Army versus Navy: Football every American can appreciate
The best sports rivals in our nation meet on the football field this Saturday, when Army meets Navy. The West Pointers will try to make it three straight wins after being pounded by the Midshipmen from 2002 to 2015, losing every one of their clashes. Remove Navy's streak, the longest between the two in their history, and Army leads the series by only three games, which started at the end of the 19th century. Neither team will be playing for the national title, nor will either even finish in the top ten. That hasn't happened since Heisman Trophy-winner Roger Staubach quarterbacked Wayne Hardin's Midshipmen to a 9-2 mark, a New Year's Day Cotton Bowl game against eventual champion Texas Longhorns and a number-two ranking in the polls.
The glory days of the academies being in the hunt for the national title ended long ago, most likely never to return. The growth of the NFL has made it almost impossible for the academies to recruit "blue chippers" to play for Army, Navy, or Air Force. Signing with one of the academies means that a player willingly sacrifices his potentially most productive years earning a lucrative NFL salary because he stills has a commitment post-graduation to Uncle Sam.
The game is more than a clash between NCAA athletes and future officers. No, this game is pure Americana, the pageantry of college football and the military at its finest. The celebrities are not Hollywood actors strolling the red carpet, but the Army cadets and Navy midshipmen marching in lockstep precision.
Yes, politicians from both sides will be there, preening for the cameras and marking their time. Hey, nothing's perfect.
Fortunately, real Americans recognize that this day is dedicated to true heroes of our nation. Fans, bubbling with pride, watch them, nattily attired in their crisp traditional uniforms, march in unison – a precision unmatched except by their respective football teams. If the weather holds, the crowd may be entertained and amazed by paratroopers jumping from helicopters and landing with pinpoint accuracy at the fifty-yard line. Cadet discipline is observed on the football field as well, with the offenses and defenses of both teams run their respective plays with precision.
Americans will celebrate the men and women who have chosen a selfless path of contributing to our society by serving for the sake of our nation's defense. On what will most likely be a cold, damp, gray wintry day out of Robert Frost, these future warriors will wage combat on a gridiron instead of a battlefield for sixty intense minutes (and maybe more) in front of an SRO crowd lucky to have a ticket. Millions more like me will seek refuge in our cozy dens or man caves to view the game parked in a favorite easy chair with a buffet of food. Either way, fans will be engaged for three-plus hours, awed by the athleticism and inspired by the efforts of our nation's youth.
This slice of our American culture is comforting. That these young men and women are determined to protect our freedoms and country against the evil entities in a violent, chaotic, mercurial world.