The American football hero may be gone but details of his mysterious death in Afghanistan just won't go away. Most recently, as reported by Time Magazine, "Nine officers, including up to four generals, should be held accountable for missteps in the aftermath of the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan."
This is as good a time as any to contemplate how and why Pat Tillman ended up in position to be killed by his fellow soldiers. Here's how the New York Times described Tillman at the time of his death: "A graduate of Arizona State University, Tillman, a safety, played for four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. But as an unrestricted free agent in 2002, he turned town a three-year, $3.6 million contract offer from the Cardinals and enlisted in the Army."
Accordingly, when Tillman was killed, the predictable platitudes followed:
•Defensive tackle Corey Sears of the Houston Texans, who played with Tillman on the Cardinals from 1999 to 2000, said: "All the guys that complain about it being too hot or they don't have enough money, that's not real life. A real life thing is he died for what he believed in."
I wonder if Sears views Iraqis dying for what they believe in to be "a real life thing" or is that reserved exclusively for Americans? If Tillman were still alive, I'd like to ask him what exactly it was that he "believed in" enough to die for. Was it, say, for-profit health care for the few or pre-emptive wars or corporate welfare or maybe the death penalty? How about strip malls, Reality TV, SUVs, or cell phones? Maybe the right to vote for the next American Idol? I'd just like some clarification.
•Former Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis said Tillman who "represented all that was good in sports...proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling."
Definition of "greater calling": An ex-NFL player ruthlessly hunting CIA-created Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in a misguided, myopic attempt to avenge 9/11.
•"Pat Tillman personified all the best values of his country and the NFL," declared commissioner Paul Tagliabue.