Sunday, March 27, 2005

Athlete plus Gun Equals Hero

From "The Delicate Balance," the Cincinati News Record, April 29, 2004:
It's time to find out if it is possible to avoid speaking ill of the dead while disagreeing completely with everything the media reports about the subject.

Let us start with a positive memory.

Way back in December of 1998 I came down with a strep infection that nearly killed me. I spent a bunch of days in University Hospital watching TV and eating more Jell-O than a man's ever seen.

When I was released and sent home to my attic bedroom I was still extremely weak from my illness. The first week back was basically a liquid Codeine inspired haze, but I distinctly remember how hyped I was for the NFL Playoffs. Watching TV was all I could physically do for awhile, so I was even more excited to tune in than usual. I am an ardent New York Giants fan.

Consequently, I have a soft spot in my heart for whites that play in the defensive secondary. There's a reason there is only a handful of Caucasians playing safety and cornerback in the NFL. It's called ability. The perennial doormat Arizona Cardinals' Wild Card game against the Cowboys was the first game of the day of Jan. 2. I noticed they had a white guy with hair flowing from underneath his helmet roaming the secondary.

A few hours later, the Cards had prevailed 20-7. Even though they got lit up like a Mafia owned Tiki-bar and sent home by the Vikings a week later, I was still rather impressed by Pat Tillman, the long hair who looked like he belonged in the mosh pit of an Alice in Chains show rather than the NFL. There is a particular novelty to players who defy the mold of the position they play.

I thought Tillman was a skilled football player, but I don't think his face should be carved into the side of Mt. Rushmore just yet. His death in Afghanistan has been portrayed in a similar fashion to the plane crash death of Roberto Clemente, whose plane crashed while he was attempting to deliver earthquake relief supplies in his native country.

I have a theory that if you make your life's work walking around combat zones with an assault rifle you might end up dead. Tillman eschewed multimillion-dollar contract offers in favor of enlisting. He and his brother went so far as to request being put into a Special Forces infantry, where intense combat was essentially guaranteed. Tillman went to Iraq, carried his gun around the whole time and made it back in one piece. Apparently that wasn't enough playing army for him. He pressed his luck, went to play "Find Osama" and came back in a body bag.

It is certainly unfortunate to witness the loss of life, but the saying about living by the sword and dying by it rings true. As long as the cycle of aggression and violence is perpetuated people are going to die. Even NFL players. Thousands of women and children have been killed as a result of our military involvement abroad, yet the death of an athlete is somehow a million times more important. I'm beginning to understand why the majority of Europeans view our fancy-belt-buckle-wearing president as a greater threat to world peace than anyone hiding in a cave or a hidden cellar.

I am disgusted by the sensationalist coverage of the death of a man who played with fire and got burned. There, I said it.
--Isaac Thorn;


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice insight, but you could do without a couple of the cruel pejoratives.

6:36 AM  

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