"A Game of Honor," a documentary that premieres on Showtime at 10 p.m. Wednesday, ostensibly is about Army and Navy football in general, and about the Army-Navy game in particular.
But as director Pete Radovich Jr. said at a screening at the Museum of Modern Art on Monday, football really was just an excuse for what the film really is about: the service academies themselves, and the commitment of the men and women who choose to study at them.
The behind-the-scenes footage of the two schools' football teams is interesting and telling, but we have seen such material before in other sports documentaries.
What makes this project unique is the access the filmmakers were given to other aspects of life at the academies.
It's extraordinary, really.
It takes a lot for this cynical, middle-aged, left-leaning Northeasterner to fall into corny patriotism, but by the end I was ready to suit up for America's home team after the two-hour immersion into military life.
People who review TV documentaries have to be careful not to overreact to screenings in big theaters with big screens and big audiences, because that often is a more emotionally powerful experience than watching on a small screen in one's living room.
But in this case I think the show will translate even on television.
The logistics of the project are impressive, given that the premiere was held nine days after the 2011 Army-Navy game. But the game - a good one, for once - is not the emotional high point of the series.
That comes when a key player featured learns how he wiill be deployed after graduation. Powerful stuff.
After the screening, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus rose to tell an audience that included television and military personnel that the evening was "one of the proudest nights in the history of CBS Sports."
I would say it was one of the proudest in the history of all sports television.