McNair Case Still Fascinates Media
I’m a third of the way through the Sports Illustrated nine-week narrative podcast ‘Fall of a Titan: The Steve McNair Story‘ and the fourth episode drops on Wednesday, Nov. 7. It’s worth a listen, whether you’re a Titans fan, a McNair fan, or (like me these days) a mystery / suspense / thriller writer.
Because that’s essentially what this is playing out as, a whodunnit. The police say they know whodunnit, and there’s never been a mystery. That McNair was killed by his mistress. I’m inclined to agree with the police assessment, based on what I’ve heard so far. There has been speculation, with a mix of tawdry gossip, and I’m assuming we’ll learn more along the way.
Podcast Tim Rohan of Sports Illustrated, the leader in sports journalism, has done an excellent job in staying true to the mission of being a skeptical journalist. I, too, am skeptical – of a lot of things Tim has so far presented.
When the podcast is over, I hope for one of two things to happen – that he has presented enough new evidence so that police will reopen the investigation, or that the podcast comes to the conclusion that the police assessment was correct, and everyone will finally let the McNair story rest in peace.
MY OCTOBER STORY ON THE PODCAST …
When the realization hits, it is still difficult to believe.
Next year’s Fourth of July will mark the 10th anniversary of the 2009 murder of legendary Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair. Wow. Just wow.
I still worked on the sports copy desk of The Tennessean that fateful Saturday, when the biggest thing going was the much anticipated fireworks show down by the Cumberland River. On my way to the office, I’d just gotten in the car when I turned on the radio and heard the first reports, and remember stepping on the gas to get there as fast as I could because I wanted to follow the breaking news. Our reporters, photographers, columnists, and editors all responded to the challenge with award-winning coverage. This week I’m writing about that case for the Nashville Ledger.
The story just kept getting stranger as the day wore on. First, it was reported that he was murdered at a Second Avenue apartment he shared with the woman found dead at his feet. Teammates and fans were equally shocked as news trickled out about the recently retired star’s demise and the startling revelations.
Tight-lipped Metro Nashville police called a press conference just four days later to reveal their findings — a murder-suicide. The police report said McNair had been shot to death by his mistress, Sahel (Jenni) Kazemi, who then took her own life and was found at McNair’s feet, lying atop the 9-millimeter Glock pistol that had killed them both.
While most accepted the sad news, others didn’t. Wouldn’t. Couldn’t. Questions about the swift investigatiion continued to grow. Books were written. TV documentaries — notably NBC Dateline — launched investigations. Lots of speculation and allegations, but no new details emerged.
Now Sports Illustrated is out with a probing nine-week narrative podcast called ‘Fall of a Titan: The Steve McNair Story‘. It was researched, written and hosted by Tim Rohan with the backing of the SI true-crime desk. He spent 15 months working on it, and the podcast launched on Oct. 17. A new episode drops every Wednesday.
After Rohan was interviewed by a Nashville sports-talk radio show, the editors at the Nashville Ledger asked me to write a story about the McNair podcast. You’ll find a link to that story by clicking here. I listened to the first episode, then spent more than than 30 minutes the next day talking to Rohan, and also communicated with Metro law enforcement officials, who staunchly stand by their murder-suicide findings.
My conversation with Tim was very revealing — and comforting — from a journalistic aspect. To me, Sports Illustrated is the New York Times of sports journalism, and Tim struck me as a consummate reporter who doesn’t take any information he comes across at face value, but checks it out to separate fact from fiction and challenge accounts that officials throw out.
But I have to admit I was troubled by some of the unsubstantiated allegations that I heard. Police call them gossip, rumors and innuendo — and probably a few other things, privately. Tim defended using them in the podcast, saying he’s challenging those reports, talking to multiple sources and giving a voice to the questioners.
As a journalist, I sincerely appreciate that. There have been people held in prisons for decades before being released because one lone, dedicated journalist wouldn’t stop digging or asking questions, and it eventually became a mainstream media story.
Is that the case here? It doesn’t feel like it, but there are still a half-dozen episodes to air as I write this. It seems like the answers – if there are any – would have emerged by now. I’ll try to keep an open mind, but it makes me think of JFK conspiracy theorists who refuse to accept the lone gunmen verdict by the Warren Commission.
UPCOMING EVENTS: I have a couple more Nashville Ledger stories appearing before the end of the year. I’ll post them here when they’re out. Also, look for several of Authors Circle members at Dickens of a Christmas on Dec. 8-9 in Franklin, TN.
And as always … thanks for reading.