By USO Staff
The NFL’s Sunday football games unite friends and families like no other American tradition. U.S. Army Lt. Dalt Dorsey vividly remembers watching his very first game with his parents and older brother in his hometown of Beaumont, Texas.
“I was four years old. It was the New England Patriots playing against the Houston Texans, and the Patriots destroyed them,” Dalt said. “It almost looked like the Texans didn’t even want to play that day. I remember the running back, Corey Dillon. I told my dad that I wanted to be just like him.”
Dalt said that was the moment his love for football began, taking him from a pee-wee football league to playing for Baylor University and then onto the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad.
After two seasons with the Bengals, Dalt made a tough decision, especially for someone who had lived and breathed the game his entire life.
“I almost tore my labrum making a tackle, and it really put things in perspective for me. And I remember I was on the phone with my father at the time, and he was saying that one injury can end it all, so I needed to have a backup plan.”
Because Dalt’s father is a retired command sergeant major, Dalt was eligible for an ROTC scholarship that would cover the cost of an academic degree. Dalt had left Baylor University before graduating so that he could play for the Bengals, so he continued his courses at Cameron University, graduating and commissioning in December 2020.
Beyond the opportunity to pursue higher education, Dalt had a deeper reason for wanting to join the military. With three generations of military service in his family before him and his admiration for his father’s service, he believed it was the right thing to do.
“It was my turn,” Dalt said, and his family backed up his choice. “My father was always supportive of my athletic career. He told me I had options and that he supported whatever I chose. My mom … truly made sure I was okay with the change, since playing professional football had always been a dream of mine.”
A Sunday Tradition Frequently Sacrificed
For service members stationed or deployed overseas, they often put the treasured Sunday NFL football game-watching ritual on pause because of work responsibilities, time zone differences or no access to the game broadcasts — but leave it to Dalt to find a way, even when the closest NFL stadium is more than 5,000 miles away.
Dalt is one of the more than 100,000 service members stationed in Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. USO Centers are especially important for the people who serve overseas to ease their sense of isolation by creating a physical “home away from home” and by providing internet access and phone services so that service members can stay connected to families and friends.
With the U.S. military’s role in Eastern Europe right now, our service members there face exceptionally demanding circumstances, physically and mentally, making it even more important to have a safe and welcoming place like the USO to take a break from their duties. The USO Powidz Center in Poland is the perfect place to do that, with warm meals, recreational activities and the opportunity to bond with other service members.
Dalt’s first time walking into the USO Powidz Center was an eye-opener.
“My first impression was, ‘Where has this place been!’” Dalt said, wishing he had stopped by sooner.
“I saw the comfort and the relaxation that the USO can bring somebody.”
Next, he noticed the two big-screen TVs. He thought out loud, “Oh! Those would be great for watching football!”
A fellow service member and good friend named Daniel Price had been volunteering at the USO. He overheard Dalt and said, “Boy, do I have something to tell you! We’re going to start showing the games.”
The USO staff had been looking for someone to host watch parties, so Dalt jumped at the opportunity to volunteer. With guidance from USO staff, Dalt took the helm in time for the current season, beginning with preseason games in August.
Service members deployed abroad are able to watch the games thanks to the generosity of the NFL, which donates NFL Game Pass to the USO’s overseas Centers, where they can access the games through an app called DAZN. Internet connectivity is limited to the people who serve in Poland, so this partnership between the USO and the NFL makes it possible for the people who serve to join millions of other Americans in the shared moments that bring us all together as one nation.
“For a lot of the soldiers out here, football is the biggest connection they have to home,” Dalt said. “Our crowds get loud and proud for their teams, and for some, it’s the most exciting thing they get to do in their week.”
The anticipation of game day, the friendly banter among fellow fans and a familiar interest provide a sense of normalcy that is often missing when serving in a foreign country. It also builds a sense of camaraderie among those attending the USO-NFL watch parties.
“A lot of times when you’re out here in a deployed environment, you’re constantly working, and you’re stuck with the same people that you’ve deployed with,” Dalt explained.
“But here, they can go and they could meet someone from the other side of the country and they’re both Lions fans or they’re both Dolphins fans, and so they’re building friendships. They love that they’re not alone, and they have other people here who really enjoy the sport and just somebody to talk to about things other than work or the weather.”
Dalt noticed how watching the games live is also a way service members can stay connected to family and friends back home. They text and call during the game, sharing the moments in real-time. A father and son cheer together for a touchdown, or two buddies joke around about whose team or favorite player looks better than the other’s that day.
Seeing the games live also preserves the excitement. By the time a deployed fan can watch a highlight reel or a recorded game the day after it’s taken place, they’ve likely already heard the outcome. Serving overseas leads to many lost moments that can’t be replaced. For NFL fans who attend the watch parties, they aren’t missing out for once.
Ready for Kick Off
Dalt starts the party at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Then, around 10:00 PM, the crowd grows as a number of service members get off their shifts and others stop by because that’s when the hearty snacks typically appear, like pasta, nachos, wings and quesadillas. For these fans, it’s worth staying up all night for a chance to do something they love — where they have found joy all their lives — and share it with others.
Dalt’s charismatic personality and passion for the sport keep the energy level high throughout the night until the last blow of the whistle on Monday morning around 6:00 a.m. Then he heads off to his duties as a military intelligence officer, starting the workday at 8:30 a.m.
The Benefits Beyond Game Day
It may seem like these NFL Sunday watch parties bring everyone together for just one day a week, but the connections don’t stop there. The watch parties have provided a unique platform for networking and building professional ties among these service members.
“Everything in the Army is about networking. If you don’t have the answer, you can reach out to somebody who may have it or who knows the person who has the answer for you,” Dalt said. “It’s really easy to reach out to these people because we see each other every Sunday.”
The watch parties build personal connections, too. When you’re in a foreign country, friends who understand you are a source of emotional strength. In the simple act of watching a game, service members find common bonds in the challenges of military life, their backgrounds and their shared interests. These bonds are foundations for lasting friendships.
A New Tradition in the Making
Dalt expressed his gratitude for the guidance the USO staff provided him to get these events off the ground.
“The USO gave me a platform to provide food to those late-working soldiers, NFL games for free to soldiers who want to support their teams no matter where they are and relationships between soldiers that you normally can only see at home,” he said.
With football at the center of his life for so long, Dalt takes inspiration from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his well-known game-winning philosophy: “Do your job.”
“I take Bill’s quote with me in my Army life… As long as we do our job, the great USA will be safe, and we will come home back to our families and can watch the season together again.”
The Decades-Long USO-NFL Partnership
Donating NFL Game Pass to the USO’s Centers overseas is just one aspect of the USO-NFL partnership that began over 50 years ago. Through their support of USO Center expansions, holiday programming and a variety of other events, the NFL helps to deliver sports, entertainment and gaming to service members across the world. Since 2007, NFL players and coaches have traveled on USO Entertainment Tours to 28 countries to meet and thank more than 110,000 service members.
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