You may ask yourself, why am I reading a column about the Army-Navy game on a Georgia Tech website? I humbly ask for a little clemency, and indulge me this, as I think it could be placed on the blog or website of any college or professional team in any sport. (And no, it’s not just because Yellow Jackets head football coach Paul Johnson came to the Flats from Navy. But if that helps you justify why this has been written here, I’m OK with that.)
I sit here teary-eyed, as I do every year following the singing of the Army and Navy alma maters, in utter awe of what I have just witnessed. The Army-Navy football game is more than just an exercise in tradition, athletics and sportsmanship – it is a time capsule back to college football (and sports in general) during an era of much less selfishness and exterior influence.
The historicity of the Army-Navy game is not shrouded in any secrecy. It features the two largest and most well-known U.S Service Academies, West Point (Army) and Annapolis (Navy). A head-to-head clash for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy that has been played for 114 years.
But the game itself…the only way I can describe it is pure joy. Every college football player and coach should be required to watch this game every year, and every fan should consider it a privilege to be able to see it. When you watch this game, you watch more than just football. You watch two bands of brothers and sisters–who on a daily basis think of nothing but country and corps–come together as a synergistic unit for a few hours of escape from the arduous tasks they face in their unselfish lives.
There is no thought of war, of deployment, or of final exams. There is no concern about that first assignment after graduation, the unrest throughout the world, or the possible loss of life in the near future.
There is football, and brother(sister)hood. There is life.
The game rarely has much in the way of meaning to the college football world. For Navy (of late), is it a chance to extend their massive streak of superiority over Army. And for the Cadets of West Point, each consecutive defeat only means that the next eventual win over the Midshipmen will be that much more magnificent.
To watch this game is not to watch poetry on a football field, or to see astonishing feats of athleticism to be replayed ad nauseam on national television. It is to watch the best of our youth take the field and leave nothing in the tank. If you were not versed in football, to watch the emotion and heart that these young men play with would lead you to believe that an undefeated season and a championship is on the line.
If only that were the truth.
This game matters more to the Cadets and Midshipmen than 100 BCS Championships. This is their Super Bowl, their yearly magnum opus. They play for the pride of their academy, and for the man to their right and left.
I watch because I love football, and there is nothing more fulfilling than to watch two teams play football as if they love it as well. There are no endorsements, no “draft status” alerts, and no backstories of scandal or fiscal malfeasance. I watch because, football–when it is this pure…this unsullied–makes me feel satisfied.
I cheer for one side, and admire both.
If you didn’t watch the game this year, or if for some incredible reason you’ve never watched, I implore you to take the few hours out of a December Saturday and just enjoy the spectacle. If you truly love football, you’ll be hooked.
Navy 34 – Army 7
You have to click through three pages on ESPN.com to even find the score.
Not that it matters. The score is secondary. The game is everything.