Sunday, July 12, 2009


The “Sports” section of this morning’s Tampa Tribune prominently featured an article with this headline: “McNair eulogized as hero”. For those of you who may have been on another planet for the past week, Steve McNair was a 36 year-old, retired NFL quarterback with Hall-of-Fame credentials who was shot and killed by his 20 year old girlfriend who then shot herself in the head. McNair was also a husband and a father of four children. And, there are reports he had at least one other young girlfriend with whom he kept active company.

As I read the story of prominent sports figures giving testimonial to what a good man McNair was I couldn’t help but think about Mark Sanford, the 49 year old Governor of South Carolina, who was also recently caught up in the scandal of an extramarital affair with a 43 year old, divorced, Argentine woman. Like McNair, Sanford is married and a father of young children. But unlike McNair no prominent figures are tripping over themselves to tell the world what a good man Mark Sanford is and the print media isn’t hailing him as a “hero”. Instead Sanford has been portrayed as a love-sick fool chasing after a woman- -his “soul-mate”- - who looks strikingly like his wife Jenny who at 47 is only 4 years older than his mistress who, in turn, is only 6 years younger than Sanford himself. According to the media, only an idiot would risk his career, reputation, family and livelihood for a woman who’s only six years younger and looks a lot like his wife. However, by the standards of US journalists- -to the extent they have any standards at all- - to be called a “hero” you have to be involved with a woman only slightly more than half your age and with a “bangin’ bod” to boot. Yet, of the reputations that will live on after these two guys- -both of whom have been accused of betraying their families- - I think I’d rather have Sanford’s than McNair’s.

Mark and Jenny Sanford meet every definition of a power couple. Until now he was characterized as a handsome, smart and effective politician whose star was on the rise thanks in no small part to his wife, a pretty heiress and investment banker, who personally financed his first two successful campaigns. They made it to the Governor’s Mansion in South Carolina and by all accounts had a good chance of making it to the White House some day. But like so many “power marriages” somewhere along the line the Sanford marriage, I suspect, became all about the power and influence being gained and one or both of them forgot how to nurture the other. Unfortunately, in this case, I think it may have been Jenny Sanford who forgot that role.

We men are strange creatures. We are genetically engineered to provide for and protect the ones we love- -especially our mates. This role is hard-wired in the “Y” chromosome and irretrievably imbedded in our DNA. But just as deeply imbedded is our need for validation and intimacy. We need to frequently be told we are the biggest, strongest, sexiest man in the realm. We need to be compensated with the intimacy of a companion, confidante, friend, helpmate, kindred soul, lover, and partner. And when that doesn’t happen, just like the Knights of the middle ages, we go on a “quest” to find one. We, like Sir Lancelot, go searching for our Guinevere*. The one woman who will help heal and complete us. The one woman who will be our confidante, friend and lover.

The fact that Sanford’s self-described “soul-mate”, is only 4 years younger than Jenny Sanford and looks so much like her tells me the Governor was not- -like McNair- - out to prove his manhood and satisfy his ego through the conquest of some hard-bodied 20 year old but rather that Mark Sanford was on a quest to find his Guinevere and he found her in Maria Belen Chapur.

So given the choice of being remembered as a flawed athletic “hero” or being remembered as a man searching for his Guinevere, I’ll take the role of Lancelot without hesitation. And, if they’re being honest, I think most men would do the same. Perhaps everyone out there in a "power relationship" should consider this a cautionary tale.

* Find the tale of Lancelot and Guinevere at:


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