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Some thoughts after watching “Steve McNair: A Football Life”

"Pain don't hurt"

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

A note before you read this post: I was going to write a review of the NFLN’s tremendous profile of Steve McNair that aired last night, but that didn’t last through the first paragraph. It’s good. You should watch it. There, I reviewed it. What follows are just some thoughts I had after watching the show, and reflecting on all of the history and emotions that are tied into McNair as a player and a man.

Truth be told, it breaks my heart that this might be the most high-profile telling of the totality of Steve McNair’s career and life story you’ll ever see. And maybe that’s the way it should be. For a man who excelled at the star position on the biggest stages of the nation’s most-beloved sport, nobody did more to stay out of the limelight than Steve McNair.

And we loved him for that.

Steve was never the type to make a big deal out of his status. It was like he lived in some fantasy world where it wasn’t really about him at all, until he was the only one who could save the day. Then, he was Steve McNair in full. This quiet, small town guy who spoke with a slow Mississippi drawl would all of the sudden be in complete command of his surroundings, and damned near every time he grabbed the Titans offense by the scruff and got us where we needed to go.

And we loved him for that.

And believe me, he had plenty of reasons to feel disappointed over the course of his career. Everyone likes to forget Steve getting booed in the inaugural game at LP Field, or how the entire regular season the sports talk radio shows were giving voice to a steady stream of callers who preferred Neil O’Donnell to Steve. All of that ended after the Wild Card game, but next it would be the guys around him letting him down. Whether it was Dyson coming up short in the Super Bowl, Drew Bennett’s game-sealing drop in the playoff game in New England, Eddie George getting the ball ripped out of his hands by Ray Lewis and so on, you never once heard Steve complain. I’m sure it all hurt the man, but he’d be damned if he was going to let you see an ounce of it.

And we loved him for that.

We may never see another football player come through this town again who you can comfortable calling an icon your kids should respect, but we were lucky enough to have a slew of those guys in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Eddie George, Blaine Bishop, Bruce Matthews and Frank Wycheck composed a core group of players who worked hard, showed humility and respected the game, but they all looked to Steve as their leader. He was accountable, and he cared about the game in a way you just can’t teach.

Playing QB was how he expressed himself, and it was beautiful to watch. Watching Steve in his prime was what it must have been like to watch Mozart compose, Van Gogh paint or Kurt Vonnegaut write: it was happening because it had to happen. There was nothing else for them to do. It was who he was when fully-realized, which is something we all long for.

And we still love him for that.