Coach’s weekend at Army-Navy game

I was born in 1950, and my first memories of watching football on TV are of college games. Usually, one of the teams were either Army or Navy. So, since I was a “wee lad”, I have wanted to attend the Army-Navy game.

Today, Dec. 8, I am writing this blog from Annapolis, MD, and just two days from attending my first ever Army-Navy game. What also makes this special, my son-in-law attended Navy (class of 2001), and is here with my daughter; they have been touring us around the Academy and D.C.

Everyone should visit D.C., the sense of history and tradition is everywhere and you can’t help but be inspired. On our first day here, we visited Arlington Cemetery and had the honor of witnessing the changing of the guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was one of the most profoundly humbling and well as inspiring moments of my life.

To stand on the grounds of that cemetery was an emotional experience for me. To see for the first time in my life the Vietnam Memorial, a war that took place in my lifetime and to find the names of young men with whom I had attended grade school, was overwhelming.

One of Luke’s classmates (my son-in-law), is also a graduate of the Naval Academy and presently is working as a Senate Advisor for the Navy at our country’s capitol. He took us on a private tour of the Capitol and Senate buildings, which brings me to my topic for today: relationships. There are ten of us left from a group of twelve, who met as freshmen football players at St. Mary’s in the Fall of 1964.

We have stayed close through all of those years, and the unifying force has been playing high school football together. Back then at SM, we had no fields at all, so we rode a broken down school bus to and from practice every day. That bus served as our “7 man sled” each and every day when it would stop running and the “band of pencil neck brothers” would have to get out and push it. Funny, how it never broke down on the way to practice… 

Luke has a core of classmates from the academy, that because of the nature of that institution, spent countless hours together and formed bonds that will tie them together for a lifetime. As evidenced by the fact that as each of them has gotten married, they all are the wedding party for each other. I digress; the point I am trying to emphasize is the power of athletics to build friendships that truly do last a lifetime.

Now, it should be fairly obvious that I am extremely biased toward the game of football, and I have had the opportunity to go to some form of practice every day of my life since the third grade until this year. To attend a practice of a game that I truly love, and be around people for whom I genuinely care; so this year, I didn’t go to a practice every day. In fact, I only attended one practice in August at Chandler.

I didn’t want anyone to think that I was looking over anyone’s shoulder. So, on Monday of this week, I had the opportunity to attend Navy’s practice. It felt like home to stand on their practice field, and watch Coach Steve John’s work his LB’s on tackling and Coach Dale Pehrson work with his DL on shedding the offensive man and break to the ball. To look over at the offensive practice and see them doing up downs (apparently all wasn’t going well), a tactic that I have employed once or twice in my career. To have Coach Ken Niumatalolo be gracious enough to let me wander around as if I were someone special. I truly missed being at “practice” for the first time this year.

The point that I am trying to drive home and poorly I might add is this: everything that we do in life is about building and maintaining relationships. In football, we use the term family too carelessly, but it can truly be a family.

The St. Mary’s family lost Joe Vales and Billy Mason this past year. Our country has lost thousands and thousands of men and women, so that Jim Ewan can go to football practice. Life is about family and traditions help us preserve our history and remember the sacrifices those who went before have made, so that I can finally go to an Army-Navy game.

More after Saturday’s game, on my way to the airport to pick up our other daughter. The Ewan Clan will be out in full force on Saturday.