View Mobile Site

The Army-Navy football spectacle

Posted: December 19, 2013 9:29 a.m.
Updated: December 20, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Poor Army.

The U.S. Naval Academy defeated the U.S. Military Academy -- hey, that’s official talk for the Army-Navy football game -- Saturday for the 12th straight time, the longest streak in the history of the fabled rivalry.

That’s a little sad.

For though the time has long passed since the two service academy teams were among that nation’s gridiron elite, the storied Army-Navy game is still amateur sports at its finest.

The one-sidedness of it -- Army has had only one winning season since 1996, and the Midshipmen trounced the Black Knights 34-7 this year -- still doesn’t diminish  the game, which is one of the finest sporting events of each year.

What’s not to like?

There’s pomp and pageantry. The Corps of Cadets and the Midshipmen, standing throughout the game, cheering. The sheer grittiness of the players’ efforts. The storied tradition of both schools. The President of the United States (when he attends) sitting on one team’s side for the first half, then changing over for the second half.

At the service academies, the term “student athlete” still means something.

The guys you see slugging it out on the football field aren’t there to tune up for professional sports. There’s no “one and done,” which has become a pure academic sham.

Students have lengthy service obligations after graduation, and they take courses heavily tilted towards science and mathematics.

Half a decade ago, Army and Navy still competed for national championships.

Joe Bellino won the Heisman Trophy as a Navy running back in 1960, as did Roger Staubach at quarterback in 1963.

Pete Dawkins, after turning down Yale to attend West Point in the 1950s, also won the Heisman, as well at two Bronze stars for valor in Viet Nam. He rose to the rank of general.

And going back even further, South Carolina native Felix “Doc” Blanchard won the 1945 Heisman, and Glenn Davis won it the next year. As Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, they were the only teammates ever to capture the honor in successive years.

The two academies began playing in 1890, and the game is usually held in Philadelphia.

Want to know about the sportsmanship and honor involved?

You won’t find the winners stomping on the logo of the losing team, that irksome and arrogant practice that is so common nowadays in big-time college athletics.

At the end of each game, the alma maters of the two schools are played, first the losing team’s and then that of the winner.

The winning team stands alongside the losing players, facing the losing academy’s students. Then the team on the short end of the score accompanies the winners to their side of the field, again facing their students.

It’s an emotional moment and is done to show each academy’s respect for the other.

Hard to beat, eh? These guys are truly the best and the brightest.

Brye French, a Navy linebacker, told the New York Times last fall, “If you watch it, you can see a difference. It’s not based on hatred. The rivalry is based on the love of the game. We’re not going to be signing contracts after the season to play in the NFL. We’re playing because we love the game, and we’re playing for our brothers. We have the utmost respect for them. We’re very similar.”

That’s not to say winning isn’t important. Army head coach Rich Ellerson was fired following this year’s game, the result of an inability to beat Navy in five tries.

It would be better for everybody -- well, maybe the Middies wouldn’t agree -- if the rivalry becomes more competitive.

But no matter how one-sided, it is still a spectacle that all Americans can take pride in. Watch that game, and you’ll find yourselves wanting to stand up and hum “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Where else can you find that in the world of college athletics?

Interested in viewing premium content?

A subscription is required before viewing this article and other premium content.

Already a registered member and have a subscription?

If you have already purchased a subscription, please log in to view the full article.

Are you registered, but do not have a subscription?

If you are a registed user and would like to purchase a subscription, log in to view a list of available subscriptions.

Interested in becoming a registered member and purchasing a subscription?

Join our community today by registering for a FREE account. Once you have registered for a FREE account, click SUBSCRIBE NOW to purchase access to premium content.

Membership Benefits

  • Instant access to creating Blogs, Photo Albums, and Event listings.
  • Email alerts with the latest news.
  • Access to commenting on articles.

Contents of this site are © Copyright 2014 Chronicle Independent All rights reserved. Privacy policy and Terms of service

Powered by
Morris Technology
Please wait ...