Saturday, January 21, 2012

And the Home of the Brave

Sean and I attended last night's Army/Air Force hockey game at West Point, with tickets given to us by my WGCH friend and colleague Chris Kaelin. My sister and her son, Jake, rounded out our foursome.

The game was outstanding - well-played to a 3-3 tie. Army needed a late short-handed goal to tie things up. Sure I wish they would play longer than a five-minute overtime, but that's how it ended. Sean, in that beautiful mind of his said, "Everyone goes home a winner!"

I was just happy there was no shootout. Jake questioned my feelings about this, and I explained my belief in "old time hockey" (Slap Shot, of course) and that, when you come right down to it, the shootout is really for the fans because people want wins and losses. The teams participating already have received credit for the tie. The shootout win is just icing on the cake (and an extra point, of course).

Getting onto the West Point campus isn't as easy as it once was, of course. You now go through a 100% ID check, with only Jake and Sean being excluded. Actually you go through it twice, and I should warn you that it is NOT well-marked at all. The signage was pretty bad. Heck even finding the rink wasn't initially that easy, but fortunately I had enough memories of going to West Point to get by.

Side note: It would be fun to broadcast events there. I looked at Michie Stadium, home of the Black Knights' football team and just sighed...

Inside the athletic center, which houses both the basketball and hockey teams, are very basic concessions (hot dogs, popcorn, drinks, nachos), all staffed by cadets. When I asked the young man who got me our food if everyone attended West Point, he responded with a smile: "Yes, sir." They couldn't have been nicer, and all I could do was return the smile and say: "Thank you." I told Sean these guys are real deal heroes who will one day defend us.

I don't care if that sounds pithy. It's true.

I can't stress enough how enjoyable it is to go to a game, and I'd enjoy going again. I think you would also. There's a great innocence to it. This is pure athletics, with limited "entertainment aspects." At the end, both teams gathered in a circle in the best "stick salute" I'll ever see.

But it was the National Anthem that really struck me. A cadet stepped onto the ice, in dress uniform, and sung the song properly: a capella, though with background vocals provided by the crowd. Otherwise, it was silent throughout the rink. There were no conversations. People stood at attendance. Hats were off, and held over hearts. Nobody moved a muscle until the end of the last note.




Why can't we always behave like that?

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