I guess I have watched the Army-Navy football game since the late 1940s. Back then it was a major game, considered by most as one of the top games of the year. It was played in Philadelphia in late November or early December.
The first game played was in the year 1890. Only World War I and II and the Great Depression of the 1920s and ’30s interrupted this series.
It may be hard to believe for some now but in 1946, Navy and Army were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation. Army won that game, 32-13. Many of the players had come back from World War II and some of them were household names. If you are old enough you certainly remember Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside … Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, the great Army backfield of those years.
There are some very interesting facts about this great rivalry. Including this year’s game, Navy has won 60, Army 50, with 7 ties. Navy had a 14-game win streak until the Black Knights of the Hudson won this year’s game. Only once was the game played west of the Mississippi. That was in 1983 when the city of Pasadena, Calif. paid to have 9,437 Cadets, Midshipmen, coaches and others transported to the Rose Bowl for the game.
Other than Blanchard and Davis, Army’s Pete Dawkins won the Heisman in 1958. Navy has had two Heisman winners, Joe Bellino in 1960, and Roger Staubach (a graduate of Cincinnati’s Purcell High School) in 1963.
In all, Army has 24 NFL Hall of Famers and Navy has 19. I recall the great Army coach, Earl Blake who coached five undefeated teams (1944, 1945, 1946, 1949, 1958). He was a class act and turned out many great coaches from his college coaches staffs. including Vince Lombardi, the great Green Bay Packer coach.
Although the rivalry has lost some of its luster in today’s money-driven college football world, I would not miss this annual battle.
As far as I am concerned, football is played the way it was meant to be played when these two storied institutions take the field. Players extend a helping hand to their opponents. You don’t see players standing over an opponent, taunting him after a hard block or tackle.
When a touchdown is made, the players don’t dance in the end zone. I love when a big lineman disrupts this stupid show in the middle of the act by jumping on the back of the dancing player during his performance. As the legendary Paul Brown said to his backs, “When you score, act like you have been there before!” Maybe I have missed something but “sportsmanship” is No. 1 in this game.
And finally, who does not get choked up when the Cadets and Midshipmen march into the stadium prior to the game. These are truly the nation’s finest. God bless them and all the young men and women who wear the uniforms of our great country. I hope this game and the great traditions it demonstrates continues forever.