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September 21, 2001

by Bill Hogan



Here's what the college football schedule looks like for Saturday, September 22:

Army plays at Alabama-Birmingham.

Navy hosts Boston College.


(The Air Force Academy will play again September 29 at San Diego State.)

Check your local listings for the time and channel of these games. Grab the chips and a cold one, settle in to your favorite chair, and root, root, root for America's teams.

Sure, Ohio St. is playing UCLA and Michigan St. at Notre Dame should be a great game to watch - and may even have bowl implications. But is anybody really concerned with the BCS right now? Can anyone watch any game this weekend with the same interest that dominated the first few weeks of the season?

I think not. We will watch. We will be moderately entertained. But our hearts and minds will be elsewhere.

Our military academies are strapping on football helmets this Saturday, as they do every Saturday in the fall. Army is 1-1 this season. Navy is 0-2. Last year, the two teams combined for a 2-20 record. These are not the best teams to spend the afternoon watching, but, right now, they are the most important.

These men are America's future leaders. These men are America's future protectors of freedom, liberty and prosperity.

And these 18-22 year old patriots made the decision to dedicate themselves to the preservation of their country long before our soil was invaded by terrorism.

I count myself among the many Americans who saw the terrible acts of destruction against America as a wake up call. A reminder to put the important things in life into perspective. To bring patriotism, God and country back into our everyday lives.

These men at Army and Navy will play football on Saturday. Then they will go back to the business of becoming our nation's next generation of soldiers. America's protectors. So, watch them, cheer them and appreciate them.

When the television camera pans the stadium seats, take note of the many uniformed men and women from these academies. And cheer them. And appreciate them, as well.

Army's football team hasn't won a National Championship since 1945. They haven't had a Heisman Trophy winner since Pete Dawkins in 1958.

Navy has never won college football's National Championship. In 1963, Roger Staubach became the last Midshipman honored with the title "America's best college football player", then spent the next five years serving his country before becoming a Hall of Fame quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys.

These young men don't play football for the same reason as many college athletes. They are not motivated by bowl games and personal accolades. To them, football is a tool used to make them better. Better people, better citizens, better soldiers.

Many of these men are good enough players to receive scholarships at the nations best football programs - four years of education in exchange for the use of their talents on the gridiron. They, instead, made the honorable, even heroic, decision to play, to learn and to serve their country.

Salute them.

The satellite on the side of my house feeds hundreds of channels from around the country into my living room. I will find the Army - UAB game and I will find the Navy - BC game. I will watch. I will root. I will appreciate these men, not for what they do on the field Saturday, but for what they will do for this country in the years to come.

Many of us have spent the last week scrambling from store to store in search of an American flag to display our patriotism and support.

Freedom, democracy and liberty had become afterthoughts. Something most of us have taken for granted for, well, a lifetime.

The men and women that attend our military academies knew better. They knew that the freedoms we have grown to expect need to be protected at all times. They have taken it upon themselves to learn how to be our protectors.

Watch. Cheer. Appreciate.





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