Though we grew up thinking he was the the best sportswriter on the planet — and one of our favorite journalists anywhere — we'll confess souring somewhat on Sports Illustrated scribe Gary Smith in recent years. His writing was still top-notch, but it was beginning to become repetitive. He'd either write about a major sports star with some sort of dark secret in his past — abusive father, deceased brother, boyhood friend with rickets, sticky film that just won't rinse away — that he has been running from all these years, or obscure athlete/coach/moment in sports history who has struggled to overcome because of his heritage/dark secret/obsession with yaks. Smith's work is still better than just about everything else out there, but we felt like we were close to cracking his code.
Until this week, when Smith tackles a subject that's truly complex enough for and worthy of his eye: Pat Tillman. Smith's mammoth piece on the slain former NFL star, the circumstances of his death, the military's misguided posterization of him, the haunted members of his platoon and his family's dogged, almost compulsive persistance is as outstanding as anything you will read anywhere. It's online, too, so go to it. It's a Friday, you're not that busy.
Remember His Name [Sports Illustrated]