“Married and Worried” wrote, “I have a question about a matter that my married friends and I have been talking about ever since it happened. Steve McNair. How can a ‘nice guy’ like this have ever ended up in this position? It doesn’t make sense. It is scary to us. Can you shed some light?”

Because I do not know this man personally or know anyone who does, I cannot answer this question with any degree of certainty. However, I think I might be able to “shed some light.”

Steve McNair was a legend. He was a star. By all accounts he was raised to be and was an honest, loyal, fair and very nice man. He was raised by a single mother and his older brother, who took on a paternal role when his father left, supported only by the mother’s income as a local factory worker. Money was scarce and one has to wonder how much attention she could have given five sons, while working full time. She must have been tired, but as difficult as this would be, it seems that she gave her sons a lot of love and support and instilled great values.

Beyond family, McNair was a poor black kid from Mississippi who perhaps felt he was no one until he got his first taste of fame and fortune through his football career. No one has a bad thing to say about him; everyone seems to have thought that McNair was a nice guy and I think he probably was.

But let’s look at his history and celebrity status. He was incredibly talented and early on got a lot of attention for his unusual athletic ability. By high school, he had the choice to play baseball, basketball or football. He held out for football and became the highest drafted black quarterback ever and was making millions of dollars by the time he was 22. Throughout his career in football, he was always a star.

He retired in 2008 and many think that his body just gave out, at least for playing football the way that he had played it.

What happens when you go from an entire stadium of applause on a regular basis to regular everyday life in two small towns in the south? He was dividing his time between two cities and he and his wife were raising two young sons, one about to be 11 and the other just 5. Was he getting the attention he needed or by now craved? Why was he pushing himself with such severe pain; what was he trying to prove and for whom?

Severe pain from a ruptured disk, and surgery and other injuries as well, he was pushing himself beyond belief. A few questions come to mind: did he even know who he was or his value as a human being outside of the stadium and stardom? Did physical and emotional pain lead to drinking? There are definitely some red flags that he may have become a drinker. He was first arrested for DUI in 2003 and then again with his brother in-law in 2007. I have no idea why but he missed week two, part of week three and nine more games in that (2007) season; one has to wonder. His third DUI involvement was with a 20-year-old girlfriend, days before he died. She was driving but I have to ask would a big guy like this let an intoxicated woman drive after already having two prior DUI arrests if he hadn’t been drinking himself?

He retired in April 2008 and by the end of that year had fallen into some type of an affair with the woman who would kill him seven months later. Did all these factors put together make him vulnerable to this? It certainly looks as if it did.

The woman he was involved with was 20 (he was 36) and had lost both parents in Iran. She probably idolized and adored him. He had lost the applause, was now living in two cities, his wife was busy raising his two young sons, and they were living separately half of the time. If you add alcohol, this combination would make anyone, any nice guy or woman, very vulnerable. Alcohol numbs pain but it also can lead to very poor judgment. It may come out that he had multiple affairs; after all, women throw themselves at these guys. But at this time, in my research so far, there is no indication of marital problems, or cheating if you will, before he retired from being the legend that he was.

I don’t think you need to worry unless you have one or more of these factors going on in your marriage. The bottom line is that we all can be vulnerable and that does not make for a bad guy.

Thank you for your question.

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist in Brentwood. Please write your questions or reactions to newshrink@gmail.com or visit www.newshrink.com.

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