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Nomar, Air McNair, and Sheed

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  July 7, 2009 05:38 PM

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If there's one lesson we'll eventually take from the Steve McNair sad saga, I suspect it will be this: Never, ever inform your smitten 20-year-old girlfriend in person that you have no intention of divorcing your wife. Especially after she's started selling her furniture on Craigslist.

Maybe I'm just being a wise guy about something I shouldn't be a wise guy about, I don't know.
I guess I've become too jaded about this sort of tragedy -- ever since O.J. and A.C. slithered into the white Bronco to begin their slow-speed chase toward infamy, nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to professional athletes we foolishly believe we know.

While the salacious details about McNair's final days and hours trickle out, I'm doing my best to avoid the TMZization of this story. Pretty much everything you heard about McNair before his death were the same as the praise you heard after his passing: That he was a humble, friendly, and charitable man. I still believe those things. I'm also fairly certain that he enjoyed the perks of his fame.

But all we truly know about the man is that he was a hell of a football player, the kind of quarterback you trusted in charge of your huddle. He was by no means a Hall of Famer, despite what some in the national media would have you believe -- he's 28th all-time in passing yards, behind the likes of Kerry Collins, Jim Everett, and Steve DeBerg, and 46th in touchdown passes -- but he was a player who was very easy to admire. I thought one of my Twitter followers made a spot-on comparison -- he was very similar to another Steve, the revered (around here) Mr. Grogan.

Like Grogan, McNair had a strong if not always accurate throwing arm, he was extremely mobile before the injuries began taking a physical toll, and his toughness impressed not only us, the fans, but his peers as well.

That's how I'll remember Steve McNair: A better version of Steve Grogan. In retrospect, that's the only way I knew him.

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Rasheed Wallace, with his rangy offensive game, selflessness with the ball, and high basketball IQ, has always been easy to appreciate as a player -- even with his knack for flipping out and making one wonder if he had suffered multiple head trauma at some point.

So yeah, count me among those he's on the Celtics, particularly since he's arriving with the knowledge that he'll be playing a complementary role -- namely, his job will be to be everything Mikki Moore wasn't.

I'm pretty sure Wallace can handle that, even at age 35, and while there should be some concern that the Celtics are depending pretty much exclusively on older players, I trust Doc Rivers to divvy up the minutes so that everyone remains relatively fresh and healthy.

I suppose there's a small dose of hypocrisy in pledging allegiance to a player who has been one of the league's leading villains in recent seasons. Sheed was a first-team All-NBA jerk during his Jail Blazers days, and while he's mellowed a bit, you can be sure he'll be giving Kendrick Perkins a run for the team lead in technical fouls this season.

But as long as he can still play -- and because he is playing a supporting role -- the ancillary howling will serve as entertainment more than anything else. Sheed is our talented lunatic now, and it's going to be fun to watch.

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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Showed up in my mailbox today, sent by a New York reader with no note or return address. It beats the heck out of a 1978 Bob Bailey, I suppose.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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