26 April 2004

The true measure of a man

So much has been said and written about the death of Pat Tillman last week that I want to avoid repeating any of it.  I can't say that I followed his NFL career or even knew who he was before he decided to give it all up and enter the Army.  Walking away from a multi-million dollar contract to face potential combat is noble indeed, more so because he refused to call attention to himself for doing it.

I think that the word "hero" is overused in our society, certainly since 9/11.  I equate a hero to be someone who faces certain danger without regard to himself for the immediate safety of others.  I'm not sure if I consider a soldier on patrol in Afganistan a hero by its definition.  Brave, absolutely.  Certainly, there are times when soldiers are called on to be heroic, but I waver in considering all military personnel heroes.

He certainly was a man though, something that I think is a lot tougher to do than be a hero.  Potentially, any schmuck can be a hero if he/she is in the right place at the right time.  It's harder to be a true man (or person-leave me alone) day in and day out.  When a guy like Pat Tillman does what he did, and then dies because of it, I know that he was a better man that I could ever hope to be, because I don't see myself making those decisions under any circumstance.  It's not even humbling to write that.  I know the person that I am, and I am not as courageous as any soldier, never mind one that walks away from being paid millions of dollars to play a game.

The true meaning of a man is someone who can have a positive affect on people that don't know him whether he is alive or dead.  Pat Tillman fits that definition.

One of the legacies of Pat Tillman that I hope to see is that from now on, no one, be it fans, writers, announcers, coaches or athletes themselves refer to any sporting event or situation as "war."  I don't want to hear about "battles in the trenches" or any other metaphors that compare sport to war.  To do so has always been ridiculous, and it makes no sense now, more than ever.


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