Lot's of football today and there are still games being played. I could talk about the drama, I could talk about the BCS, I could talk about a lot of things in big games. However, it is something from a not so big game that I want to write about tonight. Notre Dame, national pwerhouse, played Army today. As expected the Fighting Irish prevailed as they tuned up for the game next week against USC.
The game itself is an afterthought tonight as I witnessed a great moment after the game. At the game's conclusions the Army football team went over to their student section (the game was at Notre Dame) and assembled for the singing of the West Point alma mater as they do after every game win or lose. Following the Army team over to that corned or the stadium was the entire Notre Dame football team. In a sign of great respect the Notre Dame team stood at attention behind the West Point team as the West Point alma mater was played. Notre Dame stadium was quiet as this happened. After the West Point band had finished the Irish went over to their student section for the Notre Dame fight song and the alma mater. The Black Knights of Army, followed them, repaying the sign of respect the Irish had shown.
It is in these moments that all the glitz and glamour are lost. It is in these moments that the big time bussiness that is Division I college football is forgotten. It is in these moments that the game becomes just that, a game. Young men who just moments earlier where competing in one of the most physicial sports their schools offer were showing their mutual respect for each other. As I understand it, Notre Dame did the same last year against Navy and Coach Weiss wishes to continue this tradition as long as he is coaching there. You see, the military academies are true teams of student athletes, none of them are on scholarship for athletics. All of them must go through the required training for their service academy and also balance football (or whatever sport they play) in addition to their studies.
What I saw tonight, were young men playing a game they love on both sides of the field. However, with Army it is special. I could not help but think that come May the seniors on the West Point squad will be joining the officer corps of the US Army as 2nd. Lts. Some of these kids will probably be sent to combat zones and some of those may not comeback alive. So for on a cool, crisp autumn night they played a game against the might Irish of Notre Dame and were soundly thumped yet were shown ultimate respect by their opponent and the Irish fans.
On a personal note, many of you may not know that West Point was one of a small list of schools that had mentioned giving me a shot to play football for them while I was doing the whole collge search thing back in high school (also on the list were Brown, Springfield, RPI, WPI, Cornell, and Richmond). I never played ball after high school and graduated with a B.S. in 2000. I somtimes in the years in between have wondered "what if I had gone to the Point?" I don't regret things, given the changes in the world, had I gone there I might not be writing this now, but I also know many of my peers have paid the ultimate price and I doubt they had regrets either. I respect the men and women from the Poin, all out services academies, and all who are in the military. Tonight, on a national stage, on live tv across the country and around the world, I was bursting with joy to see that respect, shared by others, shown to a special group of athletes. If only it were done more often at every venue the men and women of our service academies partake in sport.
Tonight on a crisp, fall night in South Bend, Indiana. The game took a back seat to something more important, and that my friends was a moment that was truly the best of the evening in all of college football.
By the way, if you all are wondering how close I was to going to the Point. My decision came down to Boston U and RPI, but the career test I took earlier in my college search for possible ways to go at the Point and in the Army, well the top 2 were Special Forces-Combat Engineer and Intelligence Analyst and for giggles I recently retook that test and added my educational info...same two topped the list. Go figure.