Sunday, December 7, 2008

Army Navy Weekend

This weekend was the Army/Navy game, a football game you either had no idea about or one you prepared for with the vigilance of an overzealous fan. There is little in between.

I first attended an Army/Navy game my freshman year in college, driving to Philly with my then West Point Cadet boyfriend and sitting so close to the field I was practically in the players' laps. What I remember.... thousands of cadets in grey uniforms, and bitter, bitter cold. And three guys I didn't know who bought me hot chocolate in return for using my gloves for a couple minutes!

This year is my fourth year. After two turns driving to Philly for the game in college, there was a long dry spell as I moved around the country and let it pass as nearly a non-existent blip on my radar. Last year, friends got us tickets, and we braved the bitter cold again. What I remember from last year? Tailgating sausage, eggs and mimosas before the game and chili afterwards, applying for credit cards just to get the free hand-out blanket, and bitter, bitter cold.

I think there is an unwritten law of nature that the Army/Navy game has to be the coldest weekend of the year!

This year, I came prepared. Four layers of clothes, underarmor, snow boots with three pairs of socks and feet warmers. Hand warmers. Hats, gloves, scarves that would cover my face. And lots of blankets. The high was suppose to be mid-thirties. Possible snow. No sun.

Once again, awesome seats, although much higher up (all the better to see the game play out).
In college I sat in the Army section (boyfriend got the tickets!) and rooted loudly for Navy (I was in NROTC). Oh yeah... fun times! I'm lucky I survived.

After long, long years of enjoying the rivalry, this year I hung up my long past allegiance to Navy and cheered for Army. Of course, we were sitting on the Navy side this year. Oh yes... more fun times!

Except Army was so lousy that even the Navy fans behind us cheered with us when Army did something not entirely stupid.

We lost, but I didn't look at it that way. What I love about this game is that I love both sides, and that I admire and respect both teams, and at the end of the game, both sides will go back to their academies and continue to dedicate themselves to learning to defend our country. At the end of the day, we are all on the same side. It's about football, and yet it's not. It's so beyond college rivalry. Which is why, no matter who wins, at the end of the game the teams line up in front of both schools and take off their helmets and hold them over their hearts and stand at attention to the opposing schools' alma mater. And every cadet and every midshipmen stand at attention to honor each other, and the dedication to defending our country.

And through the intense ribbing that goes with the territory, I think they all know that when it really comes down to it, they will need each other to stay alive someday.

I dreaded the cold, and it was. I dreaded losing, and we did. I dreaded wind and snow, and they came. But there is something about being surrounded by military people that is addicting and feel-good. And if we get tickets again next year... well, I'll be there gladly. With my hand warmers on.

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