The League

Dan Steinberg
Staff Writer

Dan Steinberg

Washington Post sports blogger and author of the D.C. Sports Bog

A Hero on the Field

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I guess athletes can be role models in appropriate and inappropriate ways.

The appropriate way is to look up to them is for the reasons that they're famous: the things they do on the field. The way they handle themselves in the media. The goofy costumes they wear. The funny jokes they make. The incredible physical tricks they perform. There are legitimate reasons we like those things, and so there's no reason not to model yourself after an athlete being an athlete.

That doesn't mean there's any reason to emulate an athlete for the person he is. From my experience, athletes are good or bad people in about the same proportion as the rest of us. But that's just as far as I can tell, because I know very few athletes on a day-to-day, sitting on the front porch grilling veggie burgers together basis. Almost no one does. So why would you ever want to model yourself, or have your kids model themselves, off of how an athlete acts or lives away from the cameras.

To put it another way, I think I'm a fine role model for any kid out there who wants to get into blogging. I work pretty hard, I don't make too many spelling mistakes, I have a fairly reputable job, and I've never done anything to earn a public reprimand. As a sports blogger, I'm a fine role model.

But as a guy living my life, I mope a lot, I complain excessively, I have major issues on following through with commitments and staying in touch with friends, and I put my daughter in front of the television way too often so I can get more work done.

These things are a lot different than infidelity, sure, but the point is, no one was ever trying to admire Steve McNair for his private life. They admired his public life -- his endurance, his hard work, his rugged character, or whatever else. Those were fine things to admire, and they remain fine things to admire, whatever else he might have been doing in private.

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 8, 2009; 12:39 PM ET  | Category:  Baltimore Ravens , Crime , Tennessee Titans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Affirming the Best in McNair | Next: Who Needs a Real Hero?

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Here is the part to understand: You can't be a hero in a professional sport. The title 'Hero' is specifically reserved for selfless acts of courage and sacrifice. By that definition, as a professional (thus definitely not 'selfless') your actions are never heroic. They are paid. They are even spectacular but never heroic.

Heroes have human flaws; look at Rorschach from the watchmen. While a fictional hero, he certainly had baggage. But he wasn't getting paid to save the world. He did it because it was the right thing to do.

Pat Tilman can qualify has hero (though he died from friendly fire). Steve McNair? Never.

Posted by: chritipurr | July 8, 2009 8:10 PM

I don't know if I entirely agree with that statement Chritipurr. You say if its a profession that decreases heroism, but then argue a soldier as a hero. But if you join the army its a job, you get paid, and if you join not realizing you got a good chance of dieing, well I don't think that makes you a hero either. Tilman was a hero for joining in spite of his wealth and fame. But I cannot call his death a heroic one.

Posted by: alex35332 | July 9, 2009 8:49 AM

Don't turn it around, and blame this on people who chose to admire McNair. McNair was a sleazy guy, who took advantage of a very young and obviously unstable girl, while betraying his wife and kids. People have every right to be disappointed in him.

Posted by: baro | July 9, 2009 10:52 AM

What evidence do you have that McNair took advantage of anyone? It was a legal relationship, regardless of who was older than whom.

Posted by: Urnesto | July 9, 2009 3:55 PM

Regardless of the marital condition, McNair was still a married man. Ms. Thang knew he had a wife and wanted him to divorce her anyway. She spent time with him that he should have been spending with his family. She went into this with her eyes wide open and when things didn't work out like she wanted them to, she took him and herself out. McNair didn't take advantage of her. I have absolutely no sympathy for her. McNair wanted to have his cow and drink the milk too and for a while he did. People can only do to you what you let them.

Posted by: sjcsando | July 9, 2009 4:03 PM

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