What Is Steve McNair's Legacy?

Tobye DavidContributor IJuly 20, 2009

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 05:  Steve McNair #9 of the Baltimore Ravens is sacked by James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 5, 2007 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

I love sports.  I do.  I especially love football.  I love the game, the athleticism, the traditions, everything.  I love football players.  I think they are extremely dedicated, hard working, and athletic in a way that I will never even be able to fathom.

Willie Nelson sang a song that said “my heroes have always been cowboys,” but my heroes were always football players.  Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swan, Rod Woodson, Bruce Smith, Tony Dorsett, and later, people like Michael Vick and Steve McNair. 

Steve McNair was an incredible talent.  He came from a little heard of school called Alcorn State, was chosen I believe third in the draft, and performed week in and week out, through the pain and through the injuries.  That toughness has always appealed to me.  Doing what you have to do, even when it hurts.  Giving more when you feel like giving up.  That was what I thought it was all about. 

And now he’s dead, and that is an incredible tragedy.  I am sorry for him, for his family, for his children, for everyone who idolized him, but I just can’t admire him anymore.  What he did on the field has not changed.  He was still tough as nails, and gave everything he had to whatever team he played for.  But what he did off the field, to me at least, somehow taints his legacy. 

I’ve read a lot of takes on this, and I know a lot of people say that what he did in his private life affected no one but him.  Well, that’s just wrong.  It affected a lot more people.  It affected his wife, his four children, and the family of his very young girlfriend.

Do I care that she was young?  No.  But I do care that he was carrying on with her while still married to someone else.  I don’t know what their private arrangement may have been.  I do know that it is disrespectful to your family and your children to put yourself in that situation.

Regardless of what “deal” I may or may not have with my husband, it’s not okay for me to take another man on a vacation with me.  It’s especially not okay when I am a public figure and know that my every move is recorded by someone. 

It is said that integrity is what you do when no one is watching, and I agree.  But, it can also be said that integrity is what you do when you know everyone is watching.  And what Steve McNair did was show that the integrity he put into his career did not carry over into his personal life.

Your legacy is not just what you do on the field, or at your job.  Your legacy is who you were.  Your legacy is how you behaved in every situation, regardless of who was watching.  Your legacy is how you are remembered in death.

Steve McNair, while remembered as an exceptional athlete, will also be remembered as someone whose personal actions didn’t match his professional persona.  That’s what I want my legacy to be.  Not just a good business person, but a good person.  Not just good sometimes, in certain situations.  Good.  And that’s it.