Each year in early December, the United States Military Academy at West Point engages in battle with the United States Naval Academy. The battle, of course, is only a metaphor: we’re talking about a football game.

But in that metaphor, we find a deeper meaning. While the Army-Navy game is just a game, millions of Americans watching see it as something far greater. Every single young man on the field is more than a football player. Indeed, they are the very best that America has to offer.

One meme that’s gone viral online has stuck with us in the wake of Navy’s unprecedented 14th consecutive victory over their West Point brothers:

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While the same obviously goes for the Army/Air Force and Navy/Air Force games as well, let that sink in. Not a single player accepts the honor to play for either side with future football glory in mind. Rarely does a player from a military academy make it to the NFL. Rarer still is the player who would even want to play on Sundays. Indeed, these young men are exactly what their uniforms would suggest: members of the military, sworn by oath to protect and preserve the United States from enemies foreign and domestic.

As we settle in for the holidays, many of us will take in the college football bowl season (sponsored by Capital One, of course) with great interest. The advent of the College Football Playoff has made the stakes even higher for the programs that have made it that far.

But when it comes to high stakes, let us always remember that the young men who don the Army and Navy uniforms – along with our friends down the road at the Air Force Academy – understand high stakes more than most of us can even begin to comprehend. It is precisely that understanding that makes the Army-Navy game the greatest event on America’s sporting calendar.

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