Tag Archives: July 4th

Remembering Steve McNair

4 Jul

July 4, 2009 – People throughout Nashville and the Middle Tennessee area were getting ready for a big Fourth of July celebration. The huge fireworks show in downtown was being prepared. Streets were being blocked off for the crowds. People were cooking out in the surrounding counties. I had just shown up at my friend’s house in Rutherford County.

That is when the shocking news began to spread. I got texts. We turned on the television. News vans had descended on a condo in Nashville where Steve McNair was found dead.Steve McNair

I did not know Steve McNair. One night, I saw him shooting pool in a bar, but that does not mean you know someone. However, I was one of thousands of people who walked into a football stadium and watched him play quarterback for the Tennessee Titans.

He was more than a quarterback. He was the icon of a city. When the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans, a lot of people thought it would never work. Nashville was not big enough to support an NFL team. The first years proved the doubters right as the team struggled in Memphis and at Vanderbilt’s stadium before getting a home of their own. As the team struggled, Steve McNair got much of the blame.

However, when they got into the new stadium, the abilities of McNair and the rest of the team appeared. Imagine not having an NFL team in your city then getting one. Take your imagination further and think about how it would feel if that team went to the Super Bowl in their first year. On top of that, include a miracle play that propelled them on the magical run.

That year was great, and the fans were spoiled. Heck, this must be the way it is going to be every year.

I was in the Georgia Dome when Steve McNair almost completed one of the great comebacks in Super Bowl history. The team fell one yard short, but it epitomized what we would see from him in the years to come.

Steve McNair was a quarterback, but he was also a leader. He showed his toughness by playing hurt and running over defenders. He proved his college nickname of “Air McNair” was true when he won the MVP award. People admired him for his leadership and his ability. It was as if nothing could bring Steve McNair down.

Five years ago, that was proven wrong. As the days passed, the coverage of his death was constantly on television. It was one of the biggest news stories in Nashville’s history. People wondered what happened, and, eventually, the police told us. Steve McNair was the victim of a murder/suicide carried out by a young woman he had a relationship with. Obviously, that young woman was not his wife.

I am not here to judge him on his decisions. I am here to say that those who saw him play will remember those great games, but they will also remember when they heard the news of his death. On July 4, the people of Middle Tennessee celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and cookouts. However, many of them will also think about Steve McNair; the impact he had on this area; and the tragedy that befell him.

It Must Have Been the Fourth of July

4 Jul

Here in the United States, the Fourth of July is a big day. Back in 1776, there were a couple of days in the first week of July that were important. John Adams thought the Second of July would be celebrated for years to come, but we have settled on doing it two days later. Of course, other things have happened on that date. These are just a few.July 4

965 – Pope Benedict V passed away.

1054 – People in China and Arabia looked in the sky and see a supernova.

1634 – Quebec, Canada was founded. Back then, it was called Trois-Rivieres and was in the colony of New France.

1636 – Providence, Rhode Island came into existence.

1754 – George Washington surrendered Fort Necessity to the French. That was an important event during the French and Indian War.

1802 – The United States Military Academy opened in West Point, New York.

1803 – The American people learned of the Louisiana Purchase.

1804 – Nathaniel Hawthorne was born.

1816 – Hiram Walker, founder of Canadian club whiskey, was born.

1826 – John Adams, the second president of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, passed away.

1831 – James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States passed away.

1837 – Grand Junction Railway opened between Birmingham and Liverpool.

1865 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.

1879 – British forces captured and destroyed Ulundi, the Zululand capital.

1882 – Louis B. Mayer was born.

1902 – Gangster Meyer Lansky was born.

1903 – Dorothy Levitt competed in a motor race. That made her the first woman to do that.

1914 – A funeral was held for Archbishop Franz Ferdinand and his wife.

1922 – Lothar von Richtofen, younger brother of the Red Baron, passed away.

1929 – Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, was born.

1934 – Marie Curie, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the Nobel Prize in Physics, passed away.

1939 – Lou Gehrig told the fans in Yankee Stadium that he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

1943 – Geraldo Rivera, who looked in Al Capone’s vault, was born.

1946 – The Philippines gained independence from the United States.

1966 – Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act.

2009 – Steve McNair, former quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, was killed.

The Fifth of July

5 Jul

For the Fourth of July, I spent time with some friends who invited me to their pool party and cookout. It was nice of them to ask, and I enjoyed myself very much. The day was spent swimming and hanging out by the pool. People talked, laughed and drank beer while kids ran all over the place. What could be more American than that?

Once dusk began to set in, we went to the park for a cookout and to watch the city’s fireworks show. We had the usual fare – hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, and any other cookout food you might think of. Some of us guys played Cornhole, which is a terrible name for a game, until we realized that a few of the players should turn professional. How would you like to be that? A professional cornholer.

People started to pour into the park and soon the fireworks show began. Everyone looked into the sky and pretended like they had never seen a fireworks show before. Through the ooh’s and aah’s, I began to think what it must have been like for Francis Scott Key to see real bombs bursting in air at Fort McHenry. I suppose that is the historian coming out in me.

As I thought about Francis, something else entered my mind. Through the entire day’s activities, not one person mentioned what the celebration was about. They talked about having a day off and going back to work tomorrow. They talked about the upcoming football season. They also talked about how hot it has been lately. But, no one talked about it being the anniversary of our nation’s independence. Not even me, the American historian. It seems that the Fourth of July was no different from the Fifth of July.

I have been thinking about this ever since I left the gathering. Have we forgotten what the holiday is all about? Do we care? Have we gotten so comfortable with our freedoms that we take them for granted? On top of that, do we really understand our nation? Do we recognize its good qualities and its bad ones? Honestly, I am not sure.

We have a Pledge of Allegiance, but I made a pledge to myself. I will re-energize myself and make sure that I teach American history to the best of my ability. Sometimes, I get into the day-to-day grind and forget that my job is to prevent the past, with all of its complexities, from being lost. I will not forget again.

There is no way to project the whole of the United States in one photograph, but I want to end this post with, in my opinion, the most “American” photograph in my computer.

That is Keel Drug Store in the small town of Ballinger, Texas. For many years, it was owned and operated by Gene Keel, the father of my late uncle Johnny Keel. I can’t think of anything more American than a small business in a small town with a flag flying out front. Rest in Peace, Johnny. We all miss you.