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.
The Fighting First.#BigRedOne | https://t.co/fqllCpViSL https://t.co/g4FrhHYKz9 pic.twitter.com/tyMxwiYcX6
— 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’s fit for the 121st Army-Navy Game presented by @USAA #ArmyNavy pic.twitter.com/Z4UCQSDVun
— 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.
Absolutely anyone can be and should be an Army football fan. The cadets come from all 50 states and 14 territories and DC (as well as some allies). They represent all of us and they will serve all of us upon graduation. If that isn’t America’s team I don’t know what is. Any Army vet or family relation of a vet also has more than a passing reason to be an Army football fan. As a USMA alumni (old grad) I hate to admit this, but, I also root for Navy and Air Force in every game they play (except for when they play Army) for the exact same reason. I wouldn’t mind if Air Force and Navy were 12-1 every year with the 1 being a loss to Army. I have great respect for both, but let’s be real, Army is the best and America’s Team. We should also be NYC’s team, being only 40-50 miles away as the crow flies. I remember when I was stationed in Baltimore & DC, Navy used to have big bill boards advertising games at Annapolis. I went to a couple when they played good teams and while not as good as games at Michie, it was a really good experience. I have always wondered by we don’t hit NYC, Albany, New Jersey and Connecticut hard with advertising and trips for football Saturdays that included tickets, bus or boat transportation up the Hudson (with a box meal), tailgating and the parade. $100-200 per person should get you the whole package depending on seat & meal selections. Michie should be sold out every football Saturday. If we aren’t sold out, we should always invite HS Army ROTC groups in the region to fill out the empty seats (as a donation) – especially for games with expected low turnout like for FCS teams, even though we shouldn’t be scheduling them. Not that hard! We could also contract a travel agency for trips for fans of visiting schools to come to West Point and to arrange packages for Army fans for away games. I live in Hawai’i and there is a travel agency here that puts together travel packages for every UH away game and they are the most traveled team in College football. We just need to be more creative and put someone in charge in the AD’s office of making it happen. I’m also a grad school alumni of Virginia Tech. When I was stationed in DC and Northern VA there was a huge contingent of VT alums, family and friends in the DC/Baltimore area that would drive to Hokie games in Blacksburg VA, which was about a 4 hour and 15 minute drive. Many would attend at least one game a year and some all of them. Guess what, the drive time between DC and West Point is about 4 hours and 30 minutes. Where are lots of Army families and alums and vets? In the DC region. So that tells me you could push that program all the way down into the DC area. Go Army! Beat ‘em all!
One more thing to emphasize your point about Army being NYC’s team. I don’t know if you have seen the ESPN 30 for 30 about Al Davis (the late Raiders owner) vs. Pete Rozelle (the late NFL Commissioner). Al Davis was from Brooklyn. Guess who his favorite team was when he was growing up? Army! He said all of his friends favorite team was Army. He stated he designed the Raiders uniforms to look like Army’s, but changed the gold to silver. Did you ever notice the similarity between the Raider’s uniforms and the vintage Army uniforms? I hadn’t thought about it until I heard that. Absolutely Army should be NYC’s team.