I am praying to multiple deities that Dec. 11 marks the very last Army-Navy football game ever because for the vast majority of people in the military it is a non-event.
No doubt, many of you will find these comments mean-spirited, ignorant, and downright un-American. But hear me out: In the 16 years that I have reported on the military, I have yet to hear any enlisted service member express even the slightest amount of enthusiasm at the prospect of watching future second lieutenants and ensigns battle it out on the gridiron.
It sometimes seems as if officers and enlisted service members live in separate universes, as evidenced when a Navy lieutenant objected to having to live with enlisted sailors, whom he described as “perverts” and “deviants,” who frequently rumble with hatchets and axes.
The gulf separating the two worlds becomes even wider as the Army-Navy football game approaches. While both services release dueling spirit videos featuring general and flag officers to heighten anticipation about the epic matchup, most enlisted service members could care less who wins because they are too busy getting their hatchets ready for the next gang war between the perverts and the deviants.
“There is not a single active duty enlisted Marine that gives a shit about Army/Navy football games,” tweeted Marine Corps veteran and “Terminal Lance” creator Maximilian Uriarte.
We have reams and reams of metrics that show the only Army-Navy stories that anybody seems interested in reading are those that highlight embarrassing fumbles by cadets, like how West Pointers recently kidnapped the wrong goat in a failed bid to steal the Navy team’s mascot.
The New York Times wrote a follow-up story about how West Point cadets subsequently launched a successful operation to abduct two goats that actually serve as mascots for the Naval Academy. Congratulations West Point, but unless those two goats secretly belong to the People’s Liberation Army, your ability to lure helpless animals into the back of a van will not help you when the war with China comes.
Another thing to keep in mind is the Army-Navy football game provides an opportunity for young people to nearly derail their military careers before they even get started by doing something foolish in front of national media. Two years ago, both West Point and the Naval Academy investigated whether cadets and midshipmen made a hand gesture used by white supremacists during the game.
This is from an actual news story in December 2019: “The investigation concluded the cadets were playing the ‘circle game,’ where the hand sign is made below someone’s waist and — if another person looks at it — the person making the symbol punches the other person.”
So, seeing as most of the military doesn’t care — enlisted personnel make up 82% — and the Army-Navy game seems to bring one scandal after another, why not just retire it? Quite frankly, enlisted service members do not care about their officers’ formative years at West Point or the Naval Academy. If you want to test this theory, watch a graduate tell their platoon about “the academy” and you’ll see the eyes of every E-5 and below glaze over in seconds
Rather than spending so much time and energy on a highly symbolic matchup between their service academies, the Army and Navy should each do something meaningful instead. For example, the Army could figure out how email works and the Navy could remove the “petroleum product” from the drinking water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
To any cadets and midshipmen whom I may have offended with this column, please know this is just good-natured ribbing. It’s also a good primer for what you can expect once you join your first unit and accidentally leave your Common Access Card or cover unattended.
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