His No. 40 replica jersey — the top seller on the team Web site — hangs off the shoulders of grandmothers and bikers and businessmen who form a human ring of honor in the stands. Tillman is idolized by people who never saw him play. Journalists here are sizing him for a Super Bowl ring.
While the NFL has no plans to honor Pat Tillman tomorrow in the city where he played college and pro ball before joining the Army Rangers and later being killed in action in Afghanistan, some people are now wondering whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame. (The NFL’s action or inaction in this matter of not planning anything for tomorrow's game is an egregious omission in our not-so-humble opinion).
Tillman and Bob Kalsu remain the only two players to have voluntarily left the NFL during their careers and serve in the armed forces. Like Tillman, Kalsu was killed in action in Vietnam.
Tillman’s story is fascinating: always a free-spirit and a free-thinker, he had serious misgivings about the war in Iraq but forsook millions of dollars and a safer life here in the U.S. with his wife to serve a country he loved even though there was a very good chance he would be sent into combat in Iraq… which he was upon completion of the Ranger Indoctrination program in late ’02.
Greg Easterbrook writing for ESPN’s page 2, has a curious take on whether or not Pat Tillman should be enshrined in Canton. Though he is very respectful of Tillman’s courage and ultimately, his sacrifice, we gage that Easterbrook does not think the Hall worthy of either Tillman or Kalsu.
But each of these men made a difficult choice that had nothing to do with football. It would be offensive if pro football, through the Hall of Fame, pretended its players and coaches, paid vast amounts of money for making no sacrifice of any kind, could claim the reflected glory of two departed war heroes.Easterbrook is off-base: It is not about “claiming”. It is about, however, “recognizing” and “honoring”. Easterbrook says it best himself: “…in an age that has devalued honor, they were men of honor.”
We don’t think it would be too much to ask of an entity whose existence revolves around fame, adulation and turning a profit, to carve out a couple of spots to honor two men who are forever members of the NFL family and forever brothers of every other player but which represented everything the NFL is not.
We’d like to hear what you think.
H/T: Special thanks to Mongo and Jonesy who alerted us to linked articles.