Review

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

by Jon Krakauer

It is safe to say that most American citizens have heard of Pat
Tillman. Whether you are a fan of professional football or
just someone who remembers hearing about the All-Pro athlete who
gave up everything for a patriotic calling, Tillman’s story
undoubtedly resonated with you on some level. Tillman did what
no current athlete in recent memory has done --- turned his back on
his lucrative career and walked away from his newlywed bride to
join the U.S. armed forces and defend his country abroad. It was
the events of 9/11 that spurred him to action. Regrettably,
his story did not end in true heroic fashion, as his death during
battle was twisted into a piece of military propaganda that would
inevitably mar his memory and pollute his selfless actions.

Jon Krakauer, best known for the recent Oscar-nominated
production of his bestselling novel, INTO THE WILD, has taken on
the arduous task of writing a portrait of Tillman that deals with
both the heroism and controversy involved in the decision he made
that still affects his family and country today. This book
follows the 2008 release BOOTS ON THE GROUND BY DUSK: My Tribute to
Pat Tillman, written by his mother, Mary. While that effort dealt
more with Tillman as a beloved son and extraordinary human being,
Krakauer’s work paints a more ominous portrait of what was
actually going on in the Iraqi and Afghani conflicts as well as
previously unreleased notes from Tillman’s personal journals.
Most readers will be shocked to learn that Tillman’s psyche
quickly devolves from the idealism of defending his country in
response to the heinous attacks of 9/11 to the realization that the
intentions of the war actually being fought did not necessarily
coincide with what his expectations were.

The book’s title is taken from a direct quote of
Homer’s THE ILIAD. Krakauer deftly blends
Tillman’s saga with allusions to Odysseus and his trials in
Homer’s ODYSSEY. The book begins with Tillman’s high
school football exploits, and Krakauer paints a portrait of a
determined and incredibly gifted young man who loves his family,
his girlfriend Marie, and football. Tillman goes to Arizona State
University on a football scholarship, and his skills as a
linebacker helps the team make a Rose Bowl appearance. At
5’11”, he is small for a linebacker, but his
determination and hustle helps him land a spot on the Arizona
Cardinals. Tillman, knowing that his size is a disadvantage,
switches from linebacker to strong safety, where he eventually
finds fame. After a few seasons as strong safety, he is picked by
Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated
as an All-Pro at his position.

But Tillman shows that he really is All-Pro at loyalty. When his
contract with the Cardinals expires, the St. Louis Rams offers $9.6
million to sign Tillman as a free agent, a decision his agent,
Frank Bauer, thinks is a no-brainer. Tillman, however, shocks
Bauer --- and the rest of the NFL --- by choosing to stay in
Arizona for $512,000 a year, roughly 5% of what the Rams are
offering. Bauer indicates that, in his 27 years of representing
athletes, he has never seen anyone turn down an offer like that. As
he says, “Pat Tillman was special. He was a man of
principle…a once-in-a-lifetime kid.” It is situations
such as these where Tillman’s true character emerges.

This same loyalty drives Tillman to join the army in order to
defend the country he loves so much, and the latter half of WHERE
MEN WIN GLORY focuses on these military exploits --- and his tragic
death. As readers will learn, the military clearly knows that the
death was a result of friendly fire --- and readers will surely be
as angered as I was at the senselessness of the mission that cost
Tillman his life. To make matters worse, the U.S. military has a
long history of creating propaganda to inspire support for their
war efforts, and Tillman’s death is given the same treatment.
As the truth leaks out amidst several years of tireless pursuit by
his wife as well as the rest of his family members, the cover-up
attempts prove to be cowardly actions that will forever sully his
memory.

Regardless of what your opinion is of Tillman’s decisions,
or of the current conflict in the Middle East, Jon Krakauer’s
book will place you right there with Tillman as he experiences the
events that have immortalized him. The term “hero”
is thrown around far too often these days, but after reading WHERE
MEN WIN GLORY, it is clear that Pat Tillman was one of the few
individuals in recent memory who is actually worthy of this
accolade.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 24, 2011

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
by Jon Krakauer

  • Publication Date: July 27, 2010
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 030738604X
  • ISBN-13: 9780307386045