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U. should laud Naval Academy before game


I am a 1985 graduate of Rutgers College, a football season ticket holder, and, for what it may be worth, a former staff writer for The Daily Targum. I am writing with a compliment to the student body and a request.

At the football game against Ohio on Sept. 24, U.S. Army Lt. John Conte participated in the coin toss. For those who were not there, Conte is a Rutgers ROTC graduate who was wounded in Afghanistan. The entire crowd in attendance — less those who would straggle in during the first quarter — led by the student body, gave him a standing ovation. It was spontaneous, and it was perfect.

Now the request.

The midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy will visit High Point Solutions Stadium in a few weeks. What seems like the majority of fans in attendance at University football games have developed what I consider an unpleasant habit of reflexively booing the opposing team as they take the field before kickoff. Let’s resolve not to do that, especially Oct. 15 when the Scarlet Knights face Navy at home. In fact, I am asking the student body to take leadership of the opposite response.

The only difference between Conte and the young men from the Academy who will emerge from the stadium tunnel that afternoon is that he has actually made the sort of sacrifice in service to the rest of us that these young midshipmen, at this point in their careers, have expressed the willingness to make. It will be no discredit to our Scarlet Knights or to our desire for their victory to give a few moments of honor to these young people — and, in that act, to all the young men and women in similar service to the nation. Let’s applaud them as we applauded Conte.

This is not a matter of policy or politics, but of sportsmanship and civility. We may, and in fact we should, debate the former, but the latter should be beyond contention. And in this case, it should be clearly right to us that we spend a few moments acknowledging these young men who are soon to place themselves between the dangers of the world and us.

Once the whistle blows, their team should be defeated. Before that, their spirit should be praised. I will do what I can from my seat, but I hope I will be following the lead of the young men and women in scarlet red.

Michael Callahan is a Rutgers College alumnus, Class of 1985.

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