Sunday, November 15, 2009
Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Steamboat Springs Garth Brooks has been undoubtedly popular nationwide. The country music superstar has sold more than 113 million copies of his 14 albums.
Still, I always have been convinced that people from my region of Kansas liked him just a little bit more.
Brooks hosted a series of concerts in Wichita, Kan., when I was young. Originally, it was supposed to be a one-show stop, but so many people showed up to buy tickets that Brooks expanded his performance to three shows, then five.
One local radio station played his newest single 24-7 when it was released in the mid-1990s.
I’ve always had the feeling that Steamboat Springs has a similar love affair with Jon Krakauer.
Obviously, Krakauer is popular. The best-selling author has unleashed a string of home runs with the five books he’s authored, and his 1996 best-seller “Into the Wild” made a seamless jump to the big screen.
Still, when I moved to the mountains, I don’t know much about him at all. In Steamboat, Krakauer is one of everyone’s favorite authors. In Kansas, he’s a writer some people have heard of.
I felt the need to catch up, so I made “Into Thin Air” my first Krakauer book, and I loved it.
I read few books as quickly as I did the author’s harrowing account of the 1996 disaster on Mount Everest. It was enthralling.
That’s one of the things that made Krakauer’s latest work, “Where Men Win Glory,” a disappointment.
I finished it last week, and although it was definitely good, it didn’t live up to my expectations.
There were plenty of reasons why not. Krakauer wrote about Pat Tillman, the NFL player who gave up everything to join the Army Rangers and fight for his country in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was killed in 2004 in a friendly fire incident that temporarily was covered up by the Army and the government.
The first half of the book heaps an absurd amount of praise on Tillman, managing to justify a high school fight in which Tillman beat a kid from a rival school half to death.
The second half of the book manages to be considerably more captivating, but Krakauer seems intent on finding someone to blame not only for the cover-up that followed Tillman’s death, but for his death itself.
He does a compelling job convincing me that the Army and the Bush White House handled Tillman’s death in an astonishingly embarrassing fashion.
The greater connections Krakauer tries to draw, however, fall flat, as do many small asides seeming to cast blame for Tillman’s death on nearly everyone.
What happened to Pat Tillman was a tragedy, and Krakauer crafted a compelling book out of an astonishing story. It was no “Into Thin Air,” though.
That’s OK, Jon. Chris Gaines sucked, too.