Dave Zirin

Pat Tillman Was A Man, Not Just A Symbol

As you probably know by now, yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the death of Pat Tillman. The media has been replete with stories, remembrances, tributes and the like from the sad tale of a fellow Army Ranger who lives with the fear it was he who shot Pat, to calls for Pat to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to Dave Zirin’s renewed questions on the events surrounding Pat’s death and many others.

To be honest, I have mixed emotions about it all. It is fantastic Pat Tillman is so fondly and deeply remembered, but at the same time, it stirs negative emotions from how much Pat became a symbol, first for the pro war crowd, and then the anti-war crowd upon his death. The Pat Tillman I knew would have been more than uncomfortable with both and, similarly, uncomfortable with much of the hagiography over the last couple of days.

For these reasons, I vacillated with whether to join in the fray; part of me just felt uneasy with it all despite my respect for Pat. In fact, it is my deep respect for Pat that gave me pause. But there is another side of Pat Tillman that really needs more emphasis.

The article I most suggest is a long and beautiful piece in The Arizona Republic centered on Marie Tillman, Pat’s long time love and, now, widow. Marie talks a lot about Pat the man, their growing up together in California, move to Arizona, and how she has come to both accept, and at the same time move on in peace from, Pat’s death. It is really beautiful, please read it.

As Marie Tillman wants to focus on who Pat Tillman the person was, so too do I. Back on the day the Phoenix Cardinals played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, on February 1, 2009, we did a post here at Emptywheel entitled “Pat Tillman’s Super Bowl”. The first part was by Marcy and was a great discussion of the problems and questions with the government’s conduct after Pat’s death, and I suggest you read that.

The second part of “Pat Tillman’s Super Bowl” was written by me and was exactly what I am trying to convey today: Pat was a man, not just a symbol. He stood for so much that is good as a human, and that seems to get lost in all the rah rah symbolism and martyrdom. I cannot say it better than I did then, so I am going to reprint that portion here in this post:

Earlier this morning, Marcy posted this serious and wonderful piece on Pat Tillman, and the Super Bowl he is missing. Unfortunately, it has turned somewhat, and predictably, into a knock down drag out on conspiracy theories and acts, I would like to return for a moment to the subject of her post, namely who Pat was, and what he did, which is why the answers his family seeks are so important in the first place.

First off, Pat gave up a large contract with the Cardinals to join the Army after 9/11. That is well known and part of the lore. What you should also know is that the contract offer could have been much bigger than that, but Pat was willing to take less money than he was worth on the open market to stay with the Cardinals because he believed in their redemption and he loved the community of Tempe and Phoenix. He had grown roots here from his four years at Arizona State and was determined to see the Cardinals through the transformation into a winning team. The contract he walked away from with the Cardinals was for about 3.6 million; he had turned down previously a 9 million dollar multi-year contract with the St. Louis Rams, right in the middle of their Super Bowl years, in order to stay with and build the Cardinals in what he considered to be his home at the time. That is the kind of man that Pat was.

Pat didn’t give a damn about money and the trappings of celebrity. Years after already being a high paid and wealthy NFL star, you would still find Pat traversing the streets of Tempe on his bicycle, looking like a hippy with his long hair and book bag. This was literally how he would go to work every day at the Cardinals training center in South Tempe. Pat was an avid reader. Of everything. He loved politics and world events, and there was nothing he loved more than spirited discussion of the same, whether it was current events, WW II, or ancient European battles. And he could discuss all intelligently, deeply and passionately. Pat knew business and marketing as well, that was his major at ASU and he was brilliant at how he understood, and could see through, the forces at work in our economy.

Pat was an iconoclast. He was his own man and would back down from nothing, and no one, if he thought he was right. This is what made him an odd fit for the military. He had every ounce of the heroism, valor, trust and honesty that the military has always purported to stand for, and then some. But he was not a yes man and was trained, from my estimation since birth, to question authority, especially if it was malignant and wrong. I believe this may have caused a rougher ride for him in the military than most would have expected, or would suspect even now, from the outside, and almost certainly played a huge role in how his death was handled, irrespective of how his death occurred. LabDancer spoke the word in comments:

Pat’s death was caused by our side; our side covered that up, employing things our side knew were untrue; our side used that same cover to distort, turn and pervert the story of his death into a symbol aimed at promoting a falsehood: that Pat died pursuing a myth our side knew for a fact he’d personally determined beforehand to be a lie – meaning that, in end, our side rendered an obscenity from Pat’s death. That’s more than enough to earn him the status emptywheel submits as his due.

That is right on the money. It is also what motivated me to write this, the use of Pat is, at this point, not just by the Bush Administration for their glory, but by the contra for theirs as well. From being a player who loved football as a game, Pat has become the football in the game. That is wrong, very very wrong.

As you may surmise here, or as some may recall from discussions at The Next Hurrah long ago, I had the privilege of knowing Pat Tillman a little. I did not know him well, but well enough to get the measure of the man he was. I used to live a little less than a mile from the Cardinals headquarters and practice facility in South Tempe. On days when I worked at home, I used to ride my bicycle to a little deli, Capistrano’s, between my house and the Card’s facility. It was there that I met Pat, who also stopped in on his bicycle, and had a few long lunch conversations with him. He was everything he has been made out to be and more. He was twenty years younger than I, but you would never know it. He was such a deep and diverse thinker that he was almost the antithesis to the world as we currently know it.

The nation, and the world, lost a lot with Pat Tillman’s death. When we talk about the type of people we need to foster and grow to lead into the future, he was a prime example. That, to me, is why his loss stings, and lingers, so deeply. Pat’s family, the nation, and the world deserve the answers to what happened, it is, and remains, important.

But, above and beyond all else, what people should be taking away is not the dickering over the mechanism and coverup of his death, although that is important; but more importantly, the facts and honor of his life, beliefs and hopes. Honor and fight what he stood for, and what he wanted the country to stand for, that is what he would want.

Pat Tillman was quite a guy. He learned, and lived, a lot in his all too short stay on this earth. He was so much more than the football and war hero, and symbol, that has comprised most of the remembrances on this tenth anniversary of his death.

Pat Tillman had a love for life, for his wife Marie, for literature, and for all knowledge he could possibly absorb, and he could absorb a lot. He was a critical thinker. And he was a great guy. Let him be remembered, and honored as a role model, for that too. RIP.

Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Trash Talk 2014

Now that the super exciting Pro Bowl is over (shoot that thing and put us all out of its worthless misery), we are down to just one last football game. But it is a good one, with the top ranked team in each conference representing, and the best offense versus the best defense. And all that jazz.

And, really, what else is there to say about the game at this point? It has been the fascination of sports, general and entertainment media for two weeks of hype now. I could take you through the normal rundown on the teams, but why? My one real take is that the game boils down not to Denver’s offense or Seattle’s defense, but rather to Denver’s defense. Peyton and the Broncos will score some points no matter how well they are defended. The same cannot necessarily be said about the Seahawks. So, if the Broncos defense plays big, Denver wins. If not, they don’t.

Can’t wait to find out; will be one hell of an exciting game to watch. If you can’t wait and want a simulation, this Breaking Madden piece is pretty great.

So, let’s talk for a bit about the game itself in terms of what it means and does for the host city. Does hosting a Super Bowl mean as much to a city as is commonly claimed?

Here is a report on the effects of 2008 Super Bowl XLII on the greater Phoenix area by the Arizona State University WP Carey School of Business. The results claim:

Super Bowl festivities generated a record $500.6 million in direct and indirect spending by visiting fans and organizations, according to the newly released Super Bowl impact study produced by the W. P. Carey MBA Sports Business program.

The gross impact of a half billion dollars in the Arizona marketplace brings rejuvenation to an economy that has been weakened by a recession.

The ripple effect of return visits, family and company relocations, and word-of-mouth marketing nationally could equal or exceed the record Super Bowl spending in years to come.

That is in line with many of the claims that are commonly pitched for Super Bowls, but is that right?

Well, maybe not. There are a lot of demands on a host city, and they really add up. One of the best journalists out there writing on the intersection of sports and society is Travis Waldron, and he reported this on the eve of last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans:

Those estimates, though, are likely fool’s gold, according to an assortment of academic research into the actual economic impact of Super Bowls and other major sporting events. When professors Victor Matheson and Robert Baade studied the economic impact of Super Bowls from 1973 to 1997, they found that the games boosted city economies by about $30 million, “roughly one-tenth the figures touted by the NFL” and an even smaller fraction of what New Orleans officials predict. A later Baade and Matheson study found that the economic impact of a Super Bowl is “on average one-quarter or less the magnitude of the most recent NFL estimates.”

Similarly, a 1999 paper from professor Philip Porter found that the Super Bowl had virtually no effect on a city’s economy. Research on other events New Orleans has hosted, including the men’s Final Four, is similar. When Baade and Matheson studied Final Fours, they found that the events tend “not to translate into any measurable benefits to the host cities.”

There are multiple reasons the estimates are often overstated. Impact estimates usually take into account how much money will be spent in the city during an event like the Super Bowl without examining how much potential spending will be lost because people don’t visit or leave the city to avoid the crowd — that is, the impact studies account for gross spending, but not net spending. And the estimates rarely include the additional cost of putting on the event, further distorting the disparity between gross and net spending figures.

Frankly, I find the Williams College study undergirding Travis’ argument far more persuasive than the happy face one put out here by ASU that is cited above. Still, even if the net impact is “only” 150-200 million dollars, that is a good thing for a city’s economy. And I don’t know what people going to the Super Bowl in cold weather place like New Jersey/New York are going to come away Continue reading

Championship Sunday NFL Trash Talk

While Divisional Playoff Weekend is the best weekend of football, Championship Sunday is the best day. Saddle up buckaroos, it is here! Before we get to the games, a word about Notre Dame and Manti Te’o. They are both lying through their teeth, and it is a sick comment on all that is wrong with big time college football, and hallowed universities’ efforts to maintain their “reputation” at all costs. Penn State has got nothing on Notre Dame. Dave Zirin says much of what else I would have to say for now, so I’ll just let you read him.

First up is the Niners at the Falcons. Current line is Atlanta +4. The Falcons showed some playoff moxie not previously seen last week by withstanding the charge of Russell Wilson and the Squawks and winning with a last minute field goal. That is the good news in Ho ‘Lanta. The bad news? Well, Russell Wilson and the Squawk beat the snot out of them in the second half. And that onsides kick with 8 seconds left has to one of the worst coaching calls in the history of football. So, some real questions about the Dirty Birds still linger. The 49ers, however, looked locked and loaded in shredding the Packers.

If there was a weak spot in their performance last weekend, I don’t remember it. The only question is if Colin Kaepernick can summons up another performance like that. If he can come even close, it is probably bad bongos for Atlanta, because they have a history of being killed by mobile and athletic QBs – see Newton, Cam and the torching the aforementioned Russell Wilson. Still I think the QBs and offenses balance out and the game will come down to defense. I trust San Francisco’s defense more than Atlanta’s, and that is my pick.

In the nightcap, the Ravens visit Brady, Bill Bel and the boys at the Big Razor. The line is currently Patriots -8. That is a lot, and many pundits are even saying they favor the Ravens, apparently due to the force of will of Ray Lewis and some misguided thought that Tom Brady is just an average playoff QB now and that Flacco is maybe actually superior. These people are smoking crack.

There is a track record for this game as the same two played in the same place for the AFC championship last year. And the Pats have never lost at Foxborough with a SuperBowl on the line. They are not going to start now.

So, my call is Niners and Pats for the big game in Nawlins. That said, I would be just fine with seeing Atlanta and the Ravens there as well. After all these years, Tony Gonzales, who may well be retiring after this season, just won his first playoff game. And you already know about Ray Lewis being on his last ride. It would be fine to see these two warhorses play it out. We shall see, should be exciting!

We are getting to the end of the line for football this year, better whoop it up while you can. Let er rip! Music is a killer couple of songs by a new group called HoneyHoney out of Massachusetts. Their first album, “First Rodeo” is really great stuff for a debut effort. Highly recommended.

Whitlock, Costas Bravely Point to Role of Guns in Perkins, Belcher Tragedy

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1ijkccD9_8[/youtube]

In a disgusting demonstration that for the NFL, money dictates that “The Show Must Go On”, the NFL never considered those who, like Dave Zirin, found it astounding that the NFL would encourage the Kansas City Chiefs to go ahead with their game barely 24 hours after Chiefs Coach Romeo Crennel and other Chiefs personnel witnessed Jovan Belcher kill himself with a handgun shortly after he had murdered his girlfriend, the mother of their three month old son daughter. Zirin tweeted throughout the day on the coverage provided by the various networks as they continued broadcasting games, mostly as if the event had never happened.

But then, just at the close of halftime in the nationally televised Sunday night game on NBC, Bob Costas took the microphone for the minute and a half you see in the YouTube above. Costas started by slamming the cliche that the playing of the game somehow began the “healing” process for those affected by the tragedy, giving voice to the sentiment Zirin had stated earlier. But then Costas moved on to confront an even bigger taboo in the national debate, as he quoted this powerful column by Jason Whitlock, who dared to point out the way that our national sickness relating to guns contributed to this tragedy. From Whitlock:

I would argue that your rationalizations speak to how numb we are in this society to gun violence and murder. We’ve come to accept our insanity. We’d prefer to avoid seriously reflecting upon the absurdity of the prevailing notion that the second amendment somehow enhances our liberty rather than threatens it.

How many young people have to die senselessly? How many lives have to be ruined before we realize the right to bear arms doesn’t protect us from a government equipped with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons?

Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

Whitlock deftly destroys so many of the false narratives that our society has forced upon it regarding guns. As he states, this tragedy demonstrates that the second amendment actually threatens our liberty rather than protecting it. He goes on to state that although the second amendment is regarded by many as the last refuge by citizens against a government turned tyrannical, mere guns won’t protect against a determined government armed with “stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons”. Whitlock cleanly demonstrates that the pervasive nature of guns in our sickened society is what enables so many senseless deaths, pointing out that both Perkins and Belcher likely would still be alive if a gun had not been available during Belcher’s moment of extreme rage. Whitlock also alluded to the tragic murder of Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida recently in a case that appears to possibly be headed once again into an inovcation of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that many see as a license for murder.

Whitlock went directly in the face of the cliche, often pointed out by David Waldman on Twitter, that the immediate aftermath of a tragedy of this magnitude is “too soon” to enter into a discussion on the perils of society’s glorification of guns. Others would say that public discussion of guns on a rational basis is no longer possible because of the overwhelming power of the NRA.

The fact is, it is never “too soon” to discuss the role of guns in tragedies because the tragedies come at us so quickly that we would otherwise always be in the quiet period after one gun tragedy or another. But even more importantly, the myth of the power of the NRA has been completely destroyed. In the 2012 elections, Media Matters informs us that the NRA spent just under $12 million but only 0.42 percent of those funds supported winning candidates and only 0.39 percent opposed losing candidates.

Just as the latest round of elections and the current Kabuki over the “fiscal cliff” is poking a hole in Grover Norquist’s power over preventing tax increases, our society may actually be moving toward a more rational discussion on the sickness inherent in our gun culture. I don’t harbor any illusions that progress will be fast or that substantive improvements are even still possible, but if changes do finally take place, we may be able to point to the courage shown by Bob Costas last night as the turning point when we finally started a long overdue discussion.

NFL Hard Knocks, Head Injuries and The Monza Rebuttal

Here we are at the real, official, start of the football season in earnest. Yes there were a full slate of college games last weekend, but only a couple of decent ones. and, yes, the NFL officially kicked off wednesday with the Cowboys somewhat surprisingly laying one on the Gents – at the Meadowlands no less. Credit to Tony Romo, Rob Ryan’s defense and the ‘Boys, they fairly earned the win. But now the conventions are over and we start it all in full in the football universe. Also, this weekend is Monza on the Formula One calendar and, as always, it looks to be special. I will return to F1 a little later.

Despite the excitement of the return of football, it is time some dues should be paid to the trauma suffered by the working union members of the NFL who provide the spectacle and entertainment for us manning couches and barstools on Sundays. I wrote about this nearly two years ago in describing the “The Walking Wounded The NFL Treats Like Disposable Trash”. So much has happened since then with focus on repetitive brain injuries and high profile suicides like Dave Duerson and Junior Seau bringing the stark reality of the problem home in a powerful way.

But the Ferengi like single minded profit whores of the NFL have paid mostly lip service to the issue, save for a couple of competition rules that fall far short of a prophylactic redress of the problem. Marcy suggested a piece by Dave Zirin in The Nation to bring it all to a boil. She was right:

Beneath the fireworks, concerts and breathless hype that will mark the start of the 2012 NFL season, is a league that’s haunted. It’s haunted by future Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau who killed himself in May at the age of 43. It’s haunted by the recent suicides of Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson, and OJ Murdock. It’s haunted by the now widespread knowledge that the country’s most popular sport can leave you damaged in ways never before suspected. What a sign of the times that the start of the season wasn’t punctuated today with chest-thumping and military flyovers but with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s announcement that the league’s owners would be donating $30 million to the National Institute of Health to further study the affects of brain injuries.This recognition of the danger inherent in the sport has sparked a high profile debate across the political spectrum. The terms of the debate are simple: Given all we are learning about Continue reading

NCAA, Mark Emmert, Unitary Executives & The Death of Due Process

Once you step beyond the tragedy of Aurora, the big news today centers on Penn State and the aftermath of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and Louis Freeh. There is a lot of news, and implications to come, from today’s events.

First, and unsurprisingly, Penn State yesterday took down the fabled statue of JoePa. Abandoning larger than life symbols, whether human or otherwise, is never easy. And it is not just the specter of human faces in this regard either, witness the difficulty (irrespective of which side of the equation you reside on) of moving beyond “Redskins” and “Seminoles” as team mascots. But Paterno’s statue at PSU, by now, was more a testament and reminder of gross and wanton failure, not success. A defeating duality if there ever was one for a supposedly inspirational piece of art. The statue had to go the way of JoePa himself, and it now has.

The second part of the news, and discussion thereof, however, will have far greater repercussions. That, of course, is the actual penalties handed down to the Penn State football program. They have just been announced and are as follows:

1) A $60 Million fine to be applied to anti-child abuse charity and organizations

2) A four year ban on bowl appearances

3) A scholarship reduction of 10 initial scholarships year one and 20 overall scholarships per year for a period of four years.* Current athletes may transfer without penalty or limitation

4) Imposition of a five year probationary period

5) Mandatory adoption of all reforms recommended in the Freeh Report

6) Vacation of all football wins from the period of 1998 through 2011. A loss of 111 wins from the record book (109 of which were from Paterno)

These are extremely harsh penalties. In some terms, competitively anyway, the scholarships are the key element. A loss of twenty per year for for four years, when prospective players know they will never see a bowl game in their career, is crippling. It will be fascinating to see how PSU survives this blow.

USC provides the best analogy, as it is just finishing up its sanction of a two year bowl ban and loss of ten scholarships per year for three years. While the Trojans will be eligible for a bowl game again this year, they still have one more year of the scholarship reduction to get through. USC has remained competitive and, in fact, is considered to be a major contender for the championship this coming year. Penn State, however, has much longer terms, especially as to the Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @BeckyPallack Excellent job tweet covering it.
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bmaz RT @kasie: Hey, America -- if you're unhappy with Washington, maybe look to the Scots and try voting in huge numbers. #rights #ScotlandDeci
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bmaz @robertcaruso Congress will give him the authority, they are too chicken not to, just go ahead and do it right.
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bmaz @robertcaruso Tired of separation of powers being eroded
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bmaz @robertcaruso @nytimesworld And if that is Obama's tact, he should be impeached on the spot.
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bmaz @Will_Bunch Wow. I blew that off (yeah, Bai, you know) before seeing your tweet. Glad I read it. And you're right about the end. Jeez.
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bmaz RT @Will_Bunch: Don Spirit has killed 4X as many Americans as ISIS
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bmaz @JoshMBlackman @mucha_carlos Actually, my understanding is Virginia Seitz left OLC at least partially over the targeted killing of citizens.
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bmaz .@mls1776 @JoshMBlackman Actually Obama needs a nominee for head of OLC, maybe he should just go ahead an nominate John Yoo.
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bmaz @mucha_carlos @JoshMBlackman Well OLC said no to Obama's Libya war as Josh pointed out. The hospital deal kind of different thing, but yeah.
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bmaz RT @conor64: I keep hearing Americans are panicking over ISIS. D.C. is panicking. On the streets of America, no one is panicked. Ask around…
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bmaz RT @AntheaButler: but we go after ISIS because they are barbaric and we have people who shoot down their 6 grandchildren.....
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