Colangelo's Not the Real Local Hero

Jerry's gotten rich on our backs. Here's how the $400 million Phoenix Suns deal went down.

"Look," Colangelo told me last fall, "I've spent a lot of time and money. I have sacrificed a lot."

Gag me!

Exactly one week after Colangelo announced the sale of the Suns and basked in the wealth that we bestowed upon him, we learned the true meaning of sacrifice when Arizona lost a real local hero in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Tillman in military garb.
Tillman in military garb.
Pat Tillman's the real hero around here, not the self-aggrandizing Godfather of Phoenix sports.
courtesy of ASU Sports Information Department
Pat Tillman's the real hero around here, not the self-aggrandizing Godfather of Phoenix sports.


I didn't personally know Pat Tillman.

But I feel like I did.

By now, you've heard all the stories about the man who bucked the system. The man who turned everything upside down to do what he thought was right.

Tillman decided to forgo fanfare and acclaim to serve his community and his nation. Money meant little to him. Following his heart meant everything.

That's how I remember him playing football, which is the only way I knew him.

His hair flying from underneath his Sun Devil helmet as he selflessly charged across the field, he would make tackle after bone-jarring tackle in those special seasons when Arizona State football reached its zenith on the national stage.

Asked by radio personality Jim Rome in 1996 what was the highlight of the Sun Devils' remarkable season, Tillman glossed over the stunning 19-0 shutout of Nebraska and thrilling wins over USC and UCLA.

Like the dedicated Sun Devil he was, Tillman pointed to the November 23 game in Tucson.

I'll never forget that night. It was my 11th wedding anniversary to my now ex-wife. It was a night that every Sun Devil in the country will long savor. It was a night that capped a perfect regular season and guaranteed a trip to the Rose Bowl with a 56-14 mauling of the hated Arizona Wildcats.

"The Arizona game was a nice, swift ass kicking, so it was cool," Tillman told Rome in an interview days before the 1997 Rose Bowl, where dreams of a Sun Devil national championship slipped away in the Pasadena mist.

It's sobering how quickly life can change.

A few minutes after my family and I had cheered as Sun Devil fans tore down the goal posts in Tucson, I got word that my only brother was near death in a Flagstaff hospital.

I drove up the mountain that night, my head almost exploding with emotion and memories. It seemed like it took forever. I arrived a few minutes too late to hold Don's hand as he passed into the beyond. He was only 33.

I feel like I've lost another brother now.

E-mail john.dougherty@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8445.

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