Thursday, April 29, 2004

Okay, I've just about had it with the Pat Tillman story. This was the big news at the end of last week, and it's continued this week. Maybe I'm getting a bit more fed up with it since I listen to JFR everyday, and (ostensibly) being a sports talk show, the Tillman story has been a major topic for the past several days. No matter what the story, pretty much anything will reach a saturation point, and that's where I'm at on this one.

Now, I've gotta say that even I'm impressed with what this guy did. He gave up millions of dollars to go and become an Army ranger in response to 9/11. That's balls right there. Someone willing to volunteer to do something that I don't want to do even if I'm forced. Of course, there's a reason why I don't want to go into the military, one I'm not afraid to admit - I'm a coward. As such, I'm impressed with anyone who is willing to volunteer for the military on at least that level. Things are compounded in Pat Tillman's case since the guy walked away from a wad of cash for seemingly all the right reasons. He wasn't looking for any publicity or accolades, he just wanted to serve his country. At least, as far as I know. I obviously didn't know him personally. Regardless of motives I wouldn't do what he did, and again, that's part of why I'm impressed with it.

One thing that irritates me about this story is the general trend of people making a bigger deal out of something when it happens an athlete or someone else famous as opposed to just a "regular" person. I understand that someone even semi-famous is going to get more attention than someone obscure; that's just a natural extension of our celebrity lust in this society. Still, it irritates me that one guy is getting so much attention when there are so many others out there who are making the same sacrifices. Sure, not everyone gave up an NFL contract, but they are still sacrificing time with their families, their psychological well being, and potentially their lives, just like Pat Tillman. Like I said, I understand that someone like this is naturally going to get more attention than your everyday Joe, but c'mon, let's try and see a little more balance here. I really don't think all the rest of the people in our armed forces - all volunteers - get the credit they deserve beyond lip service. "I support the troops!"

Even I will point out that there is a good side of this, though. When something like this happens to someone who's famous and it gets a lot of attention, it at least puts a face on what's going on. While I do think that things are way out of balance, in a way, this helps to remind people that we've got lots of men and women fighting and dying over there and maybe restores some of that balance. I just wish we'd quit acting like the life of a celebrity is more important than the life of anyone else.

With regards to the original article, the backlash against the student is of course unsurprising. Also unsurprising is people like UMass president Jack Wilson coming out and saying the things he did. Just like with people who say mindless things like "I support the troops," this is just hollow, empty rhetoric that's being spewed only because it's completely safe to say and they feel like it's what they're supposed to say. Okay, okay, a lot of people like Wilson probably at least believe what they're saying, but it still seems to be living on a base without any critical thought. There's no heart or feeling behind shit like that, and as always, I'm tired of it. I don't agree with the grad student who wrote the article (but again, I didn't know Tillman personally so who knows), but I applaud him for actually having the balls to say something that's bound to be incredibly unpopular. That takes some balls as well, especially in this day and age.

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