OK, it’s just a college football game – but I think it’s more than that.
I wrote this column on Sunday morning, still in the light of Saturday’s Army-Navy football game. Of course, part of that residual glow comes from the heartwarming victory of my Navy team.
But the Army-Navy game is a true American classic, and part of its afterglow comes from the pride and joy of our great country that comes with every edition of this annual reunion of these two rivals. That shot in the arm was especially welcome this year because the news today – and throughout this year – has been relentlessly grim.
It is often said that sport imitates life. Maybe in this case life should imitate sports.
This year’s Army-Navy match was the 117th reunion of these two rivals, dating back to 1890. Their inter-service rivalry now includes the Air Force Academy, with each team facing off against the other two each year, vying for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. . But the legendary competition between the Army and Navy remains one of the most watched and revered games of every college football season.
The Army-Navy game is an unbridled patriotic celebration. From his pre-game march of the entire West Point Corps of Cadets and the Naval Academy Brigade of Midshipman, overflights of the Navy and the Army, the national anthem that seems to be sung by all 82 000 fans in attendance – and with television commercials wit across the game from ships at sea and military posts in the far corners of the world – Army-Navy is a demonstration to America of the invaluable gift of our armed forces.
Shameless patriotism is contagious because it is 100% genuine. Every cadet and midshipman on the field and in the stands (like their Air Force counterparts) has already started their military service journey; almost all will serve for years, and many will pursue full military careers.
It’s a life of commitment to the country, hard work, inevitable long separations from home and family, and times of intimidating challenge and sometimes danger. As a sobering example, this year’s game honored the memory of Navy Commander Brian Bourgeois, former Navy football player and SEAL 8 team commander, who died in a training accident. barely a week ago.
The spirit of shared commitment is evident on the playing field. Interagency games are fiercely contested, with athleticism, passion and determination displayed in every game. It’s pure football, without showboating , without end zone dances and without taunting opponents.
The game was a nail rodent, fought to the end. And then, as always in this rivalry, time elapsed and the outcome assured, the players, aspirants, cadets and spectators listened together to the two alma maters, in mutual respect and admiration for what they had just watched. .
Compare the fierce competition and mutual respect coexisting between the military and the navy, with the bitter, prisoner-less relationship between our American political factions.
We like to think that our elected officials are the best and the brightest in our country. We have every reason to expect them to act accordingly.
They don’t. Each side revels in the disrespect for the other, in words and actions. They pursue political victory without any qualms about the methods and tactics employed to achieve it. They goad, demean, harass and undermine each other. They are happy when their political opponents fail, even when the failure is bad for their country.
In today’s Congress, the established legislative order is fine, as long as it doesn’t get in the way. The rules of the Senate are expendable. Both sides are great at blaming, while taking no responsibility for their own mistakes.
Our elected representatives in the House and Senate are remarkably willing to give up their best judgment and promises to their constituents in favor of voting as directed by party leaders. Debate on the bill is getting nowhere as neither side is prepared to compromise on anything. They pass laws that are loved by some and hated by others.
Forgive me for romanticizing a football game and likening it to the politics of hardball. But on second thought, I’m not sure they are much different.
Aren’t we all Americans on the same team? Are there not common principles, a common ethics, common values which should rise above petty politics? Perhaps these elected officials could learn something from a few battered and battered football players, arm in arm in victory and defeat, bound by mutual respect and common cause.
On Saturday, the back of every Army player’s soccer jersey bore the words “United We Stand”. This feeling should surely extend far beyond the football field.