An American Tradition: The Army-Navy Game 2014

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It was started in 1890. For Division 1, it means the end of the regular season and the beginning of the Bowl Season. For the two service academies, it’s ‘The Game.’ It doesn’t matter if both teams come in (0-11), this is the game that is circled in both Army and Navy’s camps. The Midshipmen come in at (6-5) while the Black Knights are (4-7). Here are a couple of tidbits you might not know about the Army-Navy game.

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For the seniors playing in the game, it’s usually their last competitive football game.

As cadets or midshipmen, once the game is over, they graduate, become commissioned officers, and usually serve a 5 year commitment. Some notable exceptions of playing beyond their senior season are Roger Staubach (Navy) who won the Heisman Trophy in 1963 and went on to be a Hall of Fame Quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys. This was of course after his tour as a Navy officer, including a stint in Vietnam, joining the Cowboys at the age of 27. Others include Army’s Caleb Campbell, who was drafted in 2008 by the Detroit Lions, and Navy running back Napoleon McCallum, who actually played for the Los Angeles Raiders while on active duty.

Both teams come together at the end of the game and sing each teams alma mater.

If you’ve watched this, then you know there’s usually not a dry eye on the player’s faces, especially the seniors. Not to draw any comparisons, but that just wouldn’t happen between Alabama/Auburn, Ohio State/Michigan, or Oklahoma/Texas. And if that wasn’t spectacle enough, you have to watch the cadets and midshipmen from both schools file into the stadium and to their seats. And if you ask anyone who’s ever had to train to march on a dime in formation with the person in front and behind, you know the precision that’s involved.

The Army and Navy have a ‘Prisoner Exchange’ right before kickoff.

Traditionally, to foster relations between the two academies, cadets and midshipmen trade off on both schools for an entire semester to see how the other half live and just before kickoff, the ‘prisoners’ are exchanged back to their respective academies. That’s just the half of it. Usually, during game week, some sort of prank is involved between the two, with the ‘embedded’ exchange students playing a heavy part in the pranks. Past pranks include cadets stealing The Goat mascots, yes all 3 at one time. That prank made headlines and even a memo was sent via The Pentagon to ‘cease and desist.’ But no worries, the Navy midshipmen stole the Army mule in 1991. All in good fun right?

The President, sometime during his term, flips the coin before the game.

Obama has done it. Eisenhower and Kennedy as well. In 2004, during the 2nd Iraq War, President Bush did a flyover in Air Force One and tipped his wing as he did so over Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, saluting the players on the field and those fighting overseas, including a Senior from the 2003 game, Navy’s J.P. Blecksmith, who was killed just a month prior on November 11th, 2004. Blecksmith’s pads and helmet were draped over a chair during that 2004 game.

Whether it’s to check out Navy’s ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ design uniforms or to hear about what Army pranksters did to top the prior year, the Army/Navy game always has something to see. Steeped in tradition and patriotism, it’s more than just a football game, it’s ‘America’s Rivalry.’

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