Politics may play a very important part in a couple of college football games this weekend. The Defense Department temporarily suspended sports competition at the service academies Tuesday as a result of the partial government shutdown.
That means unless something is done before about noon EST on Thursday, then the Army, Navy and Air Force football teams will not be able to play games scheduled for Saturday. Presently, the Pentagon is looking at possible legal options that would allow them to free up money to pay fees, thus allowing the games to be played.
Navy was getting ready to host Air Force this weekend in Annapolis in a game that was set for national television on CBS. Meanwhile, Boston College was set to take on Army at West Point. The key contest this week, of course, is the one between Navy and Air Force.
The football rivalry between Navy and Air Force dates to 1960, and they have played each other every year since 1972, and is a key battle in who will win the Commander and Chief Trophy. That is the prize that goes to the service academy that has the best record in head-to-head games. Over the past decade or so, the winner of the Navy-Air Force game has taken home the prize since both have taken care of beating Army on a regular basis.
Some private money sources may be willing to pay for Air Force to travel to Annapolis to play the game along with hotel and meal expenses. Then there is always the chance that Congress will actually fund the government by noon Thursday, but don’t hold your breath on that one.
I have had the honor of watching in person Navy play football against both Air Force and Army. I have seen a number of games on campus at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, in Annapolis, Md. For someone who grew on SEC football and produced the Big Ten Game of the Week, I can tell you that watching Navy play football is every bit as intense and exciting as watching the University of Florida take on the University of Georgia.
The Navy and Air Force have a different type of tradition, that while it is not as famous as Ohio State vs. Michigan game, is just as rich. There are not as many fans as the Big House or the Horse Shoe, but the same amount of passion is there.
I had planned on covering Saturday’s game, which of course is sold out. To witness the pre-game pageantry as the midshipmen march into the stadium, and then the four Navy jets that fly over just after the National Anthem: It literally sends chills down your spine.
As most of you know, the vast majority of these young men will never play in the NFL. When they graduate, they will serve our country and in some cases, work together. For the seniors who may not get to play in this game on Saturday if it is cancelled, that will be very sad.
There are many reasons better than a football game that the politician’s in my adopted home town of Washington, D.C. should end this silliness and let the government get back to work. Sports over the years have had a way of bringing the country together in times of need.
We really need to be watching Air Force play Navy on Saturday with the government back working for the people of this great country. Because after the game and the season is over, the seniors will go on to serve the United States proudly and with honor. The least Congress can do it make sure they have the chance to help in their own way to bring us together, if only for a few hours on Saturday.