Army Navy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

One thing I can never provide to the discussion is the perspective of a USMA alumnus. I didn't attend West Point and the academy experience is lost on me. I do enjoy threads like the Deadspin Army/Navy Aggro-Tourism featuring Army/Navy gameday anecdotes from both Cadets and Midshipmen alike.

Not being a partisan to either academy I took a lot less out of this piece from over at Presnap Read.

Why Does this Game Mean so Much?

The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy already belongs to Air Force, thanks to its wins over both Army and Navy. The Midshipmen have already clinched their bowl berth: they’ll face San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23. Likewise for Army: the Cadets will face off against S.M.U. in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30. Any other game with a similar scenario would feel like the final week of the N.F.L. season, when teams already in the playoffs would rest their starters, knowing more important games await. Not this game. What’s left to play for? For Army and Navy, everything.

Everything, that is, except a bowl bid, the CIC trophy/honors and a season ending win - Army/Navy means everything but that.

It's interesting to me that TV can transmit the spectacle itself, but the typical broadcast lacks the impact of having the game mean everything to you as an alum, soldier or a parent. Commercial breaks, sideline shots and production interruptions cut into the -quite literal- fight on the field and go a long way to remove a nonpartisan spectator from the paramount importance that this game holds for its participants.

It's easy to watch the game and feel respect for its participants, the schools, and the student bodies. To grasp what the game actually means to those parties is a lot more difficult to the general television audience partly because of the limitations of the modern television broadcast and partly because today's football is commercial football. We know that none of the players are playing the game for NFL scouts and the seniors will graduate to a very serious reality as military officers, but that still largely represents the civilian understanding of the contest. As a college football fan I do everything I can to keep sport as sport and completely apart from politics. To these players, the sport, if you will, gives way the politics of today and the reality of each Cadet and Midshipman. What is washed away by the TV lights and commercial breaks and holiday messages is that actual meaning to each players, cadet, and alumnus.

In its 111th iteration since commencing in 1890, the history of the Army-Navy game looms large at both academies.

At West Point, it’s hard to turn a corner without catching sight of a “Go Army, Beat Navy” sign somewhere. So it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the excitement this rivalry incites.

Army head coach Rich Ellerson said it’s OK for the team to embrace this excitement and enjoy the moment.

“We need not be overwhelmed by it, not be intimidated by it, and I don’t think we will be,” Ellerson said. “We’re not just talking about that. That’s the focus in our preparation.”

So, what is the real sentiment of this game? Is it the inherent respect of the athletes and students? Is it the pageantry and tradition of the game? Is it the civilian perception of the contest? The national spotlight? Perhaps it's an aggregation of all these things. I don't profess knowledge in what it means to be a Cadet, but I do look forward to the game. What might I take from the game? Well this is Army's chance to secure a winning record - to me that is huge. This is Army's shot to end the streak... in  terms of Army's football program, that's pretty big as well.

One way to make 2010 Army/Navy important is for the Black Knights to bring this one home. Army can enter the post season on a huge high and render moot the outcome of the postseason game. What's on the line for Army is pride. If Army loses to Navy, the bowl game grows in importance as the game that gets Army over the hump. Either way, the Cadets still gain 15 practices in the bowl season. 

The Army/Navy game notes are here. (PDF)

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:40 ET. There will be internet availability.




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