A memorable Fourth of July

I began my Cuatro de Julio celebration with a trip to the Nashville Hot Chicken Festival. Re-check my post about Prince’s if you need to be reminded of my passion for the fiery pollo, but anyway, suffice it to say that I love it enough to travel about an hour and a half and stand in a line in the sun for about as long to enjoy it with a community of like minded folk. David Vance, a friend of mine since the bygone WKU era, joined me for the hot chicken sampling, and a good chickening was had. It’s always a good time to visit with David, and we spent a lot of the day bemused at our oncoming old-manness, which manifests itself in things like the way that we don’t make new friends and develop propensities for doing nothing. Although the latter of those probably isn’t new, at least in my case.

Shortly after the hot chickening was concluded and I was leaving Nashville, I turned on the radio to learn of the shocking death of Steve McNair. McNair, the long time Tennessee Titans QB, was a much beloved figure in Nashville, and was probably one of the city’s most recognizable personalities. He also was shot and killed in an area of town I drove through twice today.

Sports talk radio has spun on and on and on already about McNair. News slowly trickled out that another woman was present and had been killed. At first, it was suggested that this other woman may be McNair’s wife, Michelle, but by tonight, it has instead been indicated to be another lady friend of McNair. While no one is saying it, the circumstances of the event seem to point toward a murder/suicide from the lady friend, although again, I don’t know anything except what I hear, and no one is willing to say this in so many words.

McNair was a Nashville icon, a hero to many, a good guy to nearly all. And now, at the end of his life, the questions will emerge. The circumstances in question suggest an extra-marital affair (Again, reserving the caveat that all I know is what I read and hear, and no one is saying that in so many words) with a woman who was stopped for a DUI on Thursday morning with McNair in the car which he co-owned with her. On the same evening that fans recall McNair’s clutch playmaking, his civic awareness, his positive reputation, a dark cloud falls over all of this. Maybe it was all an act. Maybe the real Steve McNair was a womanizer who cared only for himself, and behaved irresponsibly to the point of causing pain and suffering within his own family. Or maybe not.

It seems significant that this all comes down on July the 4th. America is, above all else, a nation built upon principles of human behavior, fundamental rights and liberties, a contract between the governing body and its constituents. Celebrity or fandom can also seem to present a similar contract. We the fans give our money, our time, and our support, and wear jerseys and make banners, and grieve the now departed because of a way they do their jobs, a fundamental code of human decency. A quarterback who plays through pain, who spends his own time and money to help those less fortunate, who takes great care to involve himself in his home community is a hero to millions.

And what happens when those contracts break down? What happens when the Patriot Act goes into effect, or when millions of innocent Japaneese are herded into World War II prison camps, or essential freedoms are ignored by our own government because they are inconvenient? What happens when the great quarterback appears to have forgotten his morality and forsaken his family? Where is the breaking point?

And the answer to that is an individual one. I hope that America, for all its flaws, is trying to move toward its idealized calling. I hope that McNair’s death can and will be explained in a way that does not make us all question and ultimately reject his entire moral fiber. And I hope that we all realize that part of America’s promise is the demand on its own citizens, NFL quarterbacks, lawyers, librarians, or whatever, that we have our own contracts– with our Maker, with our country, with our spouse and our friends and with humankind at large. We generally can’t control when our lives end, but the cost of freedom is the opportunity to succed or to fail. Our decisions today, individually and collectively, cannot help but define the way we will be viewed tomorrow and for ever therafter.

It’s not fireworks and it’s not fun, but it is important. Where Thomas Jefferson left off, maybe Steve McNair helped me remember today.

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4 Responses to “A memorable Fourth of July”

  1. Teresa Says:

    I don’t know anything about McNair, but I do have to add that I’m really really jealous that you had hot chicken today. While you were wiping the sweat from your brow and eating of its deliciousness, I was teaching grandma how to use the remote.

  2. dvance Says:

    I don’t think I had enough hot chicken to suffer any of the known side-effects. That means, of course, that we have to go back.

  3. eljoe1235 Says:

    You won’t have to ask twice! I wonder if it’s not the sheer nastiness of Prince’s which may help cause the side effects. In any case, it’s somehow worth it.

    I think that I’ll be available on Saturday, which means a Prince’s run could be made… let me know if you’re up for it. Kelly is welcome too– and for what it’s worth, I have read that women generally tolerate the hotness better than men. I have no idea why.

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