Saturday, December 14 marks the end of the college football regular season and as always, it is a fitting end. December 14, 2013 marks the 123rd anniversary of this great football rivalry, Army v Navy. The Army Navy game will be played appropriately in Philadelphia, the birthplace of freedom for America.
This game will feature those young men and women who are the guardians of this freedom. It is a game that on this singular day pits brothers and sisters in arms against each other in the true spirit of rivalry and competition. Legend has it that during the 1893 game, animosity between the two academies was so high, a retired rear admiral and a brigadier general came close to fighting a duel. By order of the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, the game was cancelled for six years.
However tomorrow, at the end of the game, when the respective school songs are played and sung, these gridiron warriors will recommit themselves to being our guardians. It is a game that shows America all that is great about who we are Duty: Honor, Country, Courage, Commitment — Character. When we watch this game we know that the patches on those uniforms are not the NFL, NBA, or NHL but rather the patches of units in which these young men will one day serve.
According to historian Nicolaus Mills:
The very first game was played on a gridiron laid out on southeast corner of the West Point Parade Ground, and so few attended that the spectators could move up and down the field as the line of scrimmage shifted. The memory of that 1890 game is worth recalling. In 1890 Army had only one player with any real football experience — Dennis Michie (USMA, 1892) in whose honor today’s West Point’s football stadium is named. As a result Army was trounced 24-0 by a Navy team that had been playing football since 1886. The next year Army hired a part-time coach, played a series of early-season games, and with Michie (who died in the Spanish-American War) once again leading the way, Army avenged its earlier loss by a 32-16 score.
So once again they meet, but records matter not because the pride of our nation’s two oldest military services are on the line.
My alma mater Tennessee first played the Black Knights of the Hudson on September 29, 1923 and lost 41-0. The last time Army and Tennessee met in football was October 11, 1986 in Knoxville, three years after I had graduated. Army prevailed 25-21 and one of the West Point players on that team was one of my Lieutenants in the 1st Infantry Division, 4th Battalion, 5th Field Artillery. We deployed to Operation Desert Shield/Storm together — he never let me forget that game.
However, tomorrow, I am not a Tennessee Volunteer. Tomorrow, I am a Black Knight of the Hudson, just like every Soldier, past and present. Tomorrow perhaps we will end an 11-year losing streak to the Midshipmen from Annapolis. Tomorrow is Go Army, Beat Navy.