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Ravens Roost


July 8, 2009 11:45 AM

Who among us can really judge Steve McNair?

It's been four plus days yet seemingly months ago since Steve McNair was taken from this earth in a violent and unnecessary way.

I've taken in the talk on sports radio and I've read the feedback submitted by Ravens fans and clearly the opinions vary on how McNair will be remembered.

When I think back, I recall the nickname Air McNair as the former Alcorn State Brave emerged on to the NFL scene as the third overall pick by the Houston Oilers in the 1995 NFL Draft. At the time I thought the nickname was a bit unusual since his legs can be credited with most of his early success.

Right around the time McNair was maturing as a professional my son Tyler, to the delight of his proud Dad began to really develop an affinity for the NFL and in large part the credit for that can be attributed to McNair and his long-time teammate Eddie George. As a parent, I loved the idea of my son attaching himself to two players who I considered to be professional, classy, hard working and obviously successful.

As time went by and the Ravens' rivalry with the Titans heated up my competitive nature prevented me from rooting for the two players because their success could directly affect that of my team. Yet when the duo began to rack up awards and post season appearances I found it hard to begrudge them given their reputations as stand up guys on the field, in the locker room and in the community.

My son would eventually don jerseys for both players and despite the fact that I was building my livelihood around the Baltimore Ravens, he was young and impressionable and it didn't bother me all that much. After all he could have chosen a Randy Moss or a Terrell Owens jersey.

Ty would eventually become a full-fledged dyed-in-the-wool Ravens fan yet he has always harbored an affinity for McNair and George.

When I heard the news of McNair's passing I called Ty to see if he had heard and if so how he was dealing with the tragedy. He was unaware of the news and I could tell he was a bit stunned.  He's now taking it in stride just like most of us who admired Steve McNair.

During a recent radio appearance on Delmarva's ESPN Radio, I was interviewed by New School host Shan Shariff and asked about my first thoughts upon hearing the news...

"I thought first about McNair's family - his four boys and his wife and I can't imagine the pain they must be feeling. I then wondered how and why someone who to the outside observer had it all could even put himself in such an uncompromising position."

The four days since have allowed the events to marinate a little for me and my thoughts are a bit clearer.

From what I've been told, McNair's wife Mechelle is a caring and strong woman. That coupled with what Steve McNair was able to provide his family through his success will carry them forward and they will likely lead happy lives.

Of course they will miss their Dad. Perhaps Mechelle will look past the grief and anger and one day miss what once was as well. My wish for them is that the goodness of Steve McNair, his smile, his positivity, his success, his leadership, friendship, compassion, community-centric ways, generosity and love will endure for them and for all of us who are now questioning his choices - choices that apparently led to an abrupt end to a wonderful life.

Clearly McNair made mistakes and the truth be told we may never know the extent of those mistakes. Perhaps he and his wife were separating and the extra-marital relationship was a byproduct of that separation. Maybe he was ending a relationship with his girlfriend. Whatever it was the time he needed to cure the issue was taken from him. And now some of his survivors are questioning his motives, his morals.

Do we really have that right?

Who among us has never erred?

Who among us never had a chance to correct mistakes?

At the end of the day, it's possible that none of us ever real knew the real Steve McNair. Most never met the man and consequently there's only the public persona to base opinions on.

If that's all you have, then clearly what he's given, the good that he's done far outweigh the indiscretions that ended his life. One only needs to listen to and read the unwavering solidarity of those who played with him supporting their fallen teammate.

Clearly he has made mistakes but hasn't he now paid the ultimate price for those?

My son and I will remember you fondly Steve.

Tony Lombardi covers the Baltimore Ravens at Profootball24x7.com

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