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Pat Tillman, 1976-2004



To: The National Football League
To: The National Football League

We, the undersigned, hereby petition commissioner Paul Tagliabue to retire jersey #40 throughout the National Football League in honor of the late Pat Tillman.

Although he only played four seasons in the NFL, Pat Tillman thrilled fans with his tenacity, skill and commitment to excellence on the football field. More importantly, he inspired us all with his integrity, courage and commitment to his country away from the gridiron.

We began calling Pat a hero the day he announced his decision to take a leave of absence from a lucrative football career in order to become an Army Ranger alongside his brother Kevin. On April 23, 2004, we received word that Pat had been killed in a firefight in Afghanistan with terrorist forces that (among other atrocities) supported the attacks on America on 9/11/01. On April 23, 2004, Pat Tillman the Hero made the Ultimate Sacrifice for his fellow citizens.

While there is no way we can compensate Pat Tillman and his family for his selfless service, we do respectfully request that the National Football League honor his legacy and those of all the anonymous men and women who served with him. We ask that the NFL do this in the form of a lasting tribute, not a single-season commemorative patch, but rather by retiring his number throughout the league in perpetuity.


The Undersigned
As a retired military man myself, I really admire what Tillman did, but retiring his jersey number throughtout the leaugue is overkill in my mind. Maybe if Arizona retired it, fine, but not the whole league.
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osugrad21 said:
After reading/hearing everything about Tillman...I'm not sure that is what he would want.

Precisely. Nice sentiment, to be sure. And the Cards/ASU retiring #40 wouldn't be inappropriate. Nevertheless, the things I respected most about Tillman were his modesty and his resistance to making a spectacle of himself. It's understandable to grieve his loss, but all these propositions about retiring his number, erecting statues, etc. is exactly the kind of notoriety he wasn't out to get by leaving the NFL, by becoming an Army Ranger, or by risking (and consequently sacrificing) his life. Frankly, a more fitting tribute to Pat would be to enlist. I certainly don't have the minerals to do a thing like that, but I'm not going to make up for my lack of courage by campaigning to put him in the Hall of Fame.
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I appreciate the sentiment, but I agree with 21 on this one. This is a man who essentially refused to talk about his decision publically because it was not news - just somebody doing what he felt he needed to do.

Further, his sacrifice is the same sacrifice hundreds of others are making in this war. Retiring of a jersey that in some sense says he is 'special' among that group sends a message that is difficult to interpret.

That said, Tillman's death will likely make him 'special' in spite of himself. I just heard a stat that during WW II 93% of professional baseball players served in that war. That war hit everyone - and hit them hard. Ultimately, through over 50,000 deaths, Viet Nam hit everyone as well.

Most of us know someone who is serving in Iraq. Maybe a relative (I have a nephew), maybe a friend. But chances are they are serving in a capacity that we don't normally think of as being 'at risk' (my nephew is in finance). They are certainly in a hot and nasty place, but for most isn't it really more of an inconvencience than anything else?

We know people have died - and we all know what that means, but only in the abstract. People die all the time. (More people have died on the highways in the US than have died in combat in Iraq during the same period.)

Then along comes Pat Tillman and in our sports obsessed culture lays it out right in front of us. Here is my sacrifice. Try to ignore this - this same sacrifice that every one of my dead comrades have made.

I don't know how we honor that.
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how do rangers honor a fallen hero??? i am ignorant as to this...but i suggest the nfl makes an attempt to honor that tradition as closely as possible.....

if its a stripe across an arm...or a patch on the hat....or something across the chest....

if its appropriate....like the above...i say the nfl makes their statement....
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What Tillman did was probably bigger than anything I'll ever do in my life, but I'm not sure that the number retirement thing is quite appropriate, for the reasons stated above.

Also, I think it's appropriate that in the wake of Tillman's sacrifice, we also take a moment to reflect on Bob Kalsu, who I guess you could say was the Tillman of the Vietnam era.


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The Uncelebrity: Pat Tillman

I found this article from a British newspaper- where American soldiers don't get the best press

on the day of his memorial service I thought it might be something you guys would enjoy reading- I did!!

R.I.P Pat

The European newspapers and Arab television images of the average American soldier this week are full of atrocity. The appalling, sickening and immoral pictures of some American military miscreants in the Abu Ghraib prison deserve to be broadcast and the prime minister and president are right to condemn them and be disgusted by them. Those who always opposed removing Saddam Hussein from power - a man who perpetrated real atrocities and mass murder on a scale unimaginable to those of us in the comfort of the West - will seize on these images to further their belief in the evil of the United States. But these images are emphatically not the fundamental truth of the American military; and they are not the fundamental truth of the United States.

To give you a glimpse of a different reality, consider the case of a young man the Guardian would never dream of running above the fold on its front page, except out of schadenfreude. The details of his death in combat are like many such deaths. He was killed nine days ago serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in the wastes of Afghanistan in a fire-fight with al Qaeda remnants. He was painfully young - 27 years old - and strikingly handsome. In American popular culture, he was a star. He'd gone to a public university, Arizona State, and graduated with high honors with a degree in marketing. He then went on to become a professional American football player - not the best, not the biggest, but certainly one of the more spirited players of the game. His team was the Arizona Cardinals. When he was offered a much more lucrative offer with the St Louis Rams, he turned them down out of loyalty to the team that had drafted him, the team from the city he called home.

And then like the rest of us, he woke up one morning to discover that a handful of religious fanatics were in the process of murdering thousands of innocents in the middle of New York City. But unlike many of the rest of us, he decided that his country was at war and that he had a duty to fight in it. He had just been offered a $3.6 million deal to play for the Cardinals. He turned it down for a salary of $18,000 to train as a fighter in a war that is still just beginning.

When I first heard about Tillman a couple of years ago, a few things struck me about him. The first was not just his obvious sincerity, but the fact that he refused any media interviews whatever. Search Google for a single one. They don't exist. Here was a story too rich and heroic to be ignored by a post-9/11 media, eager for personal stories to exemplify the changes and decisions and tragedies beginning to unfold. And some stories were indeed written. On my website, I made Tillman my personal man of the year for doing what he did. But at no point did Tillman answer a phone call, go to a television studio, return calls to book agents or even go on the radio to discuss his decision to abort a very lucrative career for a dangerous war. His point was a simple one. This wasn't about him. He was one among many other volunteers - young men and women from all over the United States and Britain and other countries who volunteered to fight in a new kind of campaign, where the rules of traditional warfare had been suspended. He wasn't special, his silence said. He wasn't different. He was just doing his duty, as he saw it. Quietly. Simply. But without hesitation.

When you look around our culture today and you see what celebrity does to human beings, how it destroys their souls, rapes their privacy, separates their own sense of who they are from the quiet reality of their own souls, it is sometimes astonishing simply to watch someone walk away from it. The Un-Beckham, if you will. And then when you look and you see how wealthy and famous and fabulous so many become because of things they should actually be ashamed of - the newspaper plagiarists, the forbidden girlfriends and boyfriends of married media stars, the disgraced politicians, the corrupted reporters, the criminals and murderers whose fifteen minutes stretch into a cable television eternity - then again it is astonishing to watch someone at the center of a such a culture and be so utterly unaffected by it. "He just viewed life through a different prism than a lot of other people do," a Sports Illustrated reporter said of him. That prism, in retrospect, was integrity.

You can read each day in every paper and see festooned across such outlets as the BBC the numerous failings of the coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hideous images from Abu Ghraib will only serve to reinforce the impression. A New England college website posted the views of one such anti-war campaigner. "Tillman, probably acting out his nationalist-patriotic fantasies forged in years of exposure to Clint Eastwood and Rambo movies, decided to insert himself into a conflict he didn't need to insert himself into," the writer opined. "It wasn't like he was defending the East coast from an invasion of a foreign power. THAT would have been heroic and laudable. What he did was make himself useful to a foreign invading army, and he paid for it. It's hard to say I have any sympathy for his death because I don't feel like his 'service' was necessary. He wasn't defending me, nor was he defending the Afghani people. He was acting out his macho, patriotic crap and I guess someone with a bigger gun did him in."

Every sentence in that paragraph is a lie or the extension of a lie. Pat Tillman died precisely because he was defending the East coast of the United States from a foreign invasion, an invasion launched on September 11, 2001. He was and is part of an army that has liberated one country in the grip of a theo-fascist thugocracy in Afghanistan and a fathomlessly brutal one in Iraq. He did so because the West was attacked, and because the fear of another attack with weapons of mass destruction made a response justified and vital. Unlike the pseudo-heroes of "Rambo," Tillman deflected attention away from himself, he eschewed heroics and fame. In short, he did what every soldier has to do: he faced terror and fear and violence with a calm and self-effacement and dignity that few of us manage at an average day at the office.

Yes, we should deal with Abu Ghraib. Those responsible should be hounded out of military service and prosecuted under military justice. But those images must also be placed next to those of the murderers of Danny Pearl, whose crime was being a Jew and whose throat was slit open in a video still not shown. Or the video of a murdered Italian hostage who fought back on videotape against his captors, tried to remove his hood, and told them that this was "the Italian way to die." No images of him yet shown. and next to them all, Pat Tillman, who is now an ineradicable assault upon the cliches that some wish to bestow on America and the West as a whole.

The indictment of the West is that it is shamelessly materialist, soulless, obsessed with celebrity, entranced by superficiality, addicted to the spin of appearances, the cult of contemporaneity. Much of this is, of course, true. But it is only part of the truth. It is also true that another America and another West exists. An America that is now risking the lives of its youngest and brightest to protect others; an America that is spending billions to reconstruct a devastated country and is happy to do so through a barrage of hatred and resentment; an America where, beneath the glittering surface, real virtues - of sacrifice and honor and duty - actually do endure. "There is in Pat Tillman's example," senator John McCain said last week, "in his unexpected choice of duty to his country over the riches and other comforts of celebrity, and in his humility, such an inspiration to all of us to reclaim the essential public-spiritedness of Americans that many of us, in low moments, had worried was no longer our common distinguishing trait."

Well it is still a distinguishing trait. And when it emerges in the least obvious of places - in the celebrity glamor of pro football - it's worth taking a moment to place it alongside the images from Abu Ghraib. Without it, the world would be a far darker place. Without it, the freedom to criticize a war would be impossible. Pat Tillman is no nobler than any of the other hundreds of dead and thousands of wounded who are the victims - along with so many of the Afghan and Iraqi people - of the horror of war. But he saw two critical things: that we are at war and that each of us has a responsibility, in different ways, to fight back. Except he also added one more thing. He wouldn't want this or any column to be written about someone like him. Which is why, every now and again, it must be.
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I'm flabbergasted and humbled. What an outstanding piece of writing and insight. It's embarrassing to me that an English writer is so much more in touch with American ideals and concepts of courage, honor and duty than some baffoon from our own shores. Truly outstanding.

Buckskins86, is there a link to the article or any way to contact the author? Thank you very much for sharing.
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Buckskins86, is there a link to the article or any way to contact the author? Thank you very much for sharing.

It was written by Andrew Sullivan- you can e-mail him at [email protected]- I think he used to write for the New Republic but now has his own website where he does a daily blog.

It originally appeared in the Sunday Times of London May 2nd.

It is reprinted on Sullivan's website

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