This is one of those days to respect and reflect upon all sports and the real-life stories that surround them. While we’re at it, it might not be a bad idea to be thankful for the relative tranquility we enjoy in golf’s small but not insignificant place in the sporting continuum.
Pat Tillman was an NFL star who left pro football to join, and then lead Army Rangers in Afghanistan. Ten years ago he was accidentally shot to death there while in combat, a victim of friendly fire at the age of 27.
Last week ESPN reported that the soldier who may have killed him and the soldier who was standing next to Tillman when the bullet arrived are both divorcees and recovering alcoholics. The shooter still can’t find words to adequately express his remorse. The guy who was next to Tillman when he went down refuses to acknowledge that the shooter even exists much less consider forgiveness.
Last Friday on Mount Everest there was an avalanche. At least 13 Sherpas perished in the deadly rumble. Now comes word that the Sherpas, local guides hired to aid climbers in their ascent, are considering going on strike.
According to reports the Sherpas make $3,000 to $5,000 a season which lasts two to three months. The New York Times reports the government of Nepal has offered approximately $410 to the families of the victims as compensation.
“For me it is better not to climb from this time onwards,” Kaji Sherpas, one of the survivors, told The Times. “The Sherpas have suffered a lot.”
Today thousands of athletes braved the memories of a year ago and ran from Hopkinton, Mass., to downtown Boston. Many did so in direct defiance of the misguided purpose of the atrocity perpetrated by terrorist bombers near the finish line last April.
A common theme here is not just sports but the scarring that occurs on and off the playing fields to those – famous and not so well-known – who participate.
And it is facile to try and draw meaningful analogies between Tillman, Sherpas, marathoners … and golf.
Let’s just leave it at this: The next time you miss a 3-foot putt; the next time you agonize about the bad bounce suffered by your favorite player that cost him or her a victory, or worse, a major championship, consider the simple good fortune of anybody lucky enough to be playing any game at all.
Golf is not without its own who have faced adversity. The cancer battles of Paul Azinger and Jarrod Lyle instantly spring to mind. There are few among us who haven’t lost a friend or family member, somewhere along the line, who died wishing he or she had been able to get in one more round.
Pat Tillman wasn’t drafted into the United States Army. He turned down a lot of NFL money and put himself in harm’s way because he believed that was what he needed to do.
“The impact of his decisions and the way he lived his life and just … who he was, affected many, many people,” said Marie Tillman, his widow. “(But) I can still have my relationship with him and my feelings about the impact that his life had on me and sort of bring all those things together.”
Today is one of those days, in all corners inside and outside the world of sports, to respect and reflect upon the difficulties and the often unexplainably unfair defeats that accompany all the celebrated triumphs.