Football players scrimmage on field in front of stadium crowd.
In this Dec. 14, 2019, file photo, Army wide receiver Camden Harrison (88) is pulled down by Navy safety Kevin Brennan (10) Perry during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Philadelphia. Credit: Matt Slocum / AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Call it a political bye week.

With the Patriots’ heart pounding, ground-pounding Monday night victory in Buffalo, they were able to come back to New England for a respite. It is that cherished tradition known as a “bye week” in the NFL schedule.

America can take its own political bye this weekend and enjoy football.

Saturday will bring the 122nd “Army-Navy” football game to our televisions. The game itself is always a bit of a spectacle. Many college football teams play the game similarly to the NFL.

The service academies are different. Where civilian schools provide athletic scholarships to student-athletes and entice them with a free education, military academies give every student a full ride. However, when those students graduate, they need to repay rich Uncle Sam who funded their education. They do so through military service.  

Because of that, they attract students with different priorities and skills than civilian schools. And that leads to a markedly different style of football. It is similar to the style the Patriots employed to beat back the Bills.

Yet, while the game itself should be entertaining, the pomp and circumstance surrounding it is what makes it special.

Spirit spots” — short videos, often humorous, encouraging one team to beat the other — are a fun tradition. Some will leave you in stitches. Others fall flat.  

Before kickoff, midfield generally sees a “prisoner exchange.” While civilian students may spend a semester abroad, Annapolis and West Point students go to places even more foreign. Specifically, some spend a semester at their sister service school.  

Once the game kicks off, we get to watch young men play one of the most quintessentially American sports. Individual battles are important, but a stellar single performance can rarely overcome shortcomings of the team writ large.

If the president, as the military’s commander-in-chief, attends the game, he always swaps sidelines at halftime.  

Ultimately, the game reaches an end. There is a victor and the vanquished. Yet, in a poignant moment, the winning team joins their former opponents on their sideline and sing loudly — together — the “alma mater” song of the losing side. Then, fittingly, the Army and Navy players go jointly to the prevailing team’s sideline and repeat the tradition.

There is a lot of beautiful symbolism reflected in “America’s game.” There are two sides who struggle mightily against each other. They fight for pride and victory for their chosen team.  

And then the game ends.

And the two teams merge into one. Because when the students at Annapolis and West Point graduate, they will be on the same team serving in defense of our nation.

These will be lessons our elected officials should heed this Saturday in Metlife Stadium. You can fight like hell for your team, in support of your side’s objectives, to achieve your desired goals. But your opponents are not the enemy; they too are Americans.

We’ve just passed Pearl Harbor Day and lost former Sen. Bob Dole. Those who fought in World War II are called the “Greatest Generation” with good reason. And while they would not always agree with each other, it never stopped them from trying to work together where they could. Because they knew firsthand that a unified America is pretty hard to beat.

So take a political bye week from the internecine warfare in Congress and elsewhere. Sit back, watch a football game, and enjoy the show. It should make you proud to be an American.

Oh, and Go Navy, Beat Army!

Avatar photo

Michael Cianchette, Opinion columnist

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.