Sammy Sportface entered through the intimidating and austere security gates into the U.S. Army compound known at West Point, New York.
His logistical frustrations and emotional torment were behind him – or so he thought.
Before this, he had been in line in traffic for an hour waiting to get past the military-security apparatus and was relieved that he had finally cut through the red tape and could cruise on down to the football tailgate in Lot H with his college pals.
All of them were already getting lathered up to get their emotions lifted with liquids in the run-up to the mega, cross-disciplinary showdown pitting his alma mater against a mentally, psychologically, logistically, and physically strong, alert, and obedient Army team with a record of 4 wins and 2 losses.
Finally, his buddies could partake of his massive carton of Dunkin Donuts coffee, family pack of black licorice, Fanta Grape Soda, Halloween candy, Citrus Orange Soda, and a jumbotron bottle of Baileys Irish Cream.
He had reached nirvana. He cruised on down the hill in a slow but steady pace in traffic. Down the hill, curving a bit. Down some more. Another curve. Down down down, curve, down, curve, down, curve, down. Hey, there’s a football field, he noticed. Oh, nobody’s there, doesn’t look like a stadium.
Oh, whatever, must be close, he thought, probably a football field probably for practice so no doubt he had to be only a football toss from Lot H, which was starting to seem like the ultimate destination in life, the zenith of human experience, the point you don’t plan past in your life. On he drove, down another pack of hills. Down down down, curve, traffic.
Pistol Pete called.
“Sportface, where are you? We’re in Lot H.”
“I don’t know where I am but I think I’m close to Lot H.”
“OK well we’re here, bring your Halloween candy and Grape Soda.”
Down more hills. And more hills. And more hills.
At the base of the hill, Sportface asked a young cadet in Army fatigues. “Excuse me, sir, can you tell me where Lot H is.”
“Forgive me directness, sir, but aren’t you Sammy Sportface?” asked the soldier. “You look like that creepy sports blogger cat who writes that wild-ass stuff. Can I have your autograph? Everybody on this Army base reads your blogs. You can get court-martialed if you get caught doing reading Sportface, but we believe it’s worth the risk. Will you give me an autograph by signing my fatigues?
“Not now, sir. I just need to know where Lot H is.”
“I don’t know, Mr. Sportface. I’ve never heard of Lot H.”
Never heard of Lot H, Sportface thinks to himself. Could this all be a big practical joke in which Pistol Pete and the fellas didn’t even come to the game and made up some story about meeting in Lot H just to bust on Sportface for writing so many incendiary blogs about them leading up to the event?
Did they tell him to fly up the East Coast of the U.S. to a football game to join them and then, like Lucy with Charlie Brown, pull the football away before he could kick it?
He would have deserved it.
All the cars start turning left like sheep jumping off a mountain.
“Excuse me, cadet, can you tell me where Lot H is?” he asks.
“Hot A. Did you say Hot A, sir, and what Hot was that again?”
Sportface noticed he was in a massive backup five feet from a multi-dimensional waste facility plant to his left stenching up the Hudson River early dawn air.
Like people fleeting a burning fire, people started abandoning their cars just anywhere because they want to get to the game and the Army guy has started telling them that this road they’re on led to nowhere.
“Sportface, where are you? We’re in Lot H.”
“I have no idea,” says Sportface. “Nobody here has heard of Lot H. Are you sure we’re not playing Air Force today.”
“How could that be? I’m telling you we’re in Lot H.”
“And I’m telling you no one here has heard of Lot H.”
“Where are you?”
On the campus of Army or maybe Air Force or the Citadel somewhere.
“I have no idea.”
It’s at this point that several things start to dawn in Sportface and two in particular.
One: He was not in the right place – not even close.
Two: He would have to figure out how to make it to kick off on time. Football is why he was here – above everywhere else — to see his Wake team go to 7 and 0 for the first time since continental drift got unleashed somehow.
So he ditched his car somewhere random, got the hell out of wherever he was and started walking towards where he thought the stadium might be wherever the hell that was but surely where no one else knew either.
Feeling he had nothing to lose, he jumped on some school bus for fourth graders with a blue stripe on it.
“Where’s Lot H?
“Oh, Lot H. It’s on the other side of campus, about 12 miles away.”
“12 miles? How big is this campus?”
“Oh, you’ve never been here?”
“Get in. Sit back. Relax. We’ll take you over to the stadium. That’ll eat up an hour of your day that was supposed to be enjoyable. Then I’ll drop you off and you can get on another red school bus that little kids ride in. And then you can get ride that for 45 minutes and you’ll get to Lot H. But whatever you do when you want to go home, don’t get on a red bus. You’ll never get home.
Red buses and blue buses. So much to sort through, thought Sportface and then he came to this realization that, hey, there is a Lot H.
“Where’s Lot H?
“On the complete other side of the campus.”
The bus starts rolling uphill, and up more hills, and up more hills and up more hills, and then some curves. Then more hills, steeper than the Olympics downhill slalom skiing event.
Sportface comes to terms that he’s trapped – like a fly under a fly swatter — in the slowest moving traffic jam in the history of the world. Up one inch. Stop. Lose your mind for 12 minutes. Up one inch. Pray to God you don’t completely go bat crazy. Up one inch.
“Get off here,” she says. “Walk up that road for about a mile and get on a red bus and they’ll drive you up several hills and at the top of the hill you’ll get to Lot H.”
Sportface steps off the bus. There’s the football stadium. But Lot H – now becoming the Lot from Hell — exists someplace far away and the only way to get there is by some cruddy red bus not suited for tall men.
“Can I walk to Lot H?”
“I wouldn’t advise it,” said the Red Bus Driver. “It’s the steepest hill in the world. You might die trying it. Hundreds of people have passed away walking up that hill.”
So he sits in the bus. Inch. Inch. Inch. Half inch.
At the top he gets to Lot H.
“Where you been, Sportface?” asks Pistol.
“On the other side of campus somewhere.”
“You came in the wrong entrance.”
Sportface didn’t come in the wrong entrance. He came in the wrong country.
Whatever you’ve ever imagined the Army at West Point campus to look like, perhaps beautiful, quaint, and historic, it’s something quite different, kind of an endless messy maze.
Picture a football stadium at the bottom of the biggest mountain in the world and there’s only one way in and out of the campus and to the stadium on a long and winding road the length of California.
And envision the steepest hills you’ve walked up, and then picture those hills extended for the lengths of four football fields, straight uphill, forever until the end of time. Huge doesn’t even begin to explain Army at West Point.
Finally, Sportface reaches Lot H, hours late, and stays for a few seconds. He tells his tale of misery then finds out about those who also hadn’t even gotten off the traffic battlefield. There were plenty of other casualties of the traffic war.
“How come there are only four of us here?” asked Sportface. “There were supposed to be 35?”
“They’re all losing their bullets in this traffic battle for the ages,” said Pistol. “They’re running out of ammunition. The Army is winning. They’re outflanking everybody.”
Sportface was trying to figure out what the hell was going on that was making this campus a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour – on the side of a mountain.
It was a combination of things and started piecing it together. A set of circumstances had this day turning into something to be talked about decades from now by traffic professionals here in the U.S. and abroad. It’ll be a Harvard Business School case study one day.
A confluence of factors created this madness. Army was having a good season and came in keen on upsetting undefeated Wake Forest. And Wake fans poured in from all over the New York area and beyond to catch a ride on this dreamy and increasingly unforgettable football season.
And then there was this: parent’s weekend. The dreaded P word. Parents of the 4,000 Army students around the U.S. and world aren’t allowed to come to see their young adults often but this was one of those weekends when they could.
Every one of those parents was there plus grandparents, uncles, aunts and nephews, and next of kin.
Days before the game everybody knew the game would be sold out. What they didn’t expect was for every square inch of the campus to be sold out with cars, cheesy buses, Army men, and civilians of every stripe imaginable.
So after spending a few seconds seeing his friends at the tailgate it was time to head over to the game on another red school bus with seats not big enough for 10-year-olds to sit in.
Game time was 30 minutes away.
Here the madness continued. The bus inched down the hill. Kickoff drew near only 15 minutes away. Feeling mentally tormented beyond belief but excited, he looked out the window to see the front of the stadium and was ready to get out after the driver opens the door.
Get back in your chair, Sportface.
The driver said they had to drive a mile beyond the stadium, make a U-turn and then he’ll pull back up in front of the stadium. People start cussing out the driver. Anarchy felt minutes away.
“Why not just drop us off here in front of the stadium”? asks Sportface to a 70-year-old man who says he was once in the Army and routinely goes to Army home games.
“This is the Army, they have rules.”
“But it doesn’t make sense to drive a mile beyond the stadium when we’re in front of it right now especially when the game starts in 10 minutes. I hate rules.”
“This is the Army. They have rules.”
The old man laughed.
“It’s a really stupid rule,” said Sportface.
“They don’t care. They have rules. We’re just the commoners.”
“Any sensible person would see that we should be let out in front of the stadium here and now rather than after riding around and doing another U-turn and wasting the hell out of all of our time. This is the worst customer service in the history of customers.”
“There are rules here. That’s it.”
It was all starting to crystallize in Sportface’s mind that he’s on the world’s largest college campus in the world – much bigger than Ohio State, Michigan, UCLA.
It’s not even close. This Army campus is bigger than all those campuses combined, wider than the Atlantic Ocean. They say many college campuses are like small cities. Army is like a large continent slanted at an 83-degree angle.
On this day – just imagine – this continent was so crowded and crammed with cars going nowhere that it felt like some cruel joke on everyone who made a phenomenally foolish decision to drive onto that campus before this football game.
Finally, off the bus, Sportface entered the game feeling distressed that he didn’t know where he parked his car in relation to where he was. Someplace many miles away was all he could really lock onto.
But that was a problem to be unpacked later. It was game time. So what if he won’t find his car and gets stranded at Army for several days as long he’s in the game when it starts.
The cadets marched in as is the tradition. Fast fighter jets blazed across the sky. At least now there was something that Sportface could understand: a college football game.
Tucked up against the polluted Hudson River, the stadium gives off a unique and slightly scary vibe. You feel like you’re sitting in a place watching football in some historical time-warp, imagining people like you 100 years ago sitting in the exact same place watching Army come out in their brown and gold colors, the Red Knights, host another opponent intimidated by the militaristic eye candy and Stone Age bathrooms.
Even though Sportface had had a mind-twisting odyssey and boondoggle of a morning, at least he could feel confident the game would calm his mind and just be some good action, something he could understand and not be perplexed and driven to madness by.
But he figured wrong. On the opening drive, Wake scored a touchdown and Army answered with one. That went on non-stop for three hours. Literally, non-stop. Touchdown Wake. Touchdown Army. Touchdown Wake. Touchdown Army.
Wake quarterback Sam Hartman was on his way to one of the single greatest passing performances of any guy who has ever played college football.
Bomb after bomb, touchdowns here, touchdowns there, touchdowns everywhere, relentlessly and furiously and with such speed and repetitiveness that it was almost comical. Suffice it to say both teams’ defensive coordinators had an off day.
There is no college football team that has scored more points – 70 – in less time — 16 minutes – in any game in college football history than Wake did yesterday.
Look it up.
Wake scored a touchdown around every four plays for the entire game. Insanity getting to the game, insanity during the game.
“It took me four and half hours to get here and it was supposed to be a two-hour drive,” said DMAC, Sportface’s college pal.
Stories like this popped up everywhere. Buses driving people to the stadium got stopped on highways four miles away from the facility, prompting entire busloads of people to just get out and start running to the stadium to get there for kickoff.
What kind of a logistics enterprise was this? Sportface always had thought the Army excelled at organizational skills. No one knew where anything was. No one could tell you where to go. No one could make the campus-wide and beyond traffic jams go any faster.
Who was in charge?
The madness on the field matched the madness before the game got to the field.
With one important exception. Wake Forest won the game, 70 to 56. You read that right: 126 points in one game making it one of the highest-scoring games in college football history.
So what if their defense allowed 56 points. So what if the tens of thousands of people who got up yesterday morning had no idea how much longer it would take them to get to the game than they expected? So what if the Army wouldn’t allow fans to get off the bus in front of the stadium?
What mattered, in the end, was the win. And Wake won. And because they won they’re still undefeated, 7 wins and no losses, and this fun and unexpectedly successful season march on without a blemish.
This was a day about rules.
And Sportface has rules. One of those rules is you never ask him for an autograph on his way to a football tailgate because he’s focused and intense about tailgates and needs to concentrate on what remarks he’s going to make to get his friends unsettled.
And the worlds of traffic and football have rules. And one is that it doesn’t matter if you lose your car as long as you get to the game on time.
And the world of sports has rules. And one of the rules of the sport is that if you win the game everything else can be forgiven and tolerated. The rule is that winning heals whatever emotional, psychological, logistical, and ideological hang-ups and frustrations you may have.
The rule is that Wake Forest has never been 7 and 0 in school history. The rule is that when you’re expected to lose, according to the college football pundits, and you win the win is even sweeter.
The rule is when you’re 7 and 0 your season is still perfect nothing else – all of life’s imperfections – amounts to the slope of an Army mountain.
Go Navy. Beat Army.
To be continued…
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
Sammy Sportface Has a Vision -- Check It Out
Sammy Sportface -- The Baby Boomer Brotherhood Blog -- Facebook Page
- BonusDecember 1, 2023Sportface Beats ChatGPT For Biggest Global Phenomenon in 2023
- NCAAFNovember 28, 2023America’s Best Party School: Bowl-Bound James Madison U
- BonusNovember 24, 2023Full Throttle Changes – Everywhere All The Time
- BonusNovember 23, 2023Sportface Earns Pile of Post-Season College Football Awards