Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Army-Navy Game

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Greetings All:

Today the 114th Army-Navy game was held.  For the twelfth consecutive year, Navy won.  Before I get too far into this post, congrats to the Midshipmen of Navy.  Their 34-7 win over their arch rivals is impressive.  Despite desire, Army came up short.  won.

Those of you who know me understand my bias towards Army.  I with they would have won.  This is a loss that will stick around for a while.  It must have been a long ride back to West Point for the Cadets.

For those of you who want to read up on the game, here's a link to a couple of reports:

I do not want to dwell on this specific game.  As mentioned above, all due congrats to Navy, it was their day.  However, I see a larger picture with this game.  The Cadets and Midshipmen who fought so hard to win, to beat the other team, will soon be on the same team.  For some in a few months, for others in a few years, they will raise their right hands and swear an oath to the Constitution.  They will be presented the gold bars of Second Lieutenants or Ensigns.  They will be commissioned officers of the United States military.  Very few other competitive athletes can say that about their opponents.

I wrote in a Facebook post last year that these athletes will give their tomorrows for us and that this game day is theirs.  For the Navy players, they should revel in this victory.  For the Army players, a stinging loss, I am sure.  Nonetheless, they were part of history today.  I hope they take some comfort in that, if not tomorrow, one of these days.

There was a time when this game was the game in college football.  Schools like Notre Dame did not play Army or Navy out of a sense of nostalgia but out of self-interest.  They wanted to play the best out there.  Back in the day, these schools were the best.

It is true, that is not the case.  I suspect that if Auburn or Florida State were to play either school, the outcome would not be in doubt.  And yet I would hope that the players from the victorious  school would pause at the end of the game and listen as the Army or Navy Alma mater was sung.  That is a song whose words and melody extends beyond a stadium or even a campus.  It goes as far as a lonely mountain outpost high up in Afghanistan or a ship sailing the vast ocean.  If you find a service member, you can hear that song.

This year's Army-Navy game is in the books.   In a few weeks, the college football season will conclude.  For the seniors, it may be last time they wear a uniform.  For those on both sides of the ball at today's game, it is only the beginning of wearing a uniform.  Perhaps that is why this game is so different and important.  Perhaps that is why in some real way, it is not a game at all, just a practice for what lies ahead. 

A few hours after the Army-Navy game concluded, the Heisman Trophy was awarded.  It is the premiere award in college football.  Of the six finalists, there were none from any of the service academies.  Fair enough, these finalists are the best players in the country.  Let's bring in another Heisman winner, Nile Kinnick from the University of Iowa.  Kinnick won the 1939 trophy and below is the conclusion of his acceptance speech.

"I'd like to make a comment which in my mind, is indicative, perhaps, of the greater significance of football and sports emphasis in general in this country, and that is, I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest and not on the battlefields of Europe. I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country would much more, much rather, struggle and fight to win the Heisman award than the Croix de Guerre."

Unlike most Heisman winners, Kinnick never played a down in the NFL.  He chose law school, then the Navy during World War II.  He perished in the Pacific.

When I think of Kinnick, I think more of the Cadets and Midshipmen than I do of other Heisman winners.  There are some comparisons that cannot be made on stats alone.  And there are some awards that do not sit in trophy cases but sit in the pages of history.  Unfortunately, some of those pages include battlefields.  Those who played in this year's Army-Navy game may be a part of that history.  When viewed in that context, this is more, much more, than a football game.

Be well my friends,

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