It's not a surprise, but Nashville police today classified the deaths of former NFL MVP Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi as a murder-suicide, with Kazemi killing McNair because she suspected he was having an affair with another woman -- no, not his wife -- and then turning the gun she had just bought on herself. After the shock set in Saturday of McNair's death, much of the reporting turned to the former Titans quarterback's conflicting images. An open relationship with a 20-year-old girl wasn't something people expected from a respected community leader, believed to be squeaky clean, and an ostensibly loyal husband and loving father of four.
This headline from USA Today sums it up: "Steve McNair's Death Brings Other Side of His Life to Light." And what did fans who called into George Plaster's sports radio show think?
While taking calls from his audience, Plaster said, there was virtually no reference to McNair having an affair. "Everybody had a version of the same story -- that I met Steve McNair, I was nervous and before I knew it we started laughing and it was like we were friends forever," Plaster said. "There have been a lot of people in this community who have been touched by good things he's done. ... What always struck me about him was it didn't matter if you were the king of England or a janitor, he treated everybody the same."
Donna Doss, 44, an interior designer in Nashville and a Titans season ticketholder since 1999, has a helmet McNair autographed at a party where, she said, "He was only paying attention to his wife."
"I will always love him. He was a warrior, and he always gave us 110%," Doss said of McNair, who played nine years in Tennessee after the Houston Oilers moved.
As for the infidelity question, Doss said, "I am definitely disappointed in him. I just thought he would be different than others. I was really shocked to find out he had a girlfriend, especially one so young."
Disappointed? Me too, but it should be more than that. Though it's really difficult to expect better from professional athletes. I'm not sure if Steve McNair was a God-fearing man -- his funeral is being held tomorrow at Mount Zion Baptist -- but you don't have to be religious to know that adultery is wrong.
And what about Kazemi?
When I first heard her name, I assumed she was Persian and wondered if she was Muslim. But it wasn't until I saw a story in the Tennessean that I realized Kazemi was Baha'i.
Kazemi and her family moved to the U.S. in 2002, fleeing Iran to Turkey before settling in Florida. As members of the Baha'i Faith, they were in danger in Iran. They quickly got acclimated in the U.S. Kazemi worked hard and liked earning her own money, the family said.
Previously I had read that Kazemi's mother had been murdered in Iran, but this article only stated that she died and Kazemi was adopted by her aunt's family. The oddest part about this story, which focused on the fact that Kazemi expected McNair to leave his wife and marry her, was the subhead: "Woman's family was leery of affair with former Titan."
I'm not sure if Kazemi was an observant Baha'i, but if her family was, then I'm sure they were a bit more than leery.
Neither this article nor any of the others I've seen has offered anything more enlightening than where to place the apostrophe in spelling Baha'i. There has been no mention -- none -- of what the religion actually entails. Here's a crash course from Bahai.org:
The Faith's Founder was Baha'u'llah, a Persian nobleman from Tehran who, in the mid-nineteenth century, left a life of princely comfort and security and, in the face of intense persecution and deprivation, brought to humanity a stirring new message of peace and unity.
Baha'u'llah claimed to be nothing less than a new and independent Messenger from God. His life, work, and influence parallel that of Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad. Bahai's' view Baha'u'llah as the most recent in this succession of divine Messengers.
The essential message of Baha'u'llah is that of unity. He taught that there is only one God, that there is only one human race, and that all the world's religions represent stages in the revelation of God's will and purpose for humanity. In this day, Baha'u'llah said, humanity has collectively come of age. As foretold in all of the world's scriptures, the time has arrived for the uniting of all peoples into a peaceful and integrated global society. "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens," He wrote.
As you can imagine, murder is forbidden by the Baha'i. So too are alcohol and drugs -- another knock on Kazemi. As for adultery, that's, to use a Christian expression, a cardinal sin. Baha'i believers are very traditional on that point, too. Marriage, according to Baha'u'llah, is "a fortress for well-being and salvation" and the foundation for human unity.