Photo credit Matt Slocum, AP
by Lisa Horne
College football's regular season did not end on Saturday. The season fittingly ends on Saturday, December 13 after the conclusion of Army v Navy.
This rivalry game is so special that it gets a Saturday all to itself. No other college football game can compete for its time slot and frankly, no college football game will ever compete with this game.
Army v Navy is America's greatest college football game.
The Midshipmen and the Black Knights are not the greatest athletes Division 1 has to offer. Most of these guys are undersized. They are, however, the best America has to offer the world.
So while they can't make an NFL team's cut, they can make the cut in the confined cockpits of planes and tanks. They won't have the opportunity to sack Peyton Manning. They will risk their lives for an opportunity to sack the ISIS member who beheaded that little girl in a pink frilly dress.
Most fans watching the game may say to themselves, "these guys aren't very good." Go ahead, say it. They fought for your right to say that. They will watch you burn the American flag, protest over social injustices and badmouth the President of the United States.
They only ask one thing from you in return.
You don't have to agree with their missions, philosophies or ideals. Just respect the fact that they are willing to lay down their lives for you despite your vehement opposition to their agenda.
They salute the American flag every single day while wearing pressed uniforms. Their buttons are spit polished, their faces scrubbed clean and their hair is a standard military buzz cut. Their hats are not worn backwards.
No cadet falls down drunk in the bleachers. No cadet teabags a rival team's fan. No trees are killed, no mascots are arrested for public intoxication and no cadet sells team memorabilia on the side. They don't ever want to fail you, America.
Go ahead and cheer for your team. But don’t forget about America's teams. Air Force. Army. Navy.
Don't judge that halfback's speed. Admire the teams' discipline and lack of yellow hankies on the field. Don't judge their lack of a passing game. Admire their players finishing every single damn play with 100 percent effort. Even when the game is no longer in doubt.
Don't judge their lack of creative playcalling. Admire their gamesmanship. Their class. Their pride. Their commitment. Those awesome uniforms.
When the game is done and both sides go to their opponents' corner as a sign of solidarity and respect, just look at those young faces. For many, it's the last time they will ever play football. For some, it's the last time they may stand before a grateful nation and experience joy. War is unforgiving and unfair.
Do not turn off your televisions when the last whistle blows. Watch the best part of this game. CBS always shows the post game rituals. Grab a tissue. It's OK. America needs a gentle reminder of what makes this country so great. America has its warts, but this game should give you goose bumps. It represents all that is good about America.
Our future is insured because of them.
They're standing on that wall every night protecting you and your family. You may not see them, but they are there.
They are the faces you saw at that game. They are the ones that get hugged by strangers who whisper "thank you" in their ears. They are the ones who get jeered by strangers yelling "baby killers" to their faces. They humble us with their sacrifice.
Go Army, beat Navy. Go Navy, beat Army.
No matter who wins, America wins.