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Don't be so quick to make McNair a hero

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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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We can quit calling Steve McNair a great leader now. Leadership starts at home. And I'm no longer all that interested in hearing about the community service work McNair did in Tennessee and Mississippi. Service to community begins at home, too. If you read this column regularly, you know I'm not the morality police, you know I'm far from bothered by McNair's May-December romance and you probably should've surmised I get my "Becky on" from time to time. Stop reading now if your preference is sugar-coated, politically-correct, phony-ass pontificating. You can find plenty of that garbage littering the Internet. I'm going to get knee deep in this Steve McNair tragedy and what it really signifies. Until the police wrap up their investigation, I'm only willing to acknowledge four victims — McNair's four sons. I don't know how to classify the adults in this saga — McNair, his wife Mechelle or his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sahel "Jenny" Kazemi. The kids, they're victims of two horrific crimes: 1. the murder of their father; 2. their father's apparent abandonment so that he had time to wine, dine, vacation and shack up with his jump-off. Let me repeat, I'm not some sanctimonious moralizer. Personally, I prefer June-December romances, but a blossoming May flower certainly could be fertilized into a special, 28-year-old bouquet by a patient and attentive gardener. As for the life-experience, station-in-life disparity between a retired millionaire quarterback and a Dave & Buster's waitress, well, let he who has never Captained cast the first hoe. Every man I know has a little Captain in him. We see a pretty young thang working her way through nursing or cosmetology school and it's just in our nature to pay a cellphone bill, a car note or get her nails done. It's what we do. And if you've earned a chunk of change in professional sports or in corporate America, you might buy a big black Escalade in her name, fly her to Vegas or go parasailing over the ocean. It's not a black or white thing. It's not an athlete thing. It's a man thing we haven't been able to shake since Eve gave us an apple. The look of pure, unadulterated joy on McNair's face captured as he and Jenny parasailed is one every real man recognizes as the uncontrollable feeling of elation that gushes through the male, middle-aged body when he finds the Tenderoni Bobby Brown sang about. Do not read this as me condoning McNair's extramarital affair. I'm not. But we don't know the nature of Steve and Mechelle McNair's relationship. We don't know what made them happy, what agreement they reached or what was transpiring in their marriage. What we do know is that McNair had four sons. And based on the observations and comments of Kazemi's neighbors and neighbors at the condominium McNair rented, McNair spent so much time with Kazemi over the past few months that people assumed they lived together. You see, this is my problem with McNair, with American men as a whole. We shirk our responsibilities as fathers. We don't have time for it. We think it's a part- or no-time job. We think our career is more important. We think charity work is more important. We think some young tail is more important. We foolishly believe we're unnecessary in the rearing of children. This mindset must die. I pass no judgment on McNair kicking it with a woman 16 years his junior. I don't agree with it, but I pass no judgment on McNair "cheating" on his wife. However, I think it's ridiculous and embarrassing that he spent so much time chasing after a Nashville waitress that he created the impression he lived with her. Many have tried, but you can't maintain two homes, two families. If HBO has shown us anything, it's that kids are the losers when it comes to Big Love. You can't live with a waitress in a condo/apartment, take her parasailing, clubbing, to Vegas and raise a brood of boys living in a home on the other side of town.

Kids are game-changers. Kids require sacrifice. Kids are a daily and sometimes hourly responsibility. You don't properly raise them in your spare time with money, fame, gifts and glowing newspaper and magazine stories about your courage to play on Sundays despite injury and pain. Steve McNair sounds like a warrior who fought the wrong war. He won a public-relations battle. He was so popular in Nashville that when his under-drinking-age "Becky" got popped driving her mistress ransom while drunk and/or high the police called a cab to give McNair, the Escalade passenger, a ride home. This is the privilege of fame and inclusion in the boys club. We're so mentally diseased that we instinctively feel empathy and envy when we see a married father of four liquored up with his near-teenage girlfriend. You know what the cop was thinking: But for the grace of God, two-tenths of a second on my 40 time and the high school coach who made me play tight end rather than receiver, there go I. Steve McNair was flawed in the same way as most American men. Too many men think financial success is their primary and most important contribution to a relationship with their kids, wives and/or girlfriends. A grown woman has the right to settle for that. Children shouldn't have to settle for anything less than their father's very best effort. You can e-mail Jason Whitlock at ballstate0@aol.com.

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