I wasn't planning on writing a blog post on Steve McNair's death. I used Twitter to break the news and showcase a YouTube clip. I thought the MSM did good work and I saw both angles on how his death is treated by the great Dan McGowan of Dan's Take and football guru Teddy Repantis from Sorts of Sports. However, now that Arturo Gatti died over the weekend and the circumstances on his death are similar, I felt compelled to write something.
I'll start with McNair, the more we hear about the way he died, the more we will have people who will either demonize him for being unfaithful to his wife and wish to remember him in a negative way, or they will remember him like I do, as a warrior of the football field, who left every limb out there trying to win. I understand why people demonize him for dating a 20-year-old, but this isn't new in sports and I am a believer that athletes should be able to live their own lives, particularly when he's retired.
The reason his death was a big deal was from his years on the field with the Oilers/Titans and Ravens. He was a gutsy player who never got the recognition for his achievements and his tough play throughout his career, which is a shame. He was the toughest QB during his era, tougher than Brett Favre. Favre may have made every start, but McNair took more punishment because of the physical nature of his game. After a great career at Alcorn St. (leading to the third pick in the 1995 NFL Draft), he established himself in the NFL during the Titans Super Bowl run. One of the plays I will always remember from him was his 51-yard run against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game to the Jacksonville 1 and followed up with a touchdown run.
In the Super Bowl, he led the Titans to a 16 point comeback, then drove the Titans down the field after a quick Kurt Warner touchdown pass. The other play I will remember is his Houdini-like escape with about 15 seconds left to find Kevin Dyson at the 10, setting up the most dramatic last play in NFL history; one that the Titans ultimately lost. After the Super Bowl loss, he would continue good seasons with the Titans, including sharing MVP with Peyton Manning in 2003 and after leaving, he led the Ravens to a AFC North title in 2006 and retired the following year.
As for Arturo Gatti, boxing fans will remember him for being one of the greatest warriors in recent memory as well as putting together wildly-entertaining matches. And in boxing, that is just as important as winning, maybe more. Winky Wright, for example, will never be thought of as highly as Arturo Gatti because his matches were mind numbing, despite his wins over Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad. Gatti helped resuscitate boxing this decade with his trilogy with "Irish" Micky Ward when most fans had become cynical of the sport and the quality of fighter had declined (and still down with respect to the heavyweights). I forget where I read this when someone mentioned that Gatti helped revitalize the Atlantic City boxing scene since he fought most of his fights there. During the 1980s, Mike Tyson fought many bouts in Boardwalk Hall, but the site was down until the last two Gatti-Ward matches there.
It seems that unlike McNair, no one will criticize Gatti's lifestyle, though since boxing is down (even I made the turn to UFC last week and I loved it), no one will really care about Gatti after a few days. There still is a mystery why he was killed, if it is in fact, his wife who strangled him. Still, I feel it would be remiss not to give "Thunder" Gatti the McNair treatment after he was such a crowd favorite for the past decade. I find it kind of interesting though that the two best out of nowhere fights of the decade were Gatti-Ward I and Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I and now Corrales and Gatti are no longer with us, which is very pro wrestling-esque.