Will Steve McNair's Personal Life Determine His Place in History?

Aaron LiebmanAnalyst IJuly 9, 2009

In a time span where we lost an actor (Karl Malden), an actress (Farrah Fawcett) and a musician (Michael Jackson), it seemed almost inevitable we’d lose an athlete.

But I doubt any of us could have predicted that athlete would be Steve McNair. When I heard how he had died, I definitely had to pinch myself.

I mean, this wasn’t Pac Man Jones, this was Steve McNair. A league MVP, a team leader, and a man who played through the pain.

It just didn’t seem right.

Here was a player who was never suspended, never arrested, and never went to rehab. He wasn’t someone that would have brought this action on himself.

Before there was Michael Vick or even Donovan McNabb, there was Air McNair. Drafted by the then Houston Oilers in 1995, McNair seemed to be the heir apparent to the most mobile quarterback in league history, Randall Cunningham. And unlike Vick or Cunningham, his main objective was passing with running only as a last resort.

He retired as a player with great respect for not only his acts on the field, but for his charitable causes off of it. But with recent news of his off the field retired life, even people who aren’t football fans have taken notice to him.

A married professional athlete with children who is having an affair is one thing, but to be murdered by that person having the affair with pretty much guarantees an episode of “Law and Order” based on this situation.

So how will McNair be remembered now? 

Certainly sports fans are able to look at the bright side of every athlete. Lawrence Taylor is still considered one of, if not, the greatest linebacker in NFL history, despite his rampant drug use and associations with pimps and prostitutes. 

Tom Brady is still looked at as the golden boy of the league even after running out on his pregnant girlfriend.

It seems the only ones whose legacies can be tainted are ones who actually did some hard time. 

People like O.J. Simpson, Donte Stallworth, and Michael Vick have had their images tainted for actual crimes. But I doubt any of us will remember Warren Moon for beating his wife. Or Chuck Noll for attacking Chuck Bednarik during his playing days. 

And what about Paul Hornung and Alex Karras’ suspensions for gambling?

So compared to some others, McNair really seems like a choir boy. His only problem seems to be getting caught red handed in death. Then again, if the NFL took into account off the field behavior, we might not even have a hall of fame.