Friday, July 10, 2009

Teach Your Children: The Lesson of Steve McNair

It's been almost a week since the murder of former Titans QB Steve McNair, and the outpouring of grief seems to be slowly subsiding in the Nashville area, where I write this.

Words of praise for McNair's toughness as an athlete and his civic-minded devotion to his community pour over the TV and radio airwaves day and night, as well they should. So, too, do the recriminations from people who stop just short of claiming that McNair deserved what he got for his adulterous affair with Sahel Kazemi. They may quote Scripture, they may cry for his children, or they may simply condemn the rest of the populace for giving a famous athlete a pass.

Either way, anyone who would come anywhere close to inferring that something like this qualifies as "just desserts" is quite far from pious. Public disgrace, loss of his family, a financial hit from a hefty divorce settlement, maybe those things would have been somewhat deserved had his relationship been unearthed some other way.

But death?


No matter what your faith, it's quite hard to justify a belief that any other human being deserves to die.

There are those trying to use Steve McNair as a bully pulpit to pound a fundamentalist view down the throats of their fellow man. It's sad that there are people who can use a public figure's murder to further their own agenda, but such is life these days, where any publicity is good publicity.

Rather than use this to try and bludgeon strangers with Judeo-Christian propaganda, what we should be focusing on is using Steve McNair as a teaching tool for our children, especially those children old enough to recognize and appreciate what the man did on the field.

It's okay to praise McNair for his on-field skill and his community involvement. It really is. At the same time, we can use McNair's murder to explain the emotional impact of interpersonal relationships. Weaving a web as tangled as the one McNair seemed to be building can have dire consequences in the wrong circumstances.

Athletes are frequently held up as role models for their work ethic and toughness, and Steve McNair fits right near the top of those lists. Parents, however, need to also observe an athlete's personal misdeeds and treat them as ways to explain what not to do. It all falls under the category of "teaching right from wrong," doesn't it?

No matter what Charles Barkley might have said back in the day, all professional athletes are role models, both for the good and the bad. It's unfortunate, though, that Steve McNair's truest value as a role model may lie in the cautionary tale that will be told of his death.

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