Two and a half years ago, I was sitting in the first week of one my Master’s classes at Georgetown when the professor mentioned that he worked as a GM at SB Nation. I had just finished my first season writing about Navy football for Underdog Dynasty. I had seen first-hand the extent of the USNA following, partially because I was riding the wave of Keenan Reynolds’ annihilation of the college football record books, and partially because Navy’s SID Scott Strasemeier deemed some of my articles worthy of being included in official Navy Athletics coverage during the season.
I just happened to be sitting next to my friend, Caroline Darney (now the Managing Editor for NCAA Team Brands at SB Nation, but at the time just a fellow Naval Aviator who wrote for Streaking the Lawn), and I told her I was going to approach the professor and declare that SB Nation was missing out by not having a site dedicated to covering service academy athletics. I had the readership numbers to back it up, and I just knew that my passionate speech to him about the unique opportunities available for the taking in writing about the student-athletes at the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and West Point would convince him on the spot to make my vision a reality. It didn’t quite work that easily.
It has taken awhile, but here we are, preparing to start a third football season since that first attempt to persuade the powers that be that this was a chance worth taking. Even though I never thought the idea would get out of drydock, we are finally haze gray and underway.
My reasons for wanting to start this site three years ago are still the same reasons I am excited to head up this undertaking as site manager today. I am a 2009 graduate of the Naval Academy, and I just wrapped up a three-year tour there in the leadership department and serving as an officer representative for the women’s basketball team. I know what these student-athletes go through to compete at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics while preparing for a future as a military officer. I have a ton of respect for the beat writers that cover USNA, USMA, and USAFA, but I know there is more room available at the table to try and tell the unique stories of what it means to compete, what it means to serve, and what it means to attend one of these fine institutions.
I also know that there continues to be—and will probably always be—a huge level of misunderstanding among the general public as to what a service academy actually is, what the Midshipmen and Cadets actually go through, and what awaits them upon graduation. I have spent more time than I would care to admit trying to explain to random people that the Naval Academy is actually the Marine Corps’ primary officer commissioning source and that the majority of our football players actually end up in the Corps.
My hope is that as we bring you quality service academy athletics coverage that is connected to a strong brand like SB Nation, that we can also try and do our part to give readers a peek behind the curtain into all of the craziness (see tradition) that takes place, and, at the very least, give folks a greater appreciation for what it means to attend one of these schools. However, we don’t intend to just stop there. There are plenty of other schools across the country that have a past, present, and future connection with our nation’s military, and as we build this community, we desire to become the go-to spot for those stories as well.
I’m unapologetically a Navy guy, and that’s what will make being site manager here so great. I get the opportunity to shed light on the greatest rivalry in sports (Army-Navy) while also covering that other school out west, too (it’s a joke, Air Force fans). It’s like being on Tobacco Road and having a blog that covers only UNC, Duke, and NC State on the same site. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which school is which in this analogy.
In all seriousness, my mission for AAE is to bring the students, alumni, and fans at the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and West Point the best coverage possible while still allowing for the banter that comes along with being charged with a site dedicated to writing about three rivals. At the end of the day, we know what this is all about and what awaits each of these student-athletes upon commissioning.
That’s where the name “Against All Enemies” comes into play. What better way to find a common ground to represent all three schools than to include a piece of the Oath that each and every one of these student-athletes will raise their right hand and repeat the day they graduate in our site name.
With the introductions and formalities now out of the way, I’m ready to get to work. It’s the middle of week one of the college football season. The CIC is up for grabs and Army is ready to try and keep it in New York. Navy is headed halfway around the world to try and do what hasn’t been done in ten years and defeat an upstart Hawaii team in the regular season after traveling from the Eastern time zone. Air Force is looking to rebound from its first losing season since 2013. It’s time to get the wheels off deck and transition to forward flight.
If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in being a contributor here, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com or hit me up on twitter @jmears26/@AAE_SBN.