Saturday, December 12, 2009

Army vs. Navy

Go Army, beat Navy. Go Navy, beat Army. The shouts are ringing out across Philadelphia as I type because it is time for the annual Army-Navy football game.
I am sorry, but this is the grandest of all the major college football rivalry game, beyond Stanford-Cal or the Red River Shootout or Michigan-Ohio State. And I love everything about it, okay? All the troops in uniform in the stands. The fact that these two teams for a lot of years weren't very good. The fact that this year they both might go to bowl games, depending on if Army can win or not. The fact that there are more soldiers around the world caring about this game than any other this year. The fact that all the players wear a patch for their unit or division or ship or whatever on their uniform. How awesome is that? The fact that there are two of the most disciplined teams you will ever see on a football field.
My favorite part, however, is the young men who are playing in this game, because they are so far beyond traditional student-athletes. They are student-soldier-athletes, and that cannot be easy in any way, shape, or form. Especially at West Point or Annapolis, because not only do you have to be super smart and incredibly dedicated to get in, you have to have an in. You can't just show up with a Federal Loan in your pocket and start school. So to be a talented athlete and still choose Army or Navy means that one has to be a truly remarkable individual.
After the game, most of these young men will be deployed overseas in order to serve their country and fulfill their destiny. They will become regular and ordinary soldiers and the animosity and rivalry that exist between the two service academies will melt away into cooperation for the sake of their country. It's great and it's monumental when you and I start to think about it, but for these young men it always seems to be a matter of fact and everyday. That in itself is extraordinary.
So it's an extraordinary game every year, and I watch it every year because it brings out in me a lot of pride for my country and the young men playing in the game, and it also brings out a lot of admiration for the Armed Forces, which is how it should be. It truly is America's Game, one of the few times a game lives up to what it claims to be. So go Army, beat Navy. And go Navy, beat Army. I don't care who wins, you guys are both great. But wouldn't it be nice if Army won so you both could go to a bowl game?

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