Today was the 122nd Army-Navy football game. I watch it every year. I am glued, because it is far more than a football game. It is a rivalry between brothers. I call it a ‘band of brothers’, much like how it was in WWI and WWII. They are warriors on the football field, and the war field. They live their lives with respect, purpose, honor, integrity, and kindness.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our son was a Naval Academy graduate in 2003. When he was in high school, he was assigned to a Blue and Gold Officer, someone who could answer his questions, and judge if he had the ‘right stuff’. The three words he said have resonated with me ever since:
Ship. Shipmate. Self.
It’s what the Navy lives by. It’s Life-101. First take care of your ship, then take care of your shipmate. Lastly take care of yourself. Ever since I heard those three words I have incorporated that philosophy into my teaching and classroom. Modern terms say ‘kindness’ and ‘giving’. The Navy knew that well over 100 years ago.
I was lucky to attend the 100th Army-Navy football game. That was when I understood. The stands were full of people who could have been my dear friends. Honestly, I could have left my seat and asked someone nearby to watch my belongings. There were ‘Spirit Spots’, spoofs made by the Midshipmen and Black Knights on the giant video screen. Parachuters landed on the 50-yard line. The home team ran the football from Annapolis to the stadium. I got an email today from a friend who was stuck in traffic outside of New York; Army (this year’s home team) was running the football into the stadium. Our son was part of Navy’s 13th Company who ran the ball from Annapolis onto the field in 1999.
Tradition runs deep. Tradition is a foundation. It builds who we are. The tradition at the end of the Army-Navy game is singing the Alma Mater. That’s ship. The team who wins joins the other team as they sing their Alma Mater. That’s Shipmate.. The team who wins then sings their own Alma Mater. That’s Self.
Army singing their Alma Mater
Navy singing their Alma Mater
The Naval Academy has a beautiful Japanese brass bell on the campus (now a replica), a gift from Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854. The bell is only rung when Navy beats Army. It has been a number of years since the ringing of that bell. Tradition lives on. When that bell rings, winning the football game is important, yet what that win means is far more important – hard work, brotherhood, team work… and all the values of Army-Navy football.