Saturday, November 12, 2011, the day after Veteran’s Day, Rutgers Football played the United States Military Academy at Yankee Stadium. There were many, many story lines about this game.
- Rutgers and Army at Yankee Stadium, playing football,
- The march of the corps (pronounced ‘core’, Barrack Hussein Obama) of cadets up River Avenue and into the Stadium,
- The pomp and circumstance of the presentation of the Colors along with the 4th Corps prior to the game,
- The absolutely fantastic uniforms worn by Rutgers,
- Mohamed Sanu’s continued march through the record books with 13 catches, putting him at 94 for the season, breaking Larry Fitzgerald’s record of 92 in the Big East and Kenny Britt’s mark of 84 at Rutgers, and
- How the win puts Rutgers back in the discussion as a big East Championship.
But there was something larger here that I recognized not only during the game, but afterwards too. On the bus ride back to Piscataway, NJ, I thought about the events of the past week and came to a realization that needed to be expressed.
This past week, the news was all about the charges that were unsealed against Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator at Pennsylvania State University, PSU. Without question these charges are monstrous and vile. Unfortunately, the media has run with this story and made it the hot topic that everyone is talking about.
At 12 Noon on Saturday, Pennsylvania State University, PSU, and Nebraska University kicked off. There was a one-minute moment of silence for the “victims” of a former coach at PSU, Jerry Sandusky. There was a moment when both teams met at mid-field and embraced each other. And then the game was played. Outside Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, a graduate of PSU named John Matko stood silently to give witness to the failures of the administration of PSU, receiving volumes of hatred or so-called fans. His story can be read here.
But what does this have to do with the game at Yankee Stadium? It has to do with what has happened during the year since Army and Rutgers last played at Met Life Stadium across the Hudson. Frankly, college football fans across the Nation were denied a special experience. There was a great story about how one football team honored a fallen player from another team that did not receive any national attention, but should have.
While Rutgers fans are aware that “RTeam” was wearing an all-white uniform with a special Block R to thank the military academies for their service. However, there was something more. The team was also expressing their thanks to Army for the way they responded to Eric’s injury. Fans who are especially close to the team are aware of the visits Army team members have made to see Eric in the hospital, the letters and items they all sent, and their open invite for Eric to speak to the Cadets. But that, too, is only part of the story.
Rutgers fans who took the subway home from the game received significantly more insight as to just how the Cadets and fans of the Army team viewed what has happened over the past year. Friends have told me how large groups of cadets on the subway were friendly, open, honest, and – most importantly – mature in their interaction. They congratulated Rutgers Football fans on the win and wished us all luck. There was no complaints about the “tripping” penalty that turned the game around. No complaining at all. It just wasn’t that important.
Interestingly, many Rutgers fans seem to live and die by whether we win or lose. The world ends with an interception or fumble or who the QB should be. Yet for the cadets, they know what is really important. They will be entering a profession that really is life or death, with their only purpose being to protect our country and way of life.
So while the Lions of Nittany hold the spotlight on how the need for success in football can pervert the basic morals of a whole institutional infrastructure, and the nation is aghast as we watch the results of 60 years of the tail wagging the dog, it was great to play Army this week and get re-centered. It demonstated the good part of college sport. The part where a contest was waged with respect, nobody was hurt, and we got a few hours of artificial drama and great entertainment.
So as we prepare for a “life and death” game with the Bearcats next week, maybe we should learn a bit from Army, a lot from Penn State and dial back the angst a bit. Let’s fret about the Big East ramifications of the game, root hard for our team and enjoy the day. My friends onboard the subway thanked the cadets for their hard work, commitment and their service to come.
I also add my thanks to all our Service Academies for reminding me that when it is all said and done, it really is just college sport.