"God damn sportswriters" is a common expression often heard from the news desks of metropolitan newspapers.
I thought of that today reading Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Dwyer's mea culpa account of Pat Tillman who was killed in Afghanistan six years and two days ago. Dwyer admitted he was among the hordes of sportswriters and even hard journalists who portrayed Tillman as a sports and patriotic hero shot in the line of duty defending his nation.
My rap on Dwyer is he didn't fully review the documentary film -- "The Tillman Story" -- and only alluded to the fact distribution of the film has been difficult. Most of his column was spent apologizing for asking only softball questions to Tillman's surviving family and wallowing in Tillman's football playing days at Arizona State and the Arizona Cardinals.
To Dwyer's credit he said he was mortified halfway through the documentary the impact of what an imbecile he and his fellow hero worshippers were as Tillman's mother Mary (Dannie) on her own took on the government and the military to get the truth of what happened to her son.
Pat Tillman gave up a lucrative contract with the Cardinals to join the army and was killed by members of his own squad in what the military calls "friendly fire." While the military stonewalled, the publicity machine from the Bush administration brought the nation to tears using Tillman's death as a pawn to promote the war effort.
As the true story began to unravel, bits of truth emerged that Tillman was a complex person, not just a red, white and blue patriot portrayed on Fox News. The documentary shows a film clip of Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter saying that they'd heard a rumor that Tillman read Chomsky and wanted to vote for John Kerry. Both agreed they they couldn't "believe that."
Dwyer, seeking atonement, writes:
Dannie Tillman did what a nation full of high-paid, overblown journalists should have done. She went after the real story while the beautiful people on TV and the nerds with notepads broadcast and wrote morality plays. She got in the military's face, in the government's face. She didn't let up. She was doing journalism while journalists were doing what we mostly do now — chase Web hits and take short cuts to higher profits.
A housewife got the real story, or as much of it as anybody probably will. Professionals trained to do so gathered moss and wrote slop.
Among the slop Dwyer admits writing:
I loved the stories about him riding his bike to training camp and, when he drove, parking his junky old car next to the Beemers and Mercedes in the team lot.
The documentary film was introduced at the Sundance Film Festival in January this year by director Amir Bar-Lev. Michael Moore, a documentary artist in his own right, described the film as "one of the most important movies you'll ever see about the U.S. military."
CAA and Submarine Entertainment, which is marketing it hoped the Tillman name recognition will help play to a right-wing audience. The flaw is while the film does put the spotlight on a neocon and Bible-belt hero, it mainly serves to tear down assumptions about him.
Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer