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Dan Levy
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Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

Not My Hero


This is a tough question. It's a different type of question. This is a question none of us ever want to answer. What do we do when our heroes aren't super? What do we tell the children -- because ultimately, that's the question people are going to land on, isn't it?

The old super heroes in the comics used to have it so cut and dry. Good vs. evil. Superman had his Luthor. Batman had his Joker. We knew who was virtuous and who was villainous. But in the real world it's not that simple. There is good and bad in all of us, even our heroes.

Nobody is perfect and that's what makes the world a more interesting place to live, if you think about it. We all have vastly different flaws that make us uniquely human. Even our heroes.

Now -- if you'll allow me to completely contradict myself for a moment -- there are flaws and there are flaws. Smoking the occasional cigarette or lying to get out of a speeding ticket are flaws. Having a relationship with a woman nearly half your age who is not your wife and getting stopped in a car with her while she is driving under the influence of illegal substances, all while your wife is presumably home with your four kids, is a whole different stratosphere of flaws.

If what's been reported is to be believed, Steve McNair was no saint. It's somewhat of a shame that his reputation has been sullied over the last few days. First he was lauded as being one of the true good guys in the league. People in the league and fans across the country talked about how he was 'one of the good guys' and praised his toughness. But what does his physicality have to do with his death? Or his life? Why does it matter how good of a teammate he was or how involved he was in the community? None of that pertains to what happened to him a few days ago.

This quote in the Tennessean, taken from a fan who drove up from Kentucky to Nashville just to be near the place McNair was gunned down, is something I'm still not able to wrap my head around.

"Anyone can get famous," said (Kelly) McCracken, who attends five or more Titans games a year. "But it takes a genuinely moral person to be a leader. He wasn't just a football player, he was a leader."

That quote is so wrongheaded on so many levels. First, one's morality has nothing to do with his or her ability to lead. Just ask anyone on The Hill about that one and see how long it takes before they stop laughing. Second, if it takes a genuinely moral person to be a leader, and Ms. McCracken is surmising that because of that McNair was in fact a leader, it's fascinating to think this quote came from someone outside the CRIME SCENE OF HIS MURDER WHERE HE WAS FOUND WITH HIS MISTRESS.

Where exactly are the morals in any of this? Can someone tell me, after all that's been reported, has anything fallen into the 'morals' clause of the contract? But this is what we do. Because a man was tough on the football field -- and toughness is something we laud in our gridiron greats -- we salute him for being admirable off the field as well. Clearly, at least in his personal life, that was not the case.

The fact of this entire terrible situation that remains evident is that whatever the relationship Steve McNair had with Sahel Kazemi -- be it cheating on his wife or an open marriage or whatever it was -- had he not been in that condo at 2AM on July 4th he might still be alive today. For whatever reason, he chose to be with a 20-year old woman that night and not his wife. And now he's dead because of it.

People aren't perfect, and there's been much talk on the second layer of this story about the culture of athletes stepping out on their wives and families. Maybe situations like this will curtail some of that. Regardless of what comes out of this situation, it won't bring Steve McNair back.

This was a tragic situation, but one that Steve McNair seemed to bring upon himself. This isn't like Sean Taylor. This wasn't a seemingly random act of violence. This was someone who wanted Steve McNair dead because of something he did (or didn't do). And that's on him.

To question if McNair is a hero isn't fair. Should he be considered a hero after knowing he was hurting his wife and kids every day he was with another woman? No, of course not. But why was he considered a hero in the first place? Because he could run and throw? Because he won a lot of games? Because he was a warrior?

If you pick your heroes based on arm strength and 40 times, maybe you're not the type of person who'll mind a little action on the side. For me -- there are flaws and there are flaws. I'll hold my heroes to a little higher standard.

By Dan Levy  |  July 8, 2009; 5:06 AM ET  | Category:  Baltimore Ravens , Crime , Dan Levy , Tennessee Titans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: More to McNair | Next: What Is a Hero?


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Why cease to view McNair as an "athletic" hero, because he had chosen to end his relationship with his wife, and begin a new relationship? Your repeated comments about her age and assumptions about whether or not he had spoken to his wife about it (the new relationship was apparently not hidden and his house was up for sale)are judgmental and smell of self-righteousness. Those who speak of him in "heroic" terms are speaking of those traits that were put on display every Sunday, those of athleticism, and courage and leadership in the field of play. I know of no one that has said they had modeled their views of fidelity or morality after Mr. McNair's. You are projecting your definition of "hero" and not listening to what is truly being said.

Posted by: bjohnson60608 | July 8, 2009 10:47 AM

To be a hero doesn't mean that a person has to be a standout athlete, pilot, business person, teacher, etc., it is the personal characteristics and achievements that have enhanced the lives of others during one's lifetime that warrants deeming that person a HERO. Heroes come in all ages, all sexes, all countries, rich or poor, and doesn't discriminate in lifestyles or intelligence. That significant trait abounds in people who simply care for other people, and sometimes goes to extremes to prove it, including rendering one's life along the way.

Posted by: vicsoir | July 8, 2009 12:58 PM

Dan Levy showed he is a person with no class with this superficial and unnecessary piece - a shockingly poorly written column. No mention of Mr. McNair's charity work or off-the-field activities (other than the circumstances around his murder). Not even the slightest attempt to paint a complete picture or provide a balanced argument. Yes, Steve McNair was a flawed person, but all people are flawed - including our heroes. Would have been nice if Mr. Levy had recognized the obvious - that Mr. McNair was human, and his death is a loss to the people whose lives he touched.

Posted by: CommieX | July 8, 2009 2:00 PM

I think the author is a bit confused. He equates sports hero with role model which is what a lot of people do. Your hero can be Steve McNair, Reggie Jackson or Brad Pitt but that does not mean he is your role model. That may be your high school math teacher or parent or sibling. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle were heros to millions. They both were drinkers and womanizers much worse than McNair.

Posted by: ged0386 | July 8, 2009 2:03 PM


Levy is like most sports writers today. They are actually envious of the athletes they cover because most of them wish they were as talented and famous as those athletes so when they get an opportunity to rip into one they cant resist. They also use any negative circumstance surrounding an athlete to ganer attention to themselves. I call it the Jim Rome syndrome. How did Rome make a name for himself? By calling Jim Everrett Chris Everrett on national sports program. He needed to antagonize a famous person in order to make himself famous. Sports writers need the T.O's, Ocho Cincos' A-Rods and Mannys', otherwise what would they talk about on all these sports talk shows on ESPN and ESPN radio? You can only show so many highlights and give but so much analysis on the game. Most of these guys are a bunch of opinionated wannabees that don't even know much about the sports they cover. They rely on people behinds the scenes giving them information. They all want to be Wilbon and Kornheiser. Guys who get paid very well for their opinions on athletes.

Posted by: ged0386 | July 8, 2009 2:14 PM

He was a typical star athlete who was let off the hook a number of times.

Above the law? You betcha.

When this happens, you begin to think you can do no wrong.

Sometimes, you pay the ultimate price, sometimes early in life and sometimes later.

I make a strong effort to ground my kids and let them know what a real hero is. None of these are pampered athletes.

Posted by: beenthere3 | July 8, 2009 5:54 PM

The word "hero" has several meanings. One, in fact, does relate to "warrior" status but I would argue the more commonly used one is "a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities" (Webster).

I think it is fair for Dan to look for nobility in his heroes. The fact that no one (me, you, Dan, McNair) is perfect doesn't preclude us from examining a mess that has been left behind when someone makes the kind of choices McNair made. And it doesn't preclude us from expressing disapproval. It is unfortunate that the concept of shame doesn't exist any more.

Dan's post was not meant to be a eulogy. So enough with the "balanced portrayal" nonsense. What saddens me most about all of this is the impact to McNair's four sons. They deserved more from their dad who should have been a hero to them.

Posted by: ArchieAndrews | July 9, 2009 2:28 PM

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