By Anthony Rhoads
"This is it," Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Garnett said Monday of getting prepared for tonight's game 7 against the Sacramento Kings. "It's for all the marbles. I'm sitting in the house loading up the pump, I'm loading up the Uzis, I've got a couple of M-16s, couple of mines, couple of joints with some silencers on them, couple of grenades, got a missile launcher. I'm ready for war."
Garnett, the 2003-04 NBA Most Valuable Player, was blasted by a lot of people for making the remarks. They felt that it was inappropriate for him to say things like that when there is a real war going on in Iraq. Other folks have come to his defense, saying that he was just trash talking and that people were just being overly sensitive to his comments.
Garnett has apologized for his remarks and that was the right thing to do.
Sports is an activity that a lot of people take very seriously but it is not war. Sports is not life and death. That might come as a surprise to some folks but sports really isn't life and death; it's ultimately a game. Someone who makes a living playing a game cannot be considered a warrior. You can admire their skills at whatever sport they play but you cannot consider them to be warriors.
If athletes want to call themselves warriors or soldiers like Kellen Winslow Jr. did a while back, why don't they sign up in the military and go to Iraq? They're proclaiming themselves to be warriors so why don't they put some actions behind their words?
Pat Tillman did. He gave up a multi-million dollar contract with the St. Louis Cardinals to join the United States Army. In an age where athletes are worshiped as heroes and warriors, Tillman really was a warrior and ultimately gave his life for his country.
Tillman is not the first professional athlete to serve in the military.
There were many in World War I but perhaps one of the most famous athletes was Christy Mathewson, the future Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher. During the war, his lungs were permanently damaged after he inhaled poison gas and those injuries led to his death in 1925.
In World War II, many athletes served including Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra and Hank Greenberg to name a few.
Ted Williams served as a pilot in both World War II and Korea.
Even though it was an unpopular war, many athletes served in Vietnam including Roger Staubach, Pete Dawkins, Ken Singleton, Rocky Bleier and Joe Bellino.
Two former NFL players, Bob Kalsu and Don Steinbrunner, died in the Vietnam War.
Kalsu, a guard at the University of Oklahoma, was the Buffalo Bills' top draft pick in 1968. After the '68 season, he looked to have a bright future in the NFL and was voted the team's top rookie. But he gave up his NFL career to fulfill an ROTC obligation and started his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1969. He was killed July 21, 1970.
Steinbrunner played for the Cleveland Browns from 1954-57 and from 1959-64, he was an assistant football coach at the Air Force Academy.
He later joined the Air Force and was killed July 10, 1967 when a plane he was piloting was shot down.
While many modern-day athletes brag about how tough they are and proclaim what great warriors they are, guys like Tillman, Kalsu and Steinbrunner are the real warriors ? and the real heroes.
Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his columns appear on Wednesday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.