Ohio State won its first game today, beating Navy 34-17. It was an excellent game, with Navy ripping off huge runs and gashing Ohio State with its great running game, and Ohio State responding with some big plays. Ohio State’s redshirt freshman quarterback made a bad play but made some good plays and now has a win under his belt, and the Ohio State defense bounced back from some bad breakdowns to stop Navy at the end and allow the Buckeyes to come away with the win.
But I don’t really want to write about the football right now. Instead, I’d rather write about the coolness of playing the United States Naval Academy, and the great displays of sportsmanship by college athletes from both schools before, during, and after the game. This was a game where there wasn’t any chippiness, or cheap penalties, or showboating for the cameras. Both teams played hard, but fair and within the rules. The Ohio State players obviously had great respect for Navy, and I think the Midshipmen felt likewise. When the teams honored each other by listening respectfully to both alma maters at the end of the game, it was a fitting and moving end to a great exhibition.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad that Ohio State won. But I also want to point out how refreshing it is to see college athletes behave with class, and dignity, in a manner that reflects well on both institutions. This is what college sports really should be about.
Ohio State fans used to make fun of Notre Dame for playing the service academies every year; we said it was just a way for the Fighting Irish to pad their win totals against overmatched opponents. After this game against Navy and the game in 2009 that I was privileged to attend in Ohio Stadium, we know differently. Even though this game with Navy was a nail-biter, and even though the Buckeyes’ victory was a hard-fought one, I’m hoping that the Ohio State Athletic Department schedules Navy again, and sees whether Army and Air Force might fit on future schedules. Playing them is a way to honor their service to our country and their role in securing our freedoms. When you hear the National Anthem on the same field with young men who soon will be placing themselves in harm’s way for the good of the country, it just has a different feel. I admire those Navy players, and I’ll be rooting for them to win every other game they play this year.
Finally, thanks to Mike N for the great photos. The photo at the top of this post, of the rows of assembled, white-clad Midshipmen on the field prior to the game, should give us all chills, and the photo below of Carmen Ohio being played while both teams stand respectfully, will remind us of how college sports can be great.