Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Don't know why I was thinking of this....

The first time I saw Pat Tillman was on ESPN. The show was highlighting College Football Super Studs. Pat was a Junior I think, but what I remember thinking was that this guy didn’t fit the mold. With his long hair and flips flops he appeared more surfer than samurai middle linebacker. Flash forward a few years and Pat was drafted to play in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals. Again, I remember seeing him on ESPN and thinking, he must be doing something right but he really doesn’t look the type. Since I lived on the East Coast and the Cards generally stink, I don’t ever remember seeing him play live. I’ve only seen highlight footage and it looks like Pat really laid the leather on someone when he hit them. I also remember that Pat turned down a $9 million dollar offer from the Rams (who were good at the time) to return to the Cardinals. My thoughts were that this guy was bonkers. Flash ahead again to 9/11. This was the catalyst that supposedly made Pat give up the NFL and enlist in the military. He specifically joined the Army and more specific to that he became a Ranger. I remember seeing the story and again saying, hmmm maybe this guy is just eccentric. I didn’t hear anything about Pat for a few years and then one day, ESPN is breaking the news that Pat Tillman was killed in action while defending fellow soldiers. I watched most of the coverage and subsequent tributes and was moved by how much character this man apparently possessed. There were, as they say, many layers to this onion. He was too small to be a linebacker but led Arizona State to the 1996 Rose Bowl. A year later, he was named Pac-10 player of the year. He graduated summa cum laude in 3 ½ years with a 3.84 GPA He wasn’t drafted until the 226th pick but would up starting in the NFL. In 2000 he broke the franchise record for tackles with 224. Before the 2000 season, he ran a marathon just to see “what it was like”. Before the 2002 season he walked into his coaches office and him that he was going to be a Ranger. Pat received the Silver Star posthumously for his actions on the day he died. But here is another twist to the story. After the military presented stories and descriptions about Pat’s death, it was revealed that his own men killed him. Pat was a victim of friendly fire. I’ve never served in the military, so I can only imagine how difficult and crazy things get when you are engaged with the enemy and I’m sure my imagination doesn’t even come close. I can see and even understand how things like this can happen. But what I don’t understand is why this was covered up from family and friends. The family is still trying to get answers from the military and I hope they succeed. I never met Pat or saw him play live, but he’s a person that I will always remember. Not for the way he died, but for the way he lived. Update: I go to sleep watching the news so maybe that's how this got in my head. But Keith Olbermann has more on the story in his blog.