Late last year, Sports Illustrated aired the final episode titled Epilogue in their podcast series Fall of a Titan. The ten episode series chronicled the life and untimely demise of former Tennessee Titan QB Steve McNair. The series focused on the suspects, their possible motives and how the crime may have been pulled off. However, upon listening to each and every episode, you’re left asking the question that no one wants to hear after any murder investigation.
Did the deceased receive justice?
When news broke that McNair had been gunned down in his condo — a former NFL MVP and star QB, one of the most beloved players of his generation — I can remember feeling sadness rush through my body. McNair was an African-American QB who looked like me. He provided the inspiration to many young black kids that they, too, could aspire to be a NFL QB. In a time where stereotypes regarding a black QB’s capacity to process the information being thrown their way during an NFL season were rampant, McNair served as a shining example that the perception lacked merit. A man’s skin colour has no bearing on whether an he can be a good quarterback. A living legend was taken from this world much too soon, for reasons unbeknownst to anyone impacted by the tragedy. The story that McNair was murdered by his mistress, Jenni Kazemi, sounded like a tale of a jealous lover pushed to the edge of sanity. However, as narrator/journalist Tim Rohan documents throughout the show, the investigation just seemed too good to be true.
Fall of a Titan is more crime series in the same spirit of Serial than a life and times podcast Steve McNair. Except, this case has been closed. The Tennessee Police Department found that Jenni Kazemi murdered Steve McNair with a gun she purchased from an acquaintance and then turned the gun on herself. The show spends time analyzing the evidence that was made available in the case, interviewing the friends and family who personally knew both McNair and Kazemi before the incident, and the complicated matters of life that could have led up to their untimely deaths.
But if the criminal case has been closed and solved, why even bother with the series?
Essentially the show revolves around the idea that Jenni Kazemi did not kill Steve McNair. While there is gunshot residue on her hand, the show indicates that it could be circumstantial. Red flags are raised from the very first episode as to whether Kazemi — who had no prior experience with a gun — could land the four shots that ended McNair’s life. The podcast pokes holes in the investigation, the lack of transparency with releasing of evidence, and vendetta’s among McNair’s friends, family and business associates that raise questions regarding whether those people had Steve McNair’s best interest in mind.
As fascinating as the show is by raising questions about the case, its achilles heel is also one of its most admirable qualities: Transparency. The main catalyst pushing for police to re-open the case and pining for more access and information in the case is former Tennessee police officer Vincent Hill. Representing the few people who don’t believe Kazemi was capable of killing McNair in such a vicious and physical manner, Hill took it upon himself to dig into the case. Hill is a problematic force on the case, based on his own troubled history with the Tennessee PD and having profited in the form of books, TV appearances and fame from speaking out on the case. The lack of physical evidence to support his case paints Hill as a tinfoil-wearing conspiracy theorist as opposed to a former officer with a cop’s senses.
For all that is wrong with Hill, he does raise questions that are quite troubling around the case. Why weren’t the crime scene photos released? Why are the time discrepancies when the murders happened are all over the place? Why weren’t other leads followed? The Murder of Steve McNair was solved over the course of four days. That’s a quick turnaround for any case, let alone the murder of a famous athlete. The possibility of figuring out what truly took place in the murder of Steve McNair is what entices listeners to continue tuning in. Who else could have committed the crime, what are these people hiding, did anyone actually care for Steve McNair the person as opposed to his money and wealth? The burning questions just eat away at you as Rohan dives into the case, searching to find out what’s fact or fiction, or lying somewhere in-between.
Perhaps what caught me most off-guard was the the public ambivalence to the podcast. Commentators saying the whole podcast was a waste of time. Others saying that they shouldn’t have bothered doing the series since it didn’t have any tangible proof to go on. A sizeable portion of the comments from football fan pages lamented the show for opening up old wounds regarding McNair’s death. They’re fair assessments to make. The show ends with the listener asking questions that may never get answered. What’s sad is that the show paints the picture that some of the key figures named in the show know more about the situation than they said. Now, with the show over, it feels like the deaths of McNair and Kazemi are more heart-wrenching than the days immediately after. Trying to find logic in an act that appears illogical to those not involved is a losing battle.
FoaT is a good listen for the crime analyst in your group… though maybe not so much for the sports fan who grew up idolizing Steve McNair. Life is not fair, and this podcast brings that to mind with its conclusion. However, hat tip to Tim Rohan and the folks of the show. The death of Steve McNair didn’t receive much attention after the incident, at least until this podcast. Perhaps one day Jenni Kazemi and Steve McNair will receive the justice and peace they have yet to obtain.