I got a note today from a longtime Army Football and AFF fan, and it was so singular and so touching that I wanted to share it. We get versions of this question fairly frequently. Much more often than you’d think, at any rate.
We’ve talked about this on the podcast a few times, but let me talk about it here, too, once and for all.
“I was an enlisted MP in the 80’s. I became a huge Army football fan about 5 years ago. I flew [across the country] to West Point to see a a game. It was an awesome experience.
“This might be a crazy question but is it appropriate to root for an academy team? I’m not sure if it’s the the right thing to do.”
Friends, let’s be clear — you are totally allowed to be Army Football fans. This is a very normal part of being a veteran. It’s honestly the best-case of what the Academy itself is hoping for. I’m personally touched by the humility of this particular letter because the world is full of veterans over-representing their particular service, and here is a man who just wants to do what’s right. Who wants to represent himself and his fandom authentically.
That’s beautiful. Truly.
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) June 8, 2021
Speaking to AFF’s experience, we have a good number of Army vet/non-grads in our Firstie Club. We love them and very much want them to feel welcome. There are several non-vets in there as well. Moreover, just from having been at Michie over the years, I can assure you that a large number of the folks in the stands are just local fans who like the team. That is a good thing!
In a larger sense, the Army Team itself would very much like to be “New York City’s Team”. We had that from AD Mike Buddie when he was on our podcast just this past month. In fact, West Point was NYC’s team back in the original Black Knights of the Hudson days, back in the 1930s and 40s. It can be again, but the Academy has some work to do in terms of community outreach. Still, that seems like a reasonable goal, at least to me.
Regardless, West Point very much wants to represent the entire Army. We can debate how successfully they’ve done that over the years, but the fact that you yourself feel passionately about the team speaks to their success. Again, that’s good! The team wants to represent you. They wear those division decals on their helmets on game days and the specific division uniforms for Army-Navy especially to help build that sense of shared purpose and comradery across the entire Army.
I thought this was silly when I was a cadet, honestly. However, I now get excited whenever they wear the 3rd ID or 2nd ID patches, and when they finally drop those Rock of the Marne Army-Navy jerseys, well… All I’ll say is that I’m probably going to have to take a moment.
That stuff sticks with you. It sticks with all of us. It’s supposed to. Those kids on the field are gonna serve in those same units where you and I served.
Honoring the 25th Infantry Division, “Tropic Lightning”
— Army-Navy Game (@ArmyNavyGame) December 12, 2020
Hell, lately the Army Team has started branding itself as “America’s Team”. Meaning that they are inviting in everyone, and again, that’s a good thing. We all know that West Pointers can be an insular bunch — not in a good way — while the institution itself is publicly owned and operated. It belongs to all Americans, and it should be for all Americans. But my man, it is especially for Army vets.
AFF is maybe not the best about some of this stuff because we take such an insider’s approach. For example, we always call them “yearlings” instead of “sophomores”. That reflects our particular experiences. But we very much want to invite you into that view of it. We’re trying not to make it a secret club. Instead, we’re trying to share our view, for better or worse.
Army West Point Football is America’s Team, but it is especially the Army’s Team. That goes for the entire Army, regardless of how much specific individuals see themselves represented on the field.
So Hell yeah. Root for the team. We’ll be right there with you.
Go Army! Beat Navy!!!
* Cover image via USMA Flickr.