This weekend brings the next meeting in a long tradition; The Army - Navy Football Game.
As a West Point Graduate - but not-at-all a sports fan - I'll make every effort to catch the game; especially the beginning. The March-on; where cadets and Navy midshipmen will march onto the field and from there into the stands. The tradition is that neither school body will sit during the entire game. It's a great game, regardless of the outcome (although it's always better when Army wins) because of the history behind the game. And it has even more meaning to the thousands of graduates from both academies who will be watching because we know everything else that goes on behind the scenes.
These are not your regular NCAA teams, with players who most likely couldn't tell you what the inside of a regular classroom looks like. The cadets and midshipmen, while practicing and playing football, carry all of the military and academic burdens of their fellow students. For more on this, check out this very revealing article on Army Football players in today's NYT.
I never appreciated, as much as I should have, the history and pride of my alma mater for the first 10 or so years after my graduation. Going through the rigors of academy life and then 10 years of military service jaundiced my appreciation of what I had gone through. I'm starting to recover that appreciation and it shows up in strange - to me - ways; wanting to wear articles of clothing with the academy name or symbols on them, a thrill when I recognize a place or name related to the academy or my years there.
Anyway, this weekend, there will be soldiers and sailors all over the world who will make every effort to catch this game on TV or Armed Forces Radio. They will cheer on the team of their service academy, whether they've ever been there or not. And they will join a long, long line stretching back into history of soldiers and sailors who made the same effort. If you have the opportunity, you should make that effort as well. You will see the finest part of American youth taking part in a tradition that really and truly reflects so much of what makes this a great country and that is totally divorced from the vagaries and dangers that await them when they leave those hallowed fields.