Losing the Sports Illustrated Voter

Tompaine.com was one of the early truth-squad, good-government sites, a trailblazer, which may be why it seems a little dowdy already. But they keep delivering.

Today it's A Cronkite Moment? in which Jonathan Tasini suggests that SI might be a bellweather today a bit like Walter Cronkite was 46 years ago.

In the May 3 issue of SI, Reilly, in his regular back-page column “The Life of Reilly,” wrote a piece under the headline “The Hero and the Unknown Soldier.” The hero in Reilly's column was Pat Tillman, the former star football player who was killed in Afghanistan. After 9/11, Tillman had given up a multimillion-dollar contract to volunteer for the Army Rangers. He was lionized throughout the country for his sacrifice.

The Unknown Soldier was Todd Bates. Bates drowned in Iraq. His death went virtually unnoticed except to his family and friends. The man who raised Bates, Charles Jones, refused to go to the funeral, refused to eat or relate to others; he died just four weeks after the funeral. “He died of a broken heart,” Bates' grandmother, Shirley, who also raised him, told Reilly. “There was no reason for my boy to die. There is no reason for this war. All we have now is a Vietnam. My Toddie's life was wasted over there. All this war is a waste. Look at all these boys going home in coffins. What's the good in it?” Reilly, in barely controlled rage, concludes his piece about Tillman and Bates:

“Both did their duty for their country, but I wonder if their country did its duty for them. Tillman died in Afghanistan, a war with no end in sight and not enough troops to finish the job. Bates died in Iraq, a war that began with no just cause and continues with no just reason.

Be proud that sports produce men like this.

But I, for one, am furious that these wars keep taking them.”

Reilly, in his eloquence, was expressing opinions already delivered in places like The Nation and op-ed pages around the country. But that's the point. With all due respect, The Nation,—of which I am a subscriber and supporter—and its ilk will not change the course of history because they speak to the already converted.

What's important here is that Reilly's audience is not the typical Nation reader.

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