Most of you know the heroic story of Pat Tillman, the pro football player-turned Army Ranger, who was killed last week in Afghanistan. I’m sure most of you know that he walked away from a multi-million dollar contract to perform what he felt was his patriotic duty. But I’ll bet there are a lot of things you didn’t know about Pat Tillman. I’ll bet you didn’t know that as a marginally talented high school senior he earned the very last scholarship at Arizona State, but worked so hard that three years later was named his conference’s defensive player of the year; Or that he earned a degree in marketing after 31/2 years, with a GPA of 3.84; Or that, after being the last man drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, and being told he was too small and too slow to play pro football, he went on to set a team record for tackles; Or that, after being offered a contract by St. Louis for much more money, he respectfully declined, saying he wanted to remain loyal to the team that first took a chance on him; Or that after telling the Cardinals he was going retire and join the army, he did not issue a statement or give a single media interview – his coach said he simply wanted to "pay something back" for the life he had been blessed with. So what does all this have to do with a bunch of cable executives, sitting at their desks, reading CableFAX and drinking coffee on a Tuesday morning? Who knows? But my sense is the lessons are there for all of us willing to look for them. And I know this much: by performing one of the most selfless acts of heroism imaginable, Pat Tillman placed the ball squarely in our court. Much like the events of 9/11 established new high-water marks for so many aspects of life, so too this young man has helped redefine many of our standards. I would hope, for example, that – at least in the short term – our marketers would think long and hard about using words like "ultimate" or "greatest" when describing cable products. I would hope that the promo people at our networks would temper their hyperbole while writing this week’s spots for yet another "gripping human drama," or a story that will "change us forever." I truly would hope the copy-writers at ESPN, Fox Sports and the other regional nets would back off calling some multi-million dollar running back with a bad knee, "heroic." And I would hope that our flacks would ask themselves, "Is this really the story to end all stories?" and that our news directors would ask, "Are we just reporting what we’ve been spoon-fed, or are we out there digging for other stories like this one?" If anything, Pat Tillman’s death should teach those running our companies about the responsibilities of leadership. This amazing young man left a wife, a family and a successful career to go do what this country’s leader said was important. Our CEOs need to remember that their words carry great weight and that there are legions of people up and down the corporate ranks willing to do what’s asked of them at a moment’s notice. Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s just cable. But a year ago Pat Tillman was just another football player. And is there really such a thing as a point at which you start to live your life differently, simply because the stakes are higher? I don’t think so. I truly believe how we do one thing is how we do everything. Symonds says please think about that as you go about your day today. My guess is, more often than not, every situation will present two very different options: the easy way and Pat Tillman’s way. Curtis Symonds can be reached at curtissymonds@yahoo.com .

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