Sunday, June 04, 2017

Dishonoring A Game of Honor

In 2012, my wife and I attended the Army-Navy football game, that year in Philadelphia.  That was my son's senior (firstie) year, and we had planned on attending at least one while he was there -- that was it.  That year also the documentary, Game of Honor, produced in 2011 by either Showtime or CBS Sports, was released.  The blip at Amazon for the documentary reads:
The documentary film chronicles the experiences of student athletes at West Point and Annapolis as they prepare to serve their country and participate in a rivalry unmatched by any other in sports--the Army-Navy football game. This highly anticipated documentary will grant unprecedented access inside the academies and the lives of its students. Giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the pressures, challenges, joys and friendships that are unique to the cadets and midshipmen each football season, the athletes will be seen preparing not only for their battle on the football field, but for their future careers as servicemen.
The filmmakers used the Army-Navy game to reveal from the inside what it's like to attend the service academies.  Some of the scenes are very familiar to me, since we were there on R day (a cadet's very first day) with our son, a 2013 graduate, his first plebe day at West Point.  Watching those scenes, we really felt what was going on in the film. The depiction of the game also brought back strong memories, since we had attended.

The film used the 2011 game as the center piece of its story, where Army lost its 10th straight to Navy with Trent Steelman sacked thirty yards from a winning touchdown to end the game.  The next year, the year we attended, Steelman fumbled inside the ten yard line of what would have been again a winning score.  These are heartbreaking losses for a team that has lost so much in this transcendent game.  For a long time, the television announcers for the Army-Navy game on CBS were Gary Danielson and Verne Lundquist.  This last year, when Army finally won the game after a gigantic losing streak, Danielson and Lundquist referred back to the game we saw, where Steelman fumbled near the goal line with a great potential to score.  I was there at that game, and the feeling was that Army had the momentum and we would be there for this break through game.

I heard about the documentary, and my wife and I wanted to see it, but when I looked to get it, it seemed impossible to get.  I wanted to order it and couldn't find it to buy in any tangible way.  It was amazingly hard to get for something that seemed like it would get widespread viewing.  I finally watched it for the first time this last week, but only in livestreaming.  I don't know if they are selling hard copies of it anywhere.

Our son, Kirk, had told us that the cameras were in his classroom, but he didn't know whether he was in it, so as we watched, we did look for him.  Kirk had played trombone in the spirit band, and he played on ESPN a few times, when that network parked up there the week of the game.  He was in the documentary for a few seconds, the camera pointed right at him while he was working in the classroom (44:24-27).  My daughters insta-snapped that little section to him in Poland.

Upon watching the documentary, I then had what I thought was a reasonable idea for why it wasn't being pushed.  I thought for sure West Point would want it out there, that is, before I watched it.  I still haven't read anywhere explaining why it wasn't, but I now have why I wouldn't want it out there. Showtime has the following advisory:  "Adult Content, Adult Language."  How could a service academy documentary have that kind of advisory?  This is A Game of Honor.

The adult content dishonored A Game of Honor.  I was very sadly disappointed with what I saw and heard.  Don't get me wrong, a lot of it is very, very good, but how could they allow the foul language? More importantly and worse, how does this kind of thing go on in officer training? They freely use the very worst language.  I really think this is the reason it has gone under the radar, but I don't know.  Let me explain what I saw.

I don't like anyone to use foul language, but I understand that people use it in the world.  I'm assuming someone will inform me of that.  Don't tell me that either.  It should be totally unacceptable. It really does deserve an apology for anyone who tried to watch it.  I was playing inner city pick-up-ball at least until I was 50.  I have heard everything.  I have always let people know I don't want to hear it in no uncertain terms, not as a kind of moralism, but as taking a righteous stand.  These are not just enlisted men.  These are officers in training, but it isn't just the cadets in training.  It is their leadership using the Lord's name in vain and the worst possible other profanities.  At about 1:27:25-50, 25 straight seconds, Navy assistant coaches use the most profane language in the English vocabulary. This is not all.  Several different characters use this type of speech, peppered through the documentary.

These are the professionals leading the cadets and motivating them using cuss words.  If you are especially just a cadet under their authority, then you have to take it, but you shouldn't have to do that and it shouldn't be done.  It is not manhood.  It is bad excuse for manhood.  It is fake manhood.  It isn't what you want to teach leaders, train young people, and especially your officer corps that is acceptable for motivating men.  The producers included all this in the documentary, and I hope this is the reason I haven't seen the documentary pushed.  Their coaches and cadets regularly use the very worst foul language.  It is normal behavior that will only beget more it.  If the cream of the crop, the so-called best of the best are doing it, then it is excused or even encouraged for everyone.

I'm thankful for the sacrifice.  I'm thankful for the hard work.  These young men are required to do a lot.  It's no excuse for the language.  For me, it dishonored a game of honor.

1 comment:

Kent Brandenburg said...

I wrote this post for several reasons, but one of them is in case someone looks from the service academies, agrees, and does something about it. It's out here to be heard, and I want them to know. I hate this about the idea of manhood today. One the one hand, you see these tiny women at West Point, excepted to guard prisoners and bust down doors, but instead of pushing real manhood, we get the foul language as a replacement for something that no one can believe any more. In the Naval academy section, a woman Marine leader berates a female Naval cadet, using foul language, because she won't come back down a rope she can't climb. She couldn't climb it, even though she wanted to. Isn't that the elephant in the room?