This Saturday, the 123rd Army/Navy football game will take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The game marks the final inter-service academy game to determine the winner of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and is one of the most enduring rivalries in college football.
Having first been played on November 29, 1890, Army/Navy was an important game, often with national championship implications, for the better part of the 20th century. Though those days are in the rearview mirror, the Army/Navy game remains a national institution. Football fans across the country have tuned in since 1930 to watch the game and hear the stories of the academies and their students. For midshipmen, cadets, and graduates – it’s about more than that.
As West Point and Annapolis grads, respectively, the founding team at VRB has had ample opportunity to give each other a hard time about our alma maters. After all, criticizing the branches you aren’t a member of is one of the oldest military traditions. However, when all is said and done, we view the game as an annual reminder of what the academies are about and what they taught us.
The game serves as a moment for alums to reconnect with not only classmates, but also the values learned in service: values like duty, sacrifice, grit, honor, courage, integrity, and commitment.
The game is a celebration and manifestation of the warrior ethos. West Point grad General Douglas MacArthur once said, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.” The Army/Navy game captures that concept completely.
The game reminds our citizens that we send our best and brightest over the horizon to do violence on our behalves. The kids playing football (or soccer, tennis, rugby, or any number of other sports which have their own Army/Navy events) today will be the officers leading Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines tomorrow. For some, in combat. Many Americans do not regularly interact with the reality that someone else's kids are volunteering to go into harm's way. The game is an annual reminder of the consequential and solemn calling answered by the few.
It is good and, for me, cathartic to be reminded of these things every December. It makes me proud to have taken that route and grateful to have had the opportunity.
Make no mistake: I hope we Beat Army every year in the same way West Pointers hope for the reverse outcome (In case you were wondering, I won't say it…). With that, I don't root against Army when they're playing other schools because West Point, the cadets, and graduates are the mirror image of everything I love about the Naval Academy: an institution that taught me everything I know about what matters most in life.
So if you’re on the fence, watch the game. Even better, bundle up and go. This football game, those playing in it, and those watching from the sidelines will make you proud.