Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Marching On' after JFK

Roger Staubach is Mike Brown's hero.

Nothing strange about that. Roger Staubach was/is a hero to men and at least one woman of a certain age.

Mike's wife, Paula,  (full disclosure: she's my cousin) recognized Staubach in an airport a few years ago.

"You're too young to know who I am!" he said.

"He's my hero, too!" Paula jokes.

We throw that word hero around like yesterday's garbage, but Staubach and Rollie Stichweh fit the bill.

Staubach, you may know, was a Navy cadet, Heisman winner, quarterback of the Midshipmen's great football teams of the early 1960s. Stichweh was an Army cadet, the Black Knights of the Hudson general, between the gridiron lines anyway, or at least coach Paul Dietzel's aide-de-camp.

They shouldn't be friends. They are best buds.

And, one incredible late fall day in Philly, they and their teams created a national catharsis, one it needed, oh, did it ever, after Lee Harvey Oswald blasted away America's perceived innocence that dark Friday in Dallas.

This friendship, that game, that moment, is the subject of a new CBS Sports documentary, "Marching On." Holy cow.

The abbreviated summary of the game is that Army had the ball within two yards of the goal line with seconds left and a chance to win. Stichweh called for a time out. Loud crowd.

He'd gotten two. He didn't get the one he needed. Navy won. "Anchor's Aweigh!"

With fitting irony, No. 2 Navy went to Dallas to play No. 1 Texas at the Cotton Bowl. Stampeded by the Longhorns that day despite passing for nearly 300 yards, Staubach returned to Dallas a few years later to play for Tom Landry.

How 'bout that?

Read this article by George Vecsey. Look for the documentary on CBS Sports Network.

It was a different era. Coaches wore coats and ties and sometimes fedoras. Cadets (even quarterbacks) wore crew cuts and said, "It's my fault, sir." Too many of the latter didn't come home from Southeast Asia.

On  Dec. 7, 1963, two quarterbacks stood tall -- one victorious on the field, the other victorious in the quality of his character.

They're best of buds. Holy cow.

Tell you what, Mike. I'll take Rollie Stichweh in honor of U.S. Army veteran Larry Gregory Mabe, and we'll watch the Army/Navy game together next year.

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