*Field Goals* - Champions In Uniform

The curtain descends upon college football's regular season this weekend as a handful of games and conference championships are contested. Hanging in the balance are bids to high profile bowl games, lucrative paydays for universities and enough grist to keep the mills of armchair quarterbacks grinding for the next three weeks. All of this gives rise to the question: So what?

   MORE PRESSING MATTERS. Listen carefully. Even now you may be able to hear the gnashing of teeth and wailing of voices by alumni and athletic directors/chief financial officers on college campuses near and far. Oh, the humanity, if Agitated State should be snubbed by the Barley, Malt & Hops Beverage.com Bowl in favor of the University of Obsequious Behavior!!

   If the unthinkable happens and Virginia Tech beats Miami this weekend, cacophonous pleas for bowl consideration will arise and resound from the inner sanctums of college sports information directors and football coaching staffs, while the BCS frantically tries to displace the egg from its collective physiognomy. Yeah, an upset of the Hurricanes by the Hokies from Blacksburg would really show those BCS weasels what rubes they have become.

   By what tortured chain of events has the BCS been empowered to deny Bobby Joe Screen Pass and his West Dakota A&M Tobacco Chewers' teammates a chance to play for a mythical national title? Perhaps the more penetrating question is why there is such monumental angst over the selection process, and ultimately the participants in, an illusory national title game.

   It's fitting that this Saturday--December 7th, a date which holds more than a little historical importance for a nation preoccupied with the hysterical machinations of the BCS--finds Army and Navy renewing their annual rivalry. It is in this game that Americans can view young men who are truly the best and brightest in the nation, the bedrock upon which this country's continuing freedom will be built and by whom that freedom will be safeguarded.

NO RIPPLE EFFECT. This year's struggle between the Midshipmen and the Black Knights will have no impact on which team goes to what bowl. There will be no bowl bids extended or retracted based on the game's outcome nor will there be any movement up or down the media polls precipitated by the final score.


    The players in this game won't be ruminating over a decision as to whether they should finish their degree in criminology or enter the NFL draft on an early basis so as to embark upon a career of being a criminally overpaid athlete. The young men who take the field this Saturday are the rarest of all breeds on present-day college campuses. They are even more than the little seen, much admired, nearly extinct "student-athlete." They are "cadet-student-athletes," one of life's unique species, in that they are preparing for a career of service to others before self.

   Army coach Todd Berry, his Navy counterpart Paul Johnson and their teams are awash in a sea of losses this season. Each team has compiled a 1-10 record with Navy's lone win having come on opening day against Southern Methodist while Army's single victory came in November versus Tulane. Each team could luxuriate temporarily in the solace accompanying a victory over a storied rival before undertaking the winter's daunting task of seeking to understand campaigns gone painfully awry.

   Todd Berry is coming to the end of his third year as Army's head coach. There have been precious few victories on the field for Army since Berry assumed the coaching position from Bob Sutton and it's clear that not all Army fans are enamored with Berry. A trip to an Army cyber-bulletin board is not for the faint of heart as anyone with even a remote connection to college football from J.C. Watts to R.C. Slocum is being proposed as an immediate replacement for the team's beleaguered head coach.

   In the eyes of Naval Academy fans, Paul Johnson has a somewhat lengthier measure of rope with which to hang himself as he is ending just his first year as the Middies' head coach. Johnson enjoyed considerable success at division 1-AA Georgia Southern, is a former assistant coach at Navy and hopes remain high that the success he enjoyed at his previous job will be duplicated at Annapolis. Unless Navy wins on Saturday the coaching staff, players, and especially the graduating seniors, will leave the playing field encumbered by the weight of a ten game losing streak on their shoulders.

   PURPOSE AND FOCUS. The young men and women who seek entrance to this nation's service academies undertake a monumental commitment that belies their youth. While in high school and marginally past the age of seventeen or perhaps eighteen, these incipient adults willingly pursue college educations and undergo military training in exchange for a pledge to safekeep the freedoms of this country by serving in its armed forces. There is no greater measure of humanity than the freely assumed commitment to serve others before self. Such commitment is the embodiment of valuing a nation's welfare over ensuring the sustained comfort of any one of its citizens.


    As December and January's bowl pictures are brought into crystallized focus, debates will rage in unabated fashion over the perceived iniquities of the BCS. Renewed protestations demanding a playoff system will be given voice by
self-adjudged, aggrieved fans. That a segment of this country's populace can issue hollow grievances over the manner and methodology used to help identify a college football titleist, is an indication of the remarkable latitude of freedom we enjoy in the United States. It is the protection afforded us, in part, by the earnest sweat of the young men and women who graduate from our nation's service academies, which allows us to engage in such trivialities as debates over playoff formats and the like.

   So, On Brave old Army team!! And Anchors Aweigh, Navy!! It is you who are the uncrowned champions of this nation.

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