I am watching the Army-Navy game for the first time in quite a few years. I am sure hoping that Army wins as Navy has won the last 10 games. I can remember so well those four years at West Point when I went to the game and the energy and the emphasis and the enthusiasm of that rivalry. You could have a perfect season and lose to Navy and it felt like you'd lost the season. I'd love to see the West Point seniors experience at least one win against Navy. It means more than maybe anyone can imagine who hasn't been a part of it.
For the whole year you are looking ahead to the Army-Navy game. Plebes (freshmen) know that if Army wins they get to "fall out" (not ping along the walls) until Christmas. From the beginning of the week prior Navy overflies your lunch formation with jets screaming above you, taunting you. There are rallies, and ultimately the impossibly long caravan of buses taking cadets to Philadelphia to the game, with the police traveling ahead blocking all the on-ramps for the buses. You arrive at the game and march onto the field as a corps, tens of thousands of people cheering in the stands. Then you take your seat (yeah, right! you stand the whole time) and watch your team go for it.
The Army-Navy game is called America's game. It may be the greatest rivalry in college football and has been going on for well over 100 years. There is something very special about that rivalry. Usually it isn't due to great football. Because the players are all heading to active duty officer commissions in the Army, Navy, or Marines they must meet stringent height/weight requirements that no major college team would survive under in a big football division. You won't see three hundred pound monsters out there. And usually you won't see pushing or shoving or face to face confrontations. It is truly a special game.
I think the reason for this special love for this game is because these men aren't playing hoping for a pro-football contract for millions of dollars. No, every one of them, including even the female cheerleaders, are heading to active duty as officers and to putting their lives on the line for their country. They may be slamming into each other now, but in a year one of them may be flying cover for the other, or going behind enemy lines to rescue one of them if they are shot down. As other people have noted when writing about this game, these players will never, except in rare occasions, experience the football fame and accolades and glory of their peers in other colleges who grace the covers of Sports Illustrated, are topics of ESPN specials, and who are mentioned in conjunction with famous bowl games and trophies. They will never be a household name, because they have chosen to serve something bigger than themselves. Instead of being on pro-footballs Monday night game in a few years, they will be in the jungles and on the sands and in the seas of the world defending their country, and for many, giving their lives. And that, I believe, is what makes this game so special.
It reminds me of those who have chosen to follow Jesus. Likely we will never experience the praise of the world or the pleasures and profits and comforts and luxuries it offers. We will likely never be household names, and many will likely be called to give up even their very lives. Why? Because we have chosen to serve Someone bigger than themselves. They have chosen to lay their lives and own gain aside for Another. And, just like the pumped up cheering crowd at the Army-Navy game loving on those cadets and midshipmen and cheering them on even though most are not great football players, the Bible tells us we have a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on . . . and Heaven is our biggest fan. May we run the race, fight the fight, with endurance, keeping the faith, looking, like Jesus, to the finish—our hearts fixed on something higher, encouraging one another.
God bless you all. And, go Army!