This Saturday, only one college football game will be played. It will not be a game between the two best teams in the country but I’d like to think it is between the two most respected colleges in the United States : The US Naval Academy at Annapolis and The US Military Academy at Westpoint.
These two schools, often called service academies, graduate men and women who will lead our Army, Navy and Marine Corps. These cadets and midshipmen will become officers in their respective military branches and serve our nation for a minimum of five years. Because of this, most of the players who also play football in addition to their rigorous academic and military training requirements, will never play in the NFL. They will be ‘too old’ when they are 27 to start a football career. Of course, there have been a few who have had success. The most famous is Roger Staubach but my favorite is my distant cousin, Phil McConkey. One of the coolest guys to ever play the game and the reason I’m a Giants fan.
Now, in most university football programs, recruiting the biggest guys is key. You need height in many positions and you need girth in many more. However, the military has a strict height and weight limit, so the guys who play for Army and Navy are not ‘those guys’. Maybe that’s why they are not the ‘best’ on the field, but I would rather have one of these guys protecting me in a foxhole than a 375 pound offensive linemen from a top football program any day!!
The Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen started playing each other in 1890! They battle for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy which Navy has the lead on with their 57-49-7 record against Army thanks to their longest winning streak that is still active at 11 (hoping for 12 this year). Army, of course, would like that streak to end Saturday.
This game has great traditions (marathon relay to run the game ball to the stadium), great rivalry (bragging rights of the military branch), a lot of fun antics between the schools (stealing the Navy Goat or the Army Mule), but most importantly it represents a great deal of respect. Not only between the two academies, embodied in the singing of the Alma Maters of each school after the game, but with the respect of an entire nation looking on and appreciating what each of these fine young men represent in the greatest nation on this earth.
I’m glad this game is played on a day all by itself. I’m proud of these players and all the young men and women who attend these academies and serve our country every day. I’m excited to see the enormous intensity in which this game is always played.
So, Saturday at 4:00 EST, what are you doing? I’ll be watching the game!