Before an enthusiastic audience of several hundred airmen, Defense Secretary Mark Esper took the discretion-over-valor route Wednesday when asked who he'd be rooting for in the upcoming Army-Air Force football game.
Unconvincingly, Esper, a West Point graduate (class of '86), a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served in Desert Storm and the former Secretary of the Army, professed neutrality on the outcome.
Following his address to the Air Force Association's Air Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, an airman in the packed audience put it to the SecDef: "Please provide comments about the coming Army-Air Force game," scheduled for Nov. 2 at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The audience roared as Esper pondered a response to what he called the "toughest question."
After a long pause, he came up with a version of pure diplo-speak: "I think it will be a very good game. I hope no one is injured, and I hope everybody plays to the fullest potential," he said.
The audience applauded in appreciation of his artful evasion. He added, "That's called a dodge, by the way."
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the location of upcoming game.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.