By Kenny Brock
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – One Saturday a year, they are the spotlight of the college football world. For that one afternoon, all eyes are on their game, the national stage (CBS), and the prime time announcers (Verne Lunquist and Gary Danielson). For those few hours the national title game conversations, Heisman trophy discussions come to a halt.
Army vs Navy. Midshipmen vs Black Knights.
113 times these academies have met. It’s impossible to put into words what this game means to those players, to those seniors who will most likely never step foot on the football field again but another field, the battlefield.
Though they may not be the best athletes, recruited by all the top colleges to play Division 1 football, their values, their expectations are just as great, if not greater. After four years at West Point or the Naval Academy, this special breed of human beings will go on to protect and serve our country, the very liberties we take for granted each day.
“This is the easiest thing these kids will do while they are at West Point and the Naval Academy,” Gary Danielson said toward game’s end.
When you search Google for “Army vs Navy Game,” the first site that pops up is the ArmyNavyGame.com. After the game, I wanted to research some different facts about the series, the history, etc. When I came to the homepage, across the top there were different selections to choose from, The Heroes immediately drew the attention of my eyes. The first quote on this page:
“The reputation and bragging rights of your entire Armed Service is on the line. The emotions involved, especially for firsties (seniors at West Point) are unreal. It definitely places as one of the top three experiences of any player’s life (assuming they get married and have kids).”
-Greg Cotton, Army Black Knights
Navy was expected by the experts to win this game handily. They were 7-4 coming into the game, bowl bound to face Arizona State in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl. Army was a struggling 2-9 team. But in every sense of the cliché, you truly throw the records out when these two teams play.
Army had not sung second for 10 straight games. And, just when it looked like they may finally have recaptured the Commander-In-Chief trophy; their hearts were broken by a true freshman quarterback and a miscommunication between their senior QB and sophomore fullback.
The raw emotion that was televised as that game came to an end, with Army senior QB Trent Steelman burying his face in the jersey, covering the tears and anguish of defeat for the 11th straight time, his teammates holding him by the back of his jersey because there is never a man left behind. Having to stand behind your victor and listen to them sing their fight song in celebration as a sign of respect. Because though they may be opponents today, when they are done they all stand united as the protector of the United States of America.
All too often the term hero is thrown around when describing athletes. “What a heroic play, a heroic effort, he was the hero of the game.” These Midshipmen & Black Knights, their fellow students, their families, they are the true heroes. I for one am glad I was able to watch the duration of the broadcast, seeing the students march in formation on the field in pregame, sing the national anthem as one, and sing their alma maters either in defeat or in victory.
For this one Saturday is about the true heroes. Go Army. Go Navy.
Kenny Brock is a producer at SportsRadio WIP, and a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly. Follow him on Twitter @KBrockJr.