College Football Weekend Recap (Week 3): “Go Army!” Edition

After a weekend spent between Portland and Eugene (with one trip down I-5 remaining in my moving process), I didn’t have a chance to sit in front of my computer and read as much as I wanted. Additionally, much of that reading dealt with realignment: a topic that makes my brain hurt. The way I see it (which probably isn’t a good indicator of how most people see it), this is all going to shake out in the next couple weeks, and it won’t matter whether I stayed on top of every rumor. That’s no excuse to be uninformed, but at some point I just can’t read any more words about the Longhorn Network.

On a lighter note, since my sister is in her “plebe” (freshman) year as a West Point cadet, I’ve taken an interest in Army football. I don’t know a ton about the team, but quarterback Trent Steelman is getting some national attention, and they beat Northwestern at home on Saturday. Greg Laughlin from The Wiz of Odds blog took in the game and posted some great photos. West Point’s beautiful campus was really feeling the Twitter love on Saturday; it even got a shout-out from the Twitter god himself, Darren Rovell.

Speaking of shout-outs, it’s not often that you see the Seattle Mariners mentioned in a college football blog. I guess it wasn’t technically a shout-out, but Paul Myerberg from Pre-Snap Read contrasted Washington and Nebraska with the Mariners and Royals, saying it was common for the latter two teams to meet three times in a year, but not so common for the former to do so. This has no real significance, but I was glad to see my Mariners written up in a post that had nothing to do with how much they stink.

Lastly, I’m not the only one tired of realignment talk. Chip Kelly is, too. His quote in this story by The Oregonian’s Lindsay Schnell is classic Chip: “I checked my voicemail, and no one’s calling and asking my opinion (on expansion).” He’s focused on preparing for the Arizona Wildcats, whom the Ducks play Saturday in Tucson. Chip, I wish that’s all we had to focus on, too.

There are a host of other realignment-related news items I could include, but as I said…I’m not smart enough to understand it all. What were your favorite reads from the weekend?

West Point Marchback

Cadets from my sister's company head down Washington Road at the end of their 12-mile marchback.

Yesterday, I traveled to the United States Military Academy to watch my sister, Hope (a member of West Point’s Class of 2015) and the other cadets march back to campus from their basic training site. The 12-mile marchback signals the end of “Beast,” a six-week period of intense physical training that all cadets must undergo when they enter the academy.

Editor’s Note: I strive for grammar and style perfection, but I’m undoubtedly butchering the spelling of “marchback.”  I’ve seen it written several different ways. Is it “marchback”? “march back”? “Marchback”? I have no idea, so I settled on “marchback.” If you’re an AP Stylebook editor, please comment with your all-important advice on the matter.

Grammatical worries aside, I really enjoyed being a part of the whole marchback experience. While I support my sister 100%, I’m not the best at appreciating all the military terminology and tradition involved with attending West Point. She’s had to explain to me the difference between “R-Day” and “A-Day” several times – and I’m still not sure if “Beast” is a nickname or an acronym – so it felt good to be part of such an important, tradition-filled day.

Parents, siblings, grandparents, West Point alumni, community members and West Point staff lined the sidewalks of Washington Road, to watch the cadets make the final push toward campus. Spectators lined the street with homemade signs, College GameDay-style, in support of their son or daughter, a specific company, or the entire class. I’m not crafty enough to make one of those, but I brought my Oregon football pennant in hopes my sister would see it and associate it with me. I only saw her for a split-second as she passed, and I wasn’t sure if she saw me, but I later learned from my mom (who talked to Hope on the phone) that she did!

I have missed my sister tremendously this summer, but I know that whatever I’ve felt is nothing compared to what a parent must

The cadets reach campus as an enthusiastic crowd cheers them on.

feel. Watching moms and dads tearfully wave to and cheer for their child as the cadets marched by practically made me cry. They haven’t seen their kids in nearly two months, so seeing them march through campus, in full uniform, carrying a heavy ruck sack on their backs, after having completed the most physically intense period of their life was obviously emotional.

At the end of this week, my parents and other sister (“other sister” sounds so heartless, like she’s not worthy of any further description. But I wasn’t sure if I’d ever introduced her on my blog; her name is Beth, and she’s almost eight years old)  fly into New York and we’ll head back up to West Point to take part in the more official ceremonies involved with the end of Beast. (I believe it’s called “A-Day,” for “Acceptance Day,” in which they’re officially accepted as new cadets, but like I said – I’m not the best with West Point terminology.) Regardless, I feel very lucky to have seen the marchback. Congratulations to my sister and all the other West Point cadets who survived Beast!

Thanks for reading my blog on Freshly Pressed!

Wow! What an exciting day for my blog. After noticing that I was getting some comments from people I didn’t recognize (usually the comments only come from friends and family), I wondered if my blog had been picked up by someone/something that was directing extra traffic.

Miraculously, it had! My post was (and still is for at least for a few more hours, I’m guessing) featured on WordPress.com’s “Freshly Pressed” homepage, a daily roundup of notable posts from WordPress blogs. While I haven’t had a chance to check out all of the other featured posts, I definitely will!

For selfish reasons, it’s awesome to have a busier-than-normal blog traffic day, but what the best part of today was the outpouring of support from commenters. Nearly everyone who commented included a message of congratulations, thanks or support for my sister, who is now an official West Point cadet. Thank you to all who left notes of encouragement. Since Hope and I can only communicate via snail mail while she’s in basic training, I’m going to copy some of the comments and send them to her – I think she’d find it cool to know that people all across the interwebs (no, not a real word) are thinking of her and are grateful for the sacrifice she’s making.

And another selfish note: if you subscribed to my blog because you saw it on Freshly Pressed, thank you! It means a lot to me that you want to keep reading, and I have a renewed commitment to writing (hopefully) entertaining, insightful posts. Also, thanks to WordPress for deeming my blog cool enough to be featured!

Thanks again for reading my blog and supporting my sister through your “likes” and comments!

My Sister, Future Leader of the Free World

Before launching into the real purpose of this post, I must make one comment: supporting a West Coast baseball team while living on the East Coast is awesome. It’s almost 11 p.m. and the Mariners and Marlins are only in the third inning. I’ll be in bed before it’s over, but in Oregon, you don’t get to fall asleep listening to the M’s. (Of course, I understand that this is a double-edged sword, because it’s this same phenomenon that helps perpetuate the “East Coast bias” in sports – East Coasters don’t give West Coast teams [see, “2010 Oregon Ducks”] the credit they deserve because they’re rarely awake late enough to watch them play. But that’s for another post.)

Now that we’ve got a sports reference and parentheses-within-parentheses out of the way…

One of my favorite pictures of Hope and me - at the 2010 Civil War football game.

One of my favorite pictures of Hope and me - at the 2010 Civil War football game.

It was a big weekend for the Landsem family, as my sister Hope and my parents traveled to New York to drop Hope off at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she’ll soon begin her first year. Tomorrow is known as “R-Day” in West Point-speak. It stands for “Reception Day,” and it basically means Hope’s first day as a West Point cadet. (I’m probably messing up some of the terminology, because I don’t think she’s officially a “cadet” until she finishes basic training, but you get the idea.)

Anyway, it’s a huge step. Most of my sister’s friends are still basking in the glory of summer vacation, but for the next several weeks, she’ll be acclimating herself to West Point life during BEAST – that’s an acronym for something I can’t fully remember, but it’s cadet basic training. On “A-Day,” or “Acceptance Day” in the middle of August, she’ll become a full-fledged cadet and begin her academic endeavors at West Point.

Hope is fully prepared for this: she was Student Body President this past year at her high school, was a Valedictorian, wants to be a chemical engineer, went to a Summer Leadership Seminar at West Point last summer…she was even a contestant on the kids’ edition of “Jeopardy!” in 2005. (No joke. She even has an IMDB profile because of it.)

I feel very lucky to have had some one-on-one time with my sister this weekend. She arrived in New York on Friday night (our parents didn’t come until Saturday) so we spent Saturday in the city.

A view of Manhattan from the Roosevelt Island Tram

We took the Roosevelt Island tram to um, well, Roosevelt Island. I don’t know how many people generally ride the tram, but it seems to be a hidden gem of New York City tourism. Tram fare is no different than a regular MTA MetroCard fare, and you get a pretty solid view of Manhattan. It’s not as impressive as an observation deck like Top of the Rock, but for a few bucks, it can’t be beat. The island itself also has nice walkways along the East River.

After meeting our parents last night, we drove to Newburgh, New York – a town near West Point. Escaping the city for the first time since I arrived was relaxing, but strange. We were only 50 or 60 miles outside NYC, but it felt like lightyears. Where were the skyscrapers? The smells? The subway stations? Here, people drove their own cars and lived among rolling hills and the Hudson River. I’m making it sound more idyllic than it really was, but the contrast between West Point and the city was astounding. My New York bubble had been popped.

We made a quick tour through the West Point campus (just in the car) but the place is stunning. You can just feel the history. I’m so proud of my sister for earning admission to the academy and for securing her place at an institution that’s taught some of our nation’s most important leaders. I mean, just read this sentence from West Point’s website:

From the day of its founding on March 16, 1802, a favorite expression at West Point is that “much of the history we teach was made by people we taught.” Great leaders such as Grant and Lee, Pershing and MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton, Schwarzkopf and Petraeus are among the more than 50,000 graduates. Countless others, following military service, have had distinguished careers in business, medicine, law, sports, politics, and science.

Words fail me. How can you not be impressed?

One aspect of my sister’s West Point experience that I find especially cool is how her graduating class of 2015 will mark the 100th

The entrance to West Point welcomed new cadets.

anniversary of “the class the stars fell on,” West Point’s class of 1915. That class included many of the most important leaders of World War II, like Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower. This is cool for obvious reasons (“Oh, yeah, my fellow West Point alumnus, Dwight Eisenhower…”) but also because I’d assume there’d be a high likelihood of someone super important speaking at graduation (which I plan to attend).

While the weekend was bittersweet – I won’t see Hope until mid-August, and can only communicate via written letters until then – I am grateful for the time we had this weekend. The transition to military life likely won’t be easy, but I know she’ll do great. And in a few years, she’ll probably run for president.