Where Men Win Glory, by Jon Krakauer
I’m not a fan of football, machismo, or Jon Krakauer. I find his writing a little heavy-handed, and that’s much the same way I view both football and machismo.
So what made me pick up Krakauer’s latest, an almost-biography of the late Pat Tillman? Simple. The up-and-coming football star, who walked away from a multi-million-dollar contract to join the U.S. Army and fight in a war he publicly denounced as illegal, is a tragic hero, and everyone loves a tragic hero. Tillman is so tragic, so much larger than life, that he could have told this story himself. I’m dying for a crack at Tillman’s private journals, which, it seems, hold all the juicy stuff, even from the small glimpses we get at them between Krakauer’s recounting of the U.S.’ hand in the workings of Afghanistan and loosely connected war maneuvers.
Regrettably, this book, almost by necessity, is not just a biography of Tillman, but also an exploration of the United States’ long involvement with the Middle East, and the works of the spin doctors who crafted the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Here’s the reality: I don’t like war books. I still don’t like football. I most definitely still am not a Jon Krakauer fan, if only for the reason that his work–all of the research, all of his opinions about the war and the reasons we’re there–get in the way of my getting to know Pat Tillman, who, if it must be said, seems to be a much more interesting person than I am. He’s most definitely a better writer than I am, and this fact alone, while it chaps my hide a little bit (the guy’s good looking, an amazing athlete, *and* he can write?), makes me want to get to know him, his familiars, and his circumstances.
His death at the hands of his own Ranger regiment, and its ensuing cover-up by the U.S. Army, necessitates some of Krakauer’s exploration of the war on Iraq, but I’m not sure that Krakauer needs to be as lengthy as he is in this book. Krakauer goes as far as to call Jessica Dawn Lynch’s rescue the beginning of the chain of events that sets Tillman’s death in motion, but this reads like a conspiracy theorist’s claim. Isn’t it enough to say that the handling of the Lynch episode sets the tone for the way the Army obscures the cause of Tillman’s death?
Don’t get me wrong–Tillman’s not always the most likable person, and I’m absolutely grateful to Krakauer for bringing Tillman’s persona to my desk. Someone needed to tell the story of Tillman’s family’s battle to reveal the real cause of Pat’s death, and it needed to be someone who wasn’t a part of their family. But I’m not sure what Krakauer’s aim was in writing this book. Was it to pay tribute to Pat Tillman, an avid reader, writer, a really thoughtful person who broke the rules of stereotype when it came to life?
Or was it to punish the U.S. Army for covering up a case of friendly fire?
I don’t want to belittle the issue. But this book bites off more than it can chew, and it left me feeling cold, confused, and swimming in dissatisfaction. However, it’s worth a read, if only just to meet Pat Tillman, and read some of his musings of life, philosophy, and the makings of everyday life.