Remembering McNair joking and laughing

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
I forgot "The Price is Right."

In writing a lot about Steve McNair this week, I never did a good job of hitting on how fun and funny he was. And so on a day when I will join a large crowd at his memorial and post several somber entries from it, I thought a lighthearted post would be a good way to start the day.

McNair's incredible affection for the game show was one of the funniest, most bizarre things about him. He built his day around "The Price is Right" when he could, and told us of how the TV he was allowed to watch as a kid was limited, but the game show made the cut.

He loved Bob Barker. I'm not sure how he felt about Drew Carey. I am sure I wouldn't want to go against McNair guessing showcase prices.

As Jeff Fisher spoke about McNair at a press conference Monday, he made reference to the stark contrast between McNair's intense competitiveness and his affection for "Gunsmoke," "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Walker, Texas Ranger."

McNair loved to joke around.

With equipment men like Paul Noska and Joey Barranco, with trainers like Brad Brown, Don Moseley and Geoff Kaplan, with public relations people like Robbie Bohren, William Bryant and Dwight Spradlin, with community relations personnel like Bob Hyde and with security staff like Steve Berk, McNair was always playfully difficult.

They'd all get grief from him, he'd pretend to be reluctant to help them out, but in the end he'd grin and do just what they requested of him. Still, the next time, he'd convincingly sell himself as difficult again, they'd buy it again, and the cycle continued. He found it thoroughly entertaining.

The picture with him in the background, on the sideline as Kevin Dyson ran by for the Music City Miracle is considered a Nashville classic. McNair's look of wonder is pretty funny, and it's easy to think in the next frame, his eyes could have popped out of his head.

He was also a big presence in a game that was rampant among players back in the late 1990s.

In "Morra" players threw fingers of one hand at each other, as if they were "shooting it out." As they did so, each declared, in Italian, what the total of the two hands would show (between two and 10), and scored a point for correct predictions. First to four won the game.

I wrote about Morra for The Tennessean in 1997 -- a story that's nowhere to be found online. In a home-office cabinet, I have five boxes of clips and I knew it was in one of them. Sure enough it was -- in the bottom of the fifth box.

Here are two paragraphs from that story done during training camp that I've always remembered:

"Whenever [McNair] throws a four, the next number he throws is a five," [receiver Malcolm] Floyd said.

"See," said McNair, "I'm so good they're scouting me. They have people in the dorms taking pictures of me playing."

Later, after a win streak against Eddie George, George returned to play McNair claiming he was utilizing a new strategy: "Shaolin."

"Ninja stuff," McNair said. "He needs it."