I love sports and tolerate politics, and while I’ll talk your ear off about either over a beer, I try to keep them both out of my website. I have other places where I vent about the Houston Astros or Houston Rockets or Tennessee Titans (nee Houston Oilers). But this ties into the sudden gaggle of celebrity deaths and the tidal wave of media attention that follows them.
You just never know.
You know them as musicians, athletes, actors, even those celebretards that are only famous for being famous. But unless you are their family, their spouse, their friend from childhood…you don’t know them at all. Sure, you wear the gear, you buy the product, you try to get that autograph, but they’re as wary of you as you are fawning to them. You might be a nice person who wants to just say “thanks” to a star for the talent they shared, but in most circumstances you are only meeting the persona, not the person.
Steve McNair seemed to be the model athlete – played his career like a warrior, not tabloid fodder, seemingly a happy family guy who was always ready with a smile and a checkbook. You could not watch the man play – or speak – and not be impressed, especially when he would crawl to his feet after a bulldozer hit, dust himself off and put the rest of the team back on his shoulders and lead them to battle. I lived through him during every game when he was an Oiler and a Titan, and even rooted for him after he left for the rival Baltimore Ravens (as long as they were playing someone else).
And now…murdered in an apparent lover’s squabble? Every day, the story gets a little stranger, and sadder. I feel for his family, who apparently weren’t aware of much of this until the tragic event took place.
I’ve watched too many die young, from Brian Jones to Joplin to Hendrix to Rory to Lennon to Marriott and Lane to The Ramones and on and on and on. I’m numb. I’ve wept, I’ve been angry, I’ve shared my pain publicly and I’ve hidden my depression. But each time I started to realize more and more that these people I felt I knew, these relationships taken for granted, we the residual effect of me wallowing in their word of art or music or sport. I don’t really know them. Even those I have been fortunate enough to meet and interview and hang out with.
So I’ll always remember Steve McNair the way I knew him – the ultimate warrior on the football field who would not quit, ever. Because that’s all I really got to know. Everything else was just public relations, gossip, or both. The adage used to be that you didn’t believe everything you read, but in the Internet age, where accountability is a bad word, that believability percentage is microscopic by comparison.
So a word to those who are canonizing or desecrating the memory of Michael Jackson. You might also want to take stock of what you are taking a stand for or against. Jackson gave you his music, and it either pleased you or it didn’t, that’s a personal and direct connection through art. But unless you were directly involved with the man, that’s all you know about him. Judge him on that. Same with your Cobains, your Shannon Hoons, your Dimebag Darrells.
And anyway, they’re gone…they’re out of your jurisdiction. You’re not the judge anymore.