Celebrating the Army-Navy Game: America’s Game

The Army-Navy Game is traditionally played in Philadelphia, but this year the best rivalry game of the college football season heads down I-95 to allow Baltimore to serve as the host for an American sports classic. No matter where the game is played, it remains a treasure in the sport of college football and stands for everything that is right about the game.

For most college football fans, myself included, the Army-Navy Game serves as a way to put the sport into its proper perspective. This is the one game of the year not clouded by controversy, polluted by scandal, or threatened by a constant need to debate (well, except for those supporting Army and Navy, of course). More importantly, we are reminded that the young men playing a simple game are preparing for much more in life, something with much greater meaning than most fans will keep in mind on a regular fall Saturday.

Make no mistake, for the football players and coaches at Army and Navy, the preparations will be similar to any other game this season. Game plans need to be organized, learned and executed just as they would need to be against Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA or Alabama. For 60 minutes, the players on both teams get to escape the reality of a world with unknown dangers awaiting them. They can just play football. They have earned and deserve this opportunity.

This is why it is great to see the Army-Navy Game have its own day in the spotlight, on national television. Fans understand the quality of play may not be up to par with what was on display in last weekend’s championship games, but few games will pack the richness of “everything college football” into one Saturday the way the Army-Navy Game does on an annual basis.

The Army-Navy Game has a big-bowl atmosphere blended with everything that makes a good college rivalry. No matter what the records may be for the teams, the stands will be packed with loyal fans ready to cheer from start to finish. This is the most important game of the year for these teams. You know that when you talk to the players and coaches in the preseason. You know that talking to fans year-round. A win over the other may mean more to these players than it does for Ohio State and Michigan players or, dare I say, Auburn and Alabama fans.

Army Navy Game (2012)

The pageantry of the Army-Navy Game is unrivaled by any other rivalry in America.

The march onto the field prior to the game.

The “prisoner exchange,” where selected students from one service return to their side after spending a semester studying “abroad” in the rival service.

The gags and fan videos playing before the game.

The video messages from military troops from other countries wishing the best for their fellow Army or Navy brothers.

The traditional flyovers.

Sometimes the president even makes an appearance, which is accompanied by a ceremonial walk from one sideline to the other at halftime so the president can enjoy the game with both service academies.

This is what makes the game so unique and a treasure for the sport. It has survived conference realignment and expansion madness without a blemish, and it appears as though even when Navy does join the American Athletic Conference in 2015 as a football-playing member, the traditions will continue.

On Saturday in Baltimore, you will not likely see many players that will be playing on Sundays. Talk about NFL draft stock is off the table. Many of these young men will be playing their final college football game, perhaps their last football game. Nobody knows what is next for them, but they are committed to serving despite the unknown dangers in front of them. For that we should all be grateful.

Navy looks to extend its winning streak in this historic series to an unprecedented 13 games. Will the Midshipmen sing second once more?

The following was originally published on Crystal Ball Run a year ago. It has been updated to reflect the 2014 edition of the Army-Navy Game and republished by the author for The Student Section. Saturday’s game airs at 3 p.m. Eastern time on CBS.

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to NBCSports.com. Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.