Monday, November 29, 2010

Rivals but not enemies

With Army-Navy coming up this weekend, it triggered some memories in my head of covering the great games 2005-2006.

This is from Dec. 7, 2006

Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds, that upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.”
— Gen. Douglas MacArthur

As the combined glee clubs from the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy sang the national anthem and the Navy F/A-18 Hornets flew over Lincoln Financial Field in a four-jet diamond formation on Saturday followed by four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, I couldn’t help but feel goose bumps form up and down my arms.

In no other game does the national anthem have such meaning, as the opponents on the playing field and in the stands will soon be teammates on the battlefield.

In no other rivalry is there such admiration from the players and fans for the other team.

In no other rivalry do the opposing teams stand on the field after the game and salute the other team’s fans as the school song is played.

I’ve been to a lot of football games, and nothing compares to the atmosphere surrounding Army-Navy.

These young men know the hardship their rivals have to go through, being Soldiers or Sailors, athletes and students. The knowledge that most of the seniors, upon graduation, will be heading overseas together to fight a faceless enemy forces each and every player and fan to respect one another.

From the fans, there are no negative cheers; you never hear anyone yell, “Navy sucks!” It’s just “Go Army, Beat Navy!” What other rivalry can say that?

At no other rival game does the president of the United States make a regular appearance; the stands at Ohio State-Michigan or Florida State-Miami aren’t filled with former presidents, members of cabinet, and war heroes, either.

Sure, the actual football meaning of the game has changed greatly since the 1950s when Army-Navy was often a national-championship caliber game. But it’s also been since that long ago that the military academies have been able to get NFL-level recruits.

Like any rivalry, the players look forward to this game more than any other — a win can cap off a great season, or turn around a sub-par season. But it is more than bragging rights for a season — it’s bragging rights for life.

Football aside, Army-Navy is the purest game in all of sports. Rivals, but not enemies, the men of the Army and Navy teams know that their future lies on a different field.

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