By Jacob Emert, sports staff writer
Sports are at its greatest when it isn’t played for a dollar and it isn’t played for personal gain.
Sports are at its best when it’s played on the little league fields and in the backyards – at the high school on Friday night and at the park on Saturday morning.
People love sports because it gives them a chance to relive the glory days, and because it represents something greater than them. Competition is greatest when it isn’t played for an individual but for a team; and that is why the Army-Navy game is the greatest rivalry in sports.
It is better than Yankees-Red Sox, Auburn-Alabama, or any other combination of teams you can think of. Not because the greatest athletes will be featured or because it will be the most well executed game – because I can assure you it will not.
It is the greatest because no matter of records the game stands for something more than school pride. It means history, tradition, pageantry and respect. It means camaraderie, brotherhood, service and sacrifices.
When Army and Navy face off for the 113th time this Saturday, their 2-9 and 7-4 records are meaningless. Each spring both teams have one goal and they let the world know it. For Navy, it’s beat Army. For Army, beat Navy. And for both it is to hoist the Commander-in-chief trophy. If the Black Knights win on Saturday, their three-win season will be considered a successful one.
The young men on the field do not care that they are on national television and they aren’t concerned with the size of the crowd in Philadelphia. They have never played to make the top 10, and this weekend will be no different. They don’t play for themselves or their families but for the man next to them in the huddle. They have sacrificed, from the first day they stepped on the academy grounds, for each other, and they have been told we is greater than I. Most coaches across the nation preach this mentality, but in West Point, NY, Annapolis, MD and Colorado Springs, CO, they live it each and every day.
Perhaps the game is so great because it is so unique. Don’t be surprised if there are less than 15 passes thrown, by both teams, in total, the entire game. Both Army and Navy rank in the top 10 in the country for rushing yards – primarily because they have to. Since recruiting top high school athletes is not much of a reality, the programs put emphasis on strategy, discipline, and heart over strength, skill, and size.
Perhaps it is the greatest game in sports because for the 50 seniors competing, it is the most important game of their lives, but minuscule in comparison to what lies ahead of them. The typical college athlete will graduate after their senior season with a job and a family in their future. The rare athlete gets a chance to play their sport professionally and make a living off of what they do best. The extraordinary college athlete will serve his country – not because he was asked, but because he or she stands for something greater than himself or herself.
Perhaps the game is so great because of the spectacle. Once you have attended an Army-Navy game you know there is really nothing else like it in all of sports. The Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen march onto the fields representing the discipline and tradition the academies offer. The fly-overs by the grandest aircrafts the military has to offer prove that the day is about something greater than football. The exchanging of prisoners at halftime says, yes, for today we are enemies, but tomorrow we are one.
But the greatest reason of all is because this nation is so great, and the men and women who of our armed forces are the greatest amongst us. They live their lives by a code that an average citizen cannot understand; but can only appreciate and be thankful for.
Every year I watch hundreds of sporting events, and all of them, except for one, are for personal enjoyment. I watch because beyond all the storylines and the drama, the excitement of sport is unmatchable.
This one Saturday in particular, however, I watch for my grandfather who served in the Army in Korea and for my teammate on my 12-year-old baseball team serving with the Marine Corps in Japan. I watch for my brother who graduated from the Naval Academy this May and is at Naval Aviation School in Florida. And I watch for the countless other members of our military who have served, are serving, and will serve to protect me, and to keep this country the freest in the world.
Go Navy. Beat Army.