Rivalry, discipline and 'A Game of Honor'

Most college students need worry only about grades and any extracurricular activities -- school-sanctioned or otherwise -- they decide to pursue.

For football players at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., or the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., the demands are threefold: grades, intensive training to be an officer (in which capacity they'll be required to serve for five years upon graduation) and football.

It's against the backdrop of the gridiron and the annual Army/Navy football game that "A Game of Honor," a Showtime documentary debuting Wednesday, Dec. 21, is set. Narrated by Jim Nantz, the two-hour film is as much an up-close look at the unique demands placed on these young men and women as it is a story of the on-field rivalry between these two schools.

"It's really about the journey to that game," says coordinating producer Steve Karasik, "the experience of both what it is to be a freshman going through it for the first time at West Point, or what it is to find out where you might be going when you graduate at the Naval Academy. So the military part of it, the military training, the classroom training, is just as much a part of it as the football is. As we watch it, some of the most compelling footage is the military stuff. Obviously with football, what these kids go through is amazing. But the fact that they have this military part of it and the classroom part of it adds a whole other dimension to it. These kids literally have no time unaccounted for in their day."

A particularly jarring moment for new recruits revolves around reception day at West Point, otherwise known as "R Day," in which incoming freshmen are seen saying their tearful goodbyes to their families and 90 seconds later are introduced to the discipline and precision of the Army, complete with upperclassmen in their faces.

"As you see, it starts out like a typical day of college for any kid," Karasik says. "They show up and the family's there, and it's a nice moment, and they're introducing themselves to everyone. And then they go into that room and literally, it's culture shock. … From there on, you know what? You're a cadet; you're at West Point."