Wow. When did the Gray Lady go Verhoeven? This profile on the West Point lacrosse team (and its recent upset of powerhouse Syracuse) is straight-up warrior caste fetishism, a stirring piece of inspirational wartime propaganda that makes Starship Troopers look like Paths of Glory. It includes lines like this:
If it were any other underdog, it would have been a nice niche sports story and not much more. But in a nation, it seems, perpetually at war, in an institution like no other, at a time when 78 West Point grads have died while serving since 9/11, it felt like more.
Like “more” as in worse? As in seven graduating seniors are heading off to fight a shitty war? It continues…
The mother of Head Coach Joe Alberici sent him a quote about a stonecutter hammering away, where one blow finally breaks the rock but a hundred others made it possible. They brought a boulder into the locker room, and the players pounded on it in a tribute to discipline and persistence.
There is persistence, and there is bullheadedness. Which one seems more relevant to American foreign policy over the last decade? You see, Army lost four of its first five games of the season, but they kept banging that boulder, and are now on their way to face Cornell on Sunday. Because NCAA lacrosse is a lot like a ground war in a THOUSAND-YEAR GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES. (I’m not even going to get into the guy who quotes War and Peace.)
And then the whole “sports=war” angle really gets explicit:
Army’s seniors, or “firsties,” will soon head for more perilous assignments. [Flying helicopters, disarming bombs.] It seems a long way from this bullet-fast game on green fields, but players say it’s not at all.
Says senior Tyler Oates:
We never go on the field saying, ‘We’re going to give them a heck of a fight,’ or ‘We’re going to play our best,’ ” he said, adding: “You’re not going to go into Afghanistan saying ‘I hope I do all right.’ […] What makes you think the way you approach a lacrosse game should be different than the way you approach a training exercise or when you actually go to war?
Finally, writer Peter Applebome takes a step back, to try and make us go “hmm.”
We revere the military, but it is the warriors in cleats and pads who get all the money and acclaim. On the other hand, these days the graduates coming out of West Point are among the few who have a guaranteed job and future, however risky. […] After all those years of hitting the parade field at 7 a.m. while their peers elsewhere were hours away from opening their bleary eyes, [these players] might have the edge in the rest of life, too.
Provided, of course, they aren’t suffering from PTSD, the loss of limbs, or death.