FOOTBALL GAME, TAILGATING HIGHLIGHT WEEKEND AT WEST POINT
A steady, cold rain fell throughout the first half of the game at West Point’s Michie Stadium until it turned to sleet fueled by a biting cold North wind which made me feel as cold as I have ever felt in my young life. This was my first–and I vowed my last—college football game that I would ever attend. I was with the Boy Scouts from Schenectady, N.Y., which was 130 miles north up the New York State Thruway. And it was Halloween Day to boot. Army was hosting the University of Virginia on this unusually cold and damp day in 1952. I was only 11 years old and anxious to visit West Point. Well, last weekend wife Susan and I, plus daughter Karen Smith, her husband Brian and granddaughter Ryan jumped on a jet at George Bush Intercontinental Airport and flew nonstop to Newark. There, we rented a van and headed for the historic site located between Bear Mountain and the Hudson River to visit our grandson Logan Smith who is in his second year at the U.S. Military Academy. It was Parents (and grandparents) Weekend, which is an annual event when the school throws out the welcome mat for the parents. Although Michie Stadium is far from the largest facility in the NCAA, the 30,000 or so fans couldn’t just park their car and walk a few hundred feet to see the game between Army and Temple. Because it is a military institution, fans from both schools fell into a long line of vehicles as members of the Military Police stopped each car and checked the driver’s licenses of everyone in the vehicle. The MP’s randomly selected vehicles that they ordered everyone out and searched the front and rear seats plus the trunk and then apologized for the inconvenience and sent us on our way. We were one of the lucky random choices. Although we left our rented house three hours before the noon kickoff, we missed the paratroopers flying in the game ball. When the national anthem was played, the only fans that weren’t standing were confined to a wheelchair. The game was played on a bluebird-clear day with the temperature in the upper 70’s. Army proved it preferred a run-oriented offense, throwing only two passes in the first half. The Black Knights’ stole a page from Woody Hayes’ “three yards and a cloud of dust” by making four yards and a clump of turf. They scored the first two touchdowns. Not to be denied, Temple rang up a pair of six-pointers as the teams went to their dressing rooms at the intermission tied at 14-14.The game was nip-and-tuck in the second half and tied most of the time. The visiting Owls scored with 1:38 left and nudged ahead 28-21. Although they were out of timeouts, Army moved the ball quickly and scored just before the final gun sounded. It was overtime and Temple missed their field goal attempt while Army’s kick was true giving the Black Knights an exciting 31-28 victory. This marked the fourth straight win and sixth of the season for Army, making them the first team eligible for the Military Bowl, played annually at Annapolis, MD. We then went around the small lake behind the stadium where hundreds of festive tailgaters were celebrating the victory. One alumnus claimed he has been coming to the games for over 50 years and never saw one as exciting as the Army-Temple game that just concluded. We were invited to the tailgate site by Logan’s close friend Cadet Cameron Conner. Both of his parents graduated from the Academy along with two brothers and a sister and travel from their home in Boston loaded with food and tailgate for every home game. When Cam’s mother found out I was 100 per cent Polish, she brought me a big plate of her Kielbasa which was different from our 110-year family recipe. She uses a hint of brown sugar in the skillet and that little sweetness just melts in your mouth. Another woman heard I hailed from Schenectady and came over to the site and said she was a neighbor of mine because she was from nearby Albany. Not to be outdone, another gal came up to me and said she was raised in Beaumont, but now lives in Buffalo, N.Y. I asked her how long it took her to learn how to shovel snow and she replied, “About 10 minutes.” Logan was real excited that we all came up to visit him and gave us a tour of West Point. He showed us a few links of the huge chain the Americans stretched across the Hudson River to prevent British ships from advancing to the interior of New York state and claim that territory. This was done at an elevated plateau at Fort Putnam on the west point of the Hudson during the American Revolution in 1778 that they held until the end of the war in 1783. After the war President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy on the site and re-named it West Point. JUST BETWEEN US…As an additional bonus to our West Point trip, we got to watch our Houston Astros ward off the New York Yankees twice to win the American League Championship Series and earn a berth in the 2017 World Series, which began last night against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Once again, the loudest mouths in the sports world claimed the Astros don’t stand a chance against LA’s pitching. Well, we have a few good hurlers on our own which leads me to predict Houston in Six!!!