>>> Primal Urges
By staff writer Nathan DeGraaf
May 3, 2006

Nathan: We forgot to drink to Pat Tillman. He died four years ago last week.

Tony: We’ll get him next year.
Yeah, he’s probably not in a rush.
He’s dead. He’s got nothing but time.

When I first heard of Pat Tillman, it was 2001 and he had just turned down an opportunity to play for the Super Bowl Champion Rams despite the fact that the Rams were offering him more than twice the amount he was making with his current team. Keep in mind, his current team was the Arizona Cardinals, a team that never wins, never spends money to win, and does just about everything within (owner) Bill Bidwell’s power to remain the worst team in football history. And Tillman took less money to stay with this team.

What an idiot, I thought, when I heard him say something to the effect of: loyalty is much more important than money.

“Loyalty to what? Bill freaking Bidwell?” I yelled at the television in The Local Pub. “You’re an idiot, Tillman.”

A few months later, some rather large buildings fell. You may have heard about it. A nation lost a few thousand citizens. A president declared war.

“I wouldn’t have even given up my old $11 an hour writing job to join the military and fight in a directionless war.”

And Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals linebacker, gave up his already bargain-priced career and quietly joined the military. Tillman never let anyone interview him about his decision. Nevertheless, it was front page news and the lead story on SportsCenter just a few days after September 11th.

What an idiot, I thought, when I heard all the compliments thrown in Tillman’s direction by the newly patriotic news media. One of his teammates, in an interview, said of Tillman, something to the effect of, “He’s one of the greatest guys in the world. No ego. No need for wealth. Just a great all around guy. We should all be like that.”

Yeah, we should all be total morons and give up multimillion dollar careers to bust our humps and risk our lives for minimum wage, I thought.

About two beers and one heartfelt national anthem later, I realized something: we all should be like that. We’re not. At least, I’m not. I wouldn’t have even given up my old $11 an hour writing job to join the military and fight in a directionless war. But I’m not Pat Tillman.

And it bothers me.

I mean think about it. The guy died fighting for my freedom and he could have been playing a kid’s game on my TV. All the soldiers are worth honoring, it’s true. But Tillman was the only professional athlete of his generation who gave up his multimillion dollar career to fight and consequently die in the US Military. It doesn’t mean that he was a better person than me; it just makes him unselfish, strong, admirable and…oh hell, it makes him a better person than me.

And it should make me take stock in what it means to love one’s country, and what it means to be a man, and what it means to have a sense of loyalty and duty.

Instead though, when I opened the paper and discovered he was dead, the first thing I thought was, “friggin’ moron.”

And it bothers me.

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