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Sunday, February 1, 2015

the NFL audience is replete with the military's prime recruitment demographic

The Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza is situated just a couple hundred yards away from the entrance of the University of Phoenix Stadium, the host of this year's Super Bowl. Built by the home franchise Arizona Cardinals, the memorial features a solemn concrete slab surrounding a life-size bronze statue of its namesake, forever frozen in a warrior's roar. Patrick Daniel Tillman instantly became an icon of self-sacrificial patriotic enthusiasm when he walked away from a multi-million dollar NFL contract to join the Army Rangers in the wake of 9/11. His legend was secured when he was killed in action in April 2004.
Tillman was a man possessed of exceptional bravery and a fiercely independent mind. But his story is also one of cynical image management conducted at the highest levels of the American military in order to foster public support for war. And it's precisely this kind of pernicious narrative building that animates much of the U.S. military's marketing, which, it just so happens, thoroughly saturates NFL games.
Tillman died from "friendly fire." His Ranger platoon was traveling through a valley in Southeast Afghanistan when, in response to a couple of rifle shots from local insurgents aimed at the back half of the convoy, Tillman, another ranger, and a local Afghan militia fighter set up position overlooking the mouth of the valley. One of the tail-end humvees emerged, mistook Tillman and the others for enemies, and opened fire. During several minutes of shooting, three bullets shattered his skull.