Double Feature: In Memory of Chris Naghski, My Friend and a Great Sports Fan

Colin LinneweberSenior Writer IJuly 9, 2009

ATLANTA - JUNE 27:  Starting pitcher Tim Wakefield #49 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 27, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Chris Naghski passed away last week at the age of 29.

Chris was a great man and an even better friend.

“SkiDog,” as he was affectionately referred to by his friends, loved to watch and talk about The Wire, The Sopranos and The Big Lebowski.

Chris also loved the world of sports.

Below is a brief tribute to “SkiDog” and the teams that he gave his heart and soul to.

1) Chris loved the New York Yankees. For whatever reason, he particularly adored that fat bastard David “Boomer” Wells. When “Boomer” was knocked out in a dingy Manhattan diner 5 years ago by an Italian midget named Rocco Graziosa, “SkiDog” vowed revenge if he ever encountered the paisan in the streets.

2) Naghski passionately cheered for Rutgers football despite the fact that they have fielded approximately one decent squad since Booth killed Lincoln. His fanaticism for the lowly Scarlet Knights was indicative of Chris because it exhibited his unyielding loyalty no matter the circumstances.

3) SkiDog was an enormous New York Giants fan. When the Giants defeated the previously unblemished New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl  XLII, he called me and spoke like he had just held hands with the Virgin Mary.

4) Chris’ true passion was the New York Knickerbockers. The Knicks have not won a championship since 1973 and they have been an entirely rudderless organization since this decade began.

Nevertheless, SkiDog continued to watch them play and lose every night throughout both of Bush’s terms. As Chris Partlow said on The Wire, “If you with us, you with us.” Chris was “with” the Knicks and that was never going to change regardless of their endless futility.

Is Tim Wakefield Destined For Cooperstown?

Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield was selected last week as an AL All-Star for the first time in his improbable 18-year career and the knuckleballer will participate in Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic next Tuesday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo.

Wakefield (10-3, 4.30 ERA), a two-time World Series champion and the 1995 AL Comeback Player of the Year, has won 174 games for the Red Sox since he was acquired by the team in 1995.

The native of Melbourne, Fla. currently ranks third behind legends Cy Young and Roger Clemens for the most wins in the history of the Red Sox storied franchise.

Wakefield, a solid human being who has been nominated seven times for the Roberto Clemente Award for his generous charitable contributions, began his minor league career as a corner infielder for Watertown of the New York-Penn League.

However, once a scout essentially told him that his skills on the diamond blew and he would likely never ascend further than Double-A ball, the crafty veteran started to develop one of the most dominant knuckleballs in the annals of baseball.

At the time, Wakefield, who is 188-160 with a 4.32 ERA in his career pitching for the Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates, stated, “I just wanted to be able to say I tried everything I could to make it.”

Because of the reduced strain on a knuckleballer's arm, Wakefield, the second-oldest first-time All-Star at 42, could continue to perform at this elite level for many more years to come.

In 2005, Wakefield agreed to a unique $4 million, one-year “rolling” contract that provides the Red Sox with the option of keeping their longest-tenured player in Beantown for the remainder of his career.

At this juncture, despite his inflated age, nothing indicates that Wakefield won’t be a steady force on the mound well into the next decade.

Although unlikely, at this pace, Wakefield could “make it” the entire distance from Yawkey Way to Cooperstown.

***These articles are written in loving memory of Chris Naghski…A great man and an even better friend.***


Steve McNair Is Not the Man We Thought He Was

Former Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens star quarterback Steve McNair was shot and killed Saturday night in his downtown Nashville condominium.

Nashville authorities have indicated that McNair, 36, may have been slain by his 20-year-old mistress, Sahel Kazemi, in a murder-suicide.

The fuzz revealed to the press that McNair, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the  Co-MVP in 2003, was shot four times and the strumpet that he dated on the side for four months died from a single bullet wound to her head.

“Air McNair,” who was selected out of Alcorn State by the Houston Oilers with the third pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, became only the third player in league history to pass for 30,000 yards and run for an additional 3,500 yards in his career.

“If you were going to draw a football player, the physical part, the mental part, everything about being a professional, he is your guy,” said former Titans and Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, who played with McNair on both teams.

“It is a sad, sad day. The world lost a great man.”

Also nicknamed “Stevie Wonder,” the winner of the 1994 Walter Payton Award as the top player in NCAA Division I-AA football, was the second African-American quarterback behind Doug Williams to take his  team to the Super Bowl when he led the Titans to within a yard of a championship versus the St. Louis Rams in the 1999-2000 season.

“The man had ice running through his veins,” said Eddie George, the featured running back on that Titans squad. “He was so cool under pressure, so calm.”

Air McNair, who was chosen as a pitcher by the Seattle Mariners in the 35th round of the 1991 MLB amateur draft, was renowned for his incredible toughness on the field and for his ability to consistently perform on the gridiron despite the various injuries that often plagued his career.

“On the field, there isn’t any player that was as tough as him,” said Derrick Mason, the Titans receiver of yesteryear who was stopped after a McNair pass on the one-yard line as time expired in their 23-16 loss to the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.

McNair’s onetime teammate and tight end in Tennessee, Frank Wycheck, agreed and called him, “the definition of what a warrior was all about.”

Unfortunately, regardless of the stature he attained among his peers and his impressive football pedigree, McNair will now always be recalled as a good signal-caller that was likely smoked by a disturbed floozy in the Music City.

McNair was married and had four sons with his wife.

He did not deserve the fate that he received because of his adulterous lifestyle.

Nevertheless, his standard of living will now ultimately overshadow the heights he reached on the football field.

Everything in life is not always what it appears to be and everyone in this world is not always who we think that they are.

As the saying goes, “Don’t get too close to the ballerina. You may lose the illusion.”

Ultimately, we as fans probably got too close to Air McNair without ever actually knowing the man himself.