It is with a great deal of respect for your university and athletic program that I write this letter.
As an alum, and now retired staff member, of Arizona State University (ASU) I enjoy not only the pride that we have in our academic institution but also respect that held by counterparts who claim the same for their own. That pride is to some extent personal but can be displayed in various manners to include one’s actions and apparel at sporting events.
During our football game on Saturday, I noted many Notre Dame fans who wore shirts with a statement showing pride in football heroes and legends from the past. I myself felt a sense of respect for the very nature of what such heroes represent to all of us. Indeed, Notre Dame has had many such heroes over a very long, storied football past. Although the shirts were clearly intended to herald those who made their mark in football, there are many others, I am sure. Books and even movies have been produced to tell the stories of some Notre Dame legends.
ASU, with a shorter academic history, and certainly a lesser sports history, has had some of its own heroes but, with few exceptions, the reverence to those we celebrate will probably not extend much past our own alumni and fan base. However, it is one exception, Pat Tillman, that brings me to write this letter.
By now, the story of his departure from a lucrative NFL career to join the United States Army, along with his brother (another ASU graduate), is well known. This year marks the 10th anniversary of his death by so-called “friendly fire” in Afghanistan. Over the past decade, ASU has done much to celebrate what he stood for.
Much of his lasting legacy was, and continues to be, far from Sun Devil Stadium and opposing football fields, but college football’s sphere was where his wonderful character first came to light in the public eye. His retired number, 42, is highlighted in the stadium along with other Sun Devil greats and many fans still wear a jersey with his number. The ASU Pat Tillman Foundation was established to honor him and other Service veterans, and through that organization, many former service women and men have been able to receive support in their academic pursuits.
Indeed, we do honor Pat Tillman during some of our games and yesterday was no exception, being that it was a Veterans Day weekend game. However, as we sat in the stands while Tillman and the Foundation were being honored, some of the Notre Dame fans were overheard making disparaging comments about him and ASU’s tendency to herald him. Members of my party refrained from allowing those unfortunate comments to catalyze a verbal confrontation. I would hope that all could understand that it is appropriate for ASU to showcase the memory of Tillman, a hero in his own right. We have our legends as well. In Pat Tillman’s case, he continued to earn our respect long after he graduated and left the ASU field for the NFL, and then beyond. Many continue to benefit from that legendary respect and we were sorry (even disturbed) that at least those fans who sat near us could think that while your heroes and legends could be heralded in a long-term manner, we cannot.
Jan Snyder, Ed.D.
alumnus and retired staff member
Arizona State University
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.