- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Most of us live in shades of gray, being neither all good nor all bad. That, it seems, was the lot of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair, a decent man seemingly felled by his imperfections.

There was the McNair who used his fame and fortune to spread good will and cheer in the community. There was the Steve McNair Foundation, his work with youth organizations and his turkey deliveries to the needy on Thanksgiving. And he was a fierce competitor on the football field with a high pain threshold.

There also was the McNair who was out having a grand old time with his mistress, parasailing, smiling, posing for photographs, traveling here and there.

His former teammates have spoken eloquently on his high character, which, of course, does not square with the circumstances of his death as the grisly victim of a murder, possibly committed by a 20-year-old woman not his wife.

She, too, was found dead in the Nashville, Tenn., condominium, either the perpetrator of a murder-suicide or a victim herself.

McNair, married and the father of four, had a relationship with the woman that compromised his marriage vows and contradicted his good-guy public image.

That the contradiction is being treated as a shock is shocking in itself. That McNair is being deconstructed as another fallen “hero” with clay feet is a reflection of a society that equates athletic virtue with moral clarity.

It is a society that ascribes all kinds of power to the famous, as if competency in one aspect of life is an indication of competency in all aspects. Few would make that assumption about a CPA well-versed in the tax code because a CPA lacks celebrity, an unnatural currency.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher said, “The Steve McNair I knew would want me to say, ‘Celebrate my life for what I did on the field, for what I did in the community, for the kind of teammate that I was.’ That’s what the Steve I knew would want me to say.”

That is a noble sentiment, however antiquated in the 24-7 media marketplace that feeds on the lurid, as we see with the round-the-clock coverage of all things Michael Jackson.

There is no lesson to be learned from McNair, found with four bullet wounds, two to the head. If an adoring public has not learned by now that the famous are as susceptible to temptation as everyone else - and sometimes more so because of their money - then nothing about the demise of McNair is going to change that.

America remains forever intrigued with the private lives of its false prophets. And McNair had a doozy of a private life; he cavorted around with a woman 16 years his junior and played house.

A nephew of the woman said it was the woman’s belief that McNair was planning to divorce his wife and the two were going to share living space. That prospect possibly came undone in the days leading up to his murder. That, of course, is one of the leads investigators are chasing.

Yet the ex-boyfriend of the woman claims she was planning to break up with McNair, which is possibly true as well, considering the emotional ups and downs that might afflict a young woman involved with a married man.

Grieving ex-teammates, family and friends are left to reconcile the two facades of McNair, the generous, genial public McNair and the one leading a not-so-secret lie.

“My hope is that we can get past the circumstances [of his death] and let those go and dwell and stay focused on the type of player and person that he was,” Fisher said.

Spoken like a true football coach. Block out the negatives. Stress the positives.

Life outside the football field rarely works like that.

Life often comes in shades of gray, sometimes the good being caught up in the bad.

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