ARMY: In­sti­tu­tions are against one an­other, but then serve to­gether

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Derek Klein Spe­cial to USA TO­DAY

Ev­ery­one talks about what they think is the great­est ri­valry in col­lege foot­ball. Most of these in­clude bor­der wars like Michi­gan and Ohio State. Or in-state bat­tles like Auburn and Alabama.

But noth­ing com­pares to the ri­valry of Army vs. Navy. Peo­ple are born to root for one team or an­other it seems, and this cre­ates great ri­val­ries, but the dy­namic that sep­a­rates Army-Navy is the to­tal com­mit­ment of the in­sti­tu­tions against one an­other and then serv­ing to­gether in the armed forces once you grad­u­ate.

What I mean by that is, it’s not just a foot­ball game at West Point. It’s a way of life that is in­stilled as soon as you walk on cam­pus. You are im­me­di­ately thrust into a fast pace of mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline, the high­est level of aca­demics, a whirl wind of re­spon­si­bil­ity, and to BEAT NAVY!

I re­mem­ber as a plebe as I was just try­ing to sur­vive cadet life and play foot­ball, an up­per­class­man yelled at me the first few weeks. Once he found out I was a foot­ball player he said, “Klein I don’t like foot­ball play­ers. You ru­ined my Army-Navy week­end be­cause we got beat. And you bet­ter not ruin my se­nior year by los­ing again this year.” I was taken back as I thought what do you care, you don’t play foot­ball. But I came to re­al­ize the game and who wins changes the ex­pe­ri­ence of go­ing to school at West Point.

When the foot­ball team beats Navy it im­proves the daily lives and at­mos­phere of the en­tire school and en­hances the ex­pe­ri­ence. Bot­tom line, plebes lives im­prove be­cause the up­per­class­men can now grad­u­ate and say they Beat Navy their se­nior year.

What other ri­valry takes every mem­ber of the stu­dent body to at­tend the game. The game is wo­ven into the fab­ric of every cadet and mid­ship­man. You are play­ing for the en­tire cadet core, rep­re­sent­ing the Army sta­tioned around the world. It’s more than a great ri­valry. Beat­ing Navy is what you breathe and live.

Derek Klein was a de­fen­sive back for the U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy and is part of the Class of 1996.

Derek Klein

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