You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy!
The Army Navy game.
It’s the 118th time these two service academies will face each other on the football field.
Normally Saturday is a beige carpet of ho hum college football games on every channel. They roll out one after another like so much processed cheese.
Today? There’s only one football game of any consequence.
That’s because Army Navy is more than a football game.
Army Navy is a Thanksgiving Day Parade with helmets.
Army Navy is a New Year’s celebration with sweat.
Army Navy is American Patriotism blowing across a cold Philadelphia football field like so much red, white and blue confetti erupting from an air cannon.
So I’m watching the pre-Game show on ESPN.
I’ve watched every College Game Day this year. Talking heads sit on a set, high above a liquored up partisan crowd swinging signs and wearing hard hats. The set might be in Tuscaloosa or College Station or Los Angeles, wherever the big game of the day is being played. There are cheerleaders flying through the air and flags swaying over head
Army Navy is remarkably different.
It’s a game. But it is more. It’s about life.
It’s amazing to watch young men playing a game knowing that in 6 months they could be anywhere on this planet fighting to preserve freedom.
As the camera flies over the Mid-shipmen and Cadets, dressed immaculately in fashions that demand respect. I realize sitting on my fat ass on my soft sofa in a comfy house that this game represents America.
This is why we are proud. This is why we stand and sing the national anthem. This spectacle of service and dedication is the reason I can put the top down on my car and drive with the Rolling Stones blaring in my ears on a windy country road.
Because men like these are willing to lay it all on the line, at any moment, to make sure I can do just that.
As I watch jets fly over the stadium and helicopters roar like mechanized thunder above the crowd, I feel a chill bump race up my spine.
This moment and these men deserve our respect.
Lee Corso looks into the camera and says something that is interesting. The athletic talent on the field is not that of the other major universities. But the intelligence and dedication in every single player is amazing. “Something you can work with,” the old ball coach says with a chuckle.
Vice Admiral Ted Carter Jr. grabs the microphone with blue coats standing proud behind him. “This is truly America’s Game,” he proclaims. “This is the biggest sports rivalry in all of athletics in this country,” he says.
Then he screams:
The midshipmen yell back Beat Army!
Damn the Torpedoes!
Full Speed Ahead!
Then Army Lt. General Robert Casien grabs the mic.
“It is a special game. This is the last time many of these men will put on this uniform before they put on the uniform to defend their country. Army will win because they have discipline not to make mistakes. They have the mental toughness to win the fourth quarter.”
Then he shouts:
OOOH RAH OOOH RAH
Then 1963 Heisman Trophy Winner Roger Staubach gets on the set and he speaks to the crowd. “We love our opponents (meaning Army) but not today.”
There is a passion that is simmering behind the anchor desk. It’s like a tea pot full of nitro glycerin
On one side is Navy. Blue coats. White Hats. regimented, strong, firm.
And on the other side, divided by a two foot buffer is Army. Grey and stout and proudly responsive.
They cheer vociferously and root for their respective football teams, neither of which is very good on the grid iron. But put them in a fighter jet or attack helicopter and they are a force that is unstoppable.
At one point, someone steals a hat from someone else. There is momentary bedlam, and then it stops, on a dime.
“They got that under control fast. I mean fast,” Reece Davis laughs.
Discipline. That’s what he is talking about. No other college crowd would calm down or give back the hat.
This crowd? It’s not even in question.
Army Navy. The game on the field is important. But the reality of what these men do off the field is what this is all about.
It’s about all the other amazing intangibles. It’s about the dedication to service. It’s about the respect for country. It’s about the mission being accomplished.
Sure these players want to win. “But these men are willing to die for what they believe in,” Penn State Coach James Franklin says.
They meet for the 118th time.
It’s the only game where the President of the USA sits on one side of the field for the 1st half and moves to the other side of the field for the 2nd half.
The Bowl season for the rest of college football starts in a few weeks.
But today, it’s all about America’s Game.