNair had with a friend. It was only a few miles away from where he lived with his wife and his sons. He had been seen with this woman just two days earlier when she was cited for DUI. All the signs were evident that he was having an affair.
The fact that he had an affair may have come as a surprise to some but not so much to anyone who has followed pro sports. Sadly, this type of behavior is not openly advertised, but is widely accepted.
I remember a story my aunt Amy told me after coming back from “NBA All Star Weekend” in New Orleans, last year. Her and my cousin were standing out in front of the hotel where the players were staying for the weekend, with hundreds of other NBA fans, hoping to catch a glimpse, a picture, or maybe get an autograph of their favorite NBA superstar. But thanks to security keeping them at a “safe” distance, they’d only get close enough to see the back of their heads or the sparkle from the “bling” they were donning for the night.
But out of everything she described about that night something in particular will always stick with me. She said, while the players were walking in through the front, some very “provocatively” dressed women were being escorted in through a separate entrance by NBA security personnel and local police officers.
Were these women what you or I would call, groupies? I can’t say for sure, but like someone once said about porn, you know it when you see it.
Everyone is capable of cheating.
I’ve always said that the difference between a person who cheats and one who doesn’t are those people who puts themselves in position to cheat. Staying faithful to that wife or girlfriend becomes a lot more difficult when these, most times, beautiful women are throwing themselves at you. And most times, the player’s mentality is, "we’re on the road, who’s going to know?"
Now, am I saying that all pro athletes cheat on their significant others? No I’m not. The Doug Christies of the world are evidence of that. What I am saying is, it’s so widespread and has been going on for so long, it’s almost expected to happen even when it’s not.
We have all heard stories of Player X being seen with this person that wasn’t his wife in this place or that place which is usually just hearsay. But there have been instances where the infidelity eventually came to light, in a very public, and not so pleasant manner.
In 1991, fresh off being bounced from the Finals in five games by MJ’s Bulls, Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. The man who battled all those years with Larry Bird in those legendary Lakers vs. Celtics series. The likeable point guard who led the high scoring “Showtime Lakers” of the 80s. The three-time MVP with the smile that could light up a room contracted the virus that causes Aids by in his own words, “Having multiple sex partners throughout his playing career.”
Because of his likeability, and what he did on the court, people had a hard time believing that he did anything wrong off the court. The facts were there, he even admitted it; Magic cheated on his wife.
More recently, Kobe Bryant, while smack dab in the middle of his feud with Shaquille O’Neal, was accused of sexual assault on a Colorado hotel worker. Bryant later admitted in a press conference to being guilty of nothing more than committing adultery. After flying back and forth from Los Angeles to Eagle County the charges on Bryant were dropped.
A couple of years later, after Bryant’s case in Colorado, another L.A. athlete was trying to quell rumors about his off the field romance with a sports reporter. Former Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe was linked to Fox Sports' Carolyn Hughes. Fox would suspend Hughes while they investigated the relationship between her and Lowe, while Lowe and his wife of seven years would get a divorce.
While they are looked up to by adoring fans, people have a hard time realizing that they are just like us. They’re human and they make mistakes. Please understand, I am in no way condoning their actions. But at the same time, I can see how it would be tough for them to stay on the straight and narrow.
People are attracted to people with celebrity status. It’s the price of fame that extends way past pro athletes. College athletes, actors, CEO’s, and Presidents deal with this. People throwing themselves at them, because they’re famous, with hopes of one day becoming famous themselves or feeling famous, if only for one night.
This is the world we live in.
But for every Bryant, Johnson, Lowe, and McNair, there are maybe dozens, if not hundreds more that we don’t hear about. Athletes living double lives, the person they are on the road and the person they are at home.
And like the saying goes, “The things we do in the dark, eventually comes to light," only McNair never got to apologize.