Fly high, Steve — your fans

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My son, 2006

Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair died today. Those who have read this blog know that I have written about Steve as long as this blog has been around. A Google custom search of the term “Steve McNair” on RexBlog.com has ten pages of search results.

I never actually met Steve, but my Titans season tickets used to be on the row behind his mother and family. I’m thinking about her right now. She is a wonderful person and it was always a joy to cheer along with the large group of McNairs who would travel from Mississippi to Nashville for the games during the years he played for the Titans.

Last September, I posted an excerpt from a book called Tales from the Titans Sideline by Jim Wyatt that includes an item about what has to be the craziest “fan thing” thing I’ve ever done. It grew out of my frustration with some booing of Steve among Titans fans during the first games of the 1999 season — games the team were winning but games in which the offensive plan was, in a word, boring. Along with some colleagues, I rented one of those banner-flying planes to circle the Titans practice field displaying the message: “Fly high, Steve — your fans.” Not because of the banner, but a nice follow up, nonetheless: That year, the Titans made it to the Super Bowl and Steve McNair’s performance in it is considered one of the most memorable in Super Bowl history.

There was something about McNair, the player, and his quiet determination on the field that made me shelve any pretense of being a mature, grown-up man when the topic turned to him. When the subject of Steve McNair or Eddie George come up, I’m about 12-years old.

But the grownup in me makes me understand that hero football players, in real life, are people with frailties — that and week-after-week of having NFL and other professional athletes prove it over and over. So I keep my hero-worship of athletes on the field and court.

Being a grownup also suggests to me that as details emerge about the circumstances of his death, there may be some I do not want to hear.

But the me who is that fan in the stands cheering on Steve — that me is very sad right now.

That me will always remember him flying high.