As I sit at my keyboard thinking about the Patriots' perfect season with the TV on in the background, media guides and press releases piled high, a slightly static-y voice cuts through the air. "*Squawk* the starting lineup for the Fighting Falcons are..."
My attention snaps out of the materials I'm reading as I glance up to the television. There's plenty of activity in the background: One of my kids is playing on her computer; another is helping their mother in the kitchen making cookies. They're talking to me from the other room, but it all bleeds away as I focus on the image on the screen.
A quick glance reveals a USAF F-22 jet flying high over the California - Air Force Academy, Armed Forces Bowl. Dan Fouts' voice introduces the person on the air doing the introductions. It's college bowl coverage, but not just any college football game. It's a military academy going up against a powerhouse PAC-10 football program. It seems unfair, but don't tell that to the Air Force players, they expect to win.
Brigadier General Tod Wolters' voice cuts through the air again urging his Fighting Falcons on. "GO Falcons!" he shouts after introducing the lineups.
I'm feeling the tug of emotions run through me… Why? I'm not personally involved in this game; I have no family in the Air Force, none in Iraq or Afghanistan or any of the other hot spots around the globe. Yet it's something that I can't ignore… Something that deserves my attention, and I'm eager to give it.
|Jeff Tedford, California head coach (AP Photo/Jeff Carlson)|
I learn that Jeff Tedford, Cal's head coach, instructed the equipment manager to remove all of the names on the back of the California players' uniforms before the game. Hmmm, strange I think… The broadcast crew explains: Tetford wanted to honor their counterparts across the field. No man is more important than the rest of the team. It's a day about the team, not individuals.
Wow ... I think. Tedford is a very cool guy. He really "gets it."
My emotions stir again. I'm thinking, why isn't the world full of more of these people?
In an era where gangsta' rap rules; where borderline criminals are celebrated if they have any real athletic ability; where the rules are bent to accommodate big football programs, Tedford cuts through to the most important things: Honor, Integrity and Sacrifice.
Tedford suspended three of his starters players for the start of the game for not having those values and violating team rules. It could hurt his team today, but that didn't matter.
As Navy brat growing up I couldn't get the armed forces out of my system. While I'm a Navy brat by proxy – mother re-married to a navy officer when I was a kid – I root for all of the armed forces. You can't say enough good things about people who are willing to sacrifice what members of the armed forces have sacrificed for this country. It's probably why cheered inwardly when the Patriots re-signed Kyle Eckel ( I even sought him out for an interview). Or when they invited Denny Poland to minicamp.
Before I get all Patriotic and noble, I should say I didn't always feel that way.
Some things you learn to appreciate with age. Sacrifice is one of those.
So as I turn my attention back to my notes -- focusing on a story about Draft prospects the Patriots are looking at -- I just wanted to say, on this New Year's Eve… "Be safe" to all our members of the military and wherever you are, God bless you for your sacrifices. Have a Happy and safe New Year.
Oh yeah… and GO Falcons!
Jon Scott has covered the NFL for over ten years and the New England Patriots since their first successful Super Bowl run. A life-long New Englander, Jon often reminisces on his childhood as a Navy brat growing up, meeting new people, living in faraway lands, and proudly waving his flag on all of the military holidays.
Official Armed Forces Bowl Page