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Op Ed # 599 The 123rd Army-Navy Football Game Is Scheduled On December 10, 2022

  • Op Ed # 599 The 123rd Army-Navy Football Game Is Scheduled On December 10, 2022

By Capt Joseph R. John, December 7, 2022

The first Army-Navy game that was played on December 2, 1890, returns this coming Saturday.  It is one of the greatest rivalries in football history.  In the 132-year history of the Army-Navy rivalry, 122 games have been played.  Annually, the Army-Navy game is always a popular national attraction for football fans, Annapolis and West Point graduates, for extended family members of Naval Academy and Military Academy Alumni, and for the 23 million Veterans who served Honorably in the US Armed Forces. 

 This year, the 123rd Army-Navy game will be played on December 10, 2022, in Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.  The game will be broadcast on CBS-TV at 12:00 Noon Pacific Time.  Navy won the game last year, with a 17-13 triumph.  For the 122 games played to date, Navy leads Army in the number of games won, 62–53, with 7 ties.  

 It will be the last football game for the First Class (Seniors) Midshipmen and Cadets.  In just six short months, those football players, and thousands of First Class Midshipmen and Cadets in the stands will be deployed worldwide to jointly protect millions of Americans watching the Army-Navy Game!  The Army-Navy game day is the only day of the year that Naval Academy graduates and Military Academy graduates are not supportive of each other. 

The Naval Academy Class of 1962 has watched 64 of the 122 Army-Navy games played to date.  Even when they were deployed on active duty overseas, the annual Army-Navy game was watched by them on broadcasts of the US Armed Forces TV Network.  

 By clicking on the below listed link, you will be able to view a video summarizing five historic Army-Navy Football contests.

 A more detailed history of the 122 Army-Navy Football games played to date, is listed below for your review below; that historic game summary was written by Nicolaus Mills and was forwarded to the Combat Veterans For Congress by Steve S. McDonald, USNA ’65.

 We trust you will watch the Army-Navy game this year, will appreciate the Patriotism of the fans, and will notice that no football player will take a knee when the National Anthem is played.  

 Go Navy, Beat Army!  

The Army-Navy game December 10 marks the 132th anniversary of this greatest football rivalry. The first game, played on a gridiron laid out on southeast corner of the West Point Parade Ground, was so sparsely attended that spectators could move up and down the field as the line of scrimmage shifted. 

We have come a long way from that first encounter, but as Army and Navy get ready to play again, the legacy of that 1890 game is worth recalling. 

In 1890 Army had only one player with any real football experience -- Dennis Michie, [USMA1892] 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. 

Both teams could now claim bragging rights. Their competition had gotten off to the perfect start. Five years before the advent of the modern Olympics, the two service academies had turned their new athletic rivalry into front-page news. 

The Army-Navy game, as those reporting it noted, quickly became as much about character as physical skill. "Pluck was the most conspicuous feature of the game of football at West Point on Saturday between the cadets of the Naval and Military Academies," an 1890 account observed. "Where bravery was so common and so notable it would be unfair and unjust to cite one man as braver than another." 

The public's response to that first encounter worked to the advantage of both schools, and they went out of their way to make sure their rivalry remained consistent with the military values they sought to display on the gridiron. When in the wake of the 1893 game, which drew a crowd of 8,000, animosities between the two academies reached such a fever pitch that a retired rear admiral and a brigadier general came close to fighting a duel, the game was canceled for six years by order of the Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy. 

The lessons the cancellation taught were absorbed by both sides, and when the game resumed in 1899 on a neutral site, Franklin Field in Philadelphia, before 27,000 people, everything went so smoothly that Army and Navy officials decided that the game must be played annually. Making sure their football rivalry did not deteriorate into petty squabbles paid further dividends two years later when President Theodore Roosevelt and 30,000 fans attended the 1901 Army-Navy game. 

The president became so excited about the play, which featured a 105-yard kickoff return by Army's star quarterback, that at one point he left his seat and moved to the sidelines to get closer to the action. But Roosevelt was careful, despite having served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to maintain public neutrality. At halftime he inaugurated the presidential tradition of moving from one team's side of the stadium to the other's. 

Since TR's time, the Army-Navy football game has always had a life of its own. In his memoir, You Have to Pay the Price, legendary Army coach Earl "Red' Blaik [USMA’20] wrote, "The primary objective of Army football must be victory over Navy. It cannot be achieved by anything less than complete dedication." For Navy's coaches victory over Army has the same priority. Coaches at both schools know that success in the Army-Navy game is crucial to keeping their jobs. 

How far this pressure to win goes is epitomized by the story former Army coach Paul Dietzel [as Midshipmen, we called him Pepsodent Paul] tells in his autobiography, Call Me Coach, of a dinner party at the home of Gen. William Westmoreland [USMA36],later Commander of American troops in Vietnam, who while Superintendent of West Point hired Dietzel in 1962 to revive Army's football fortunes. "There's one thing you'll need to understand right from the beginning," the general's wife, Kitsy, told Dietzel. Then, turning around, she flipped up her skirt to reveal a pair of blank panties with "BEAT NAVY!" printed on them in bright gold letters. 

In 1944, when Army, led by its All-American running backs "Doc" Blanchard [USMA’47] and Glenn Davis [USMA’47], [Army’s quarterback was Arnold Tucker USMA’47 from Miami High] was ranked No.1 in the nation and Navy, with a line superior to Army's, was ranked No.2, they played an epic game, won by Army, that helped sell more than $58 million in war bonds. At the game's conclusion, sports' columnist Allison Danzig wrote, "The country can now return to the normalcy of fighting the most terrible war ever inflicted upon mankind. This Army-Navy game has passed into history."  

But an even more revealing comment on the place the Army-Navy football game had come to occupy in World War II America was summed up by a telegram that General Douglas MacArthur [USMA’03], then leading American forces in the Pacific, sent to Army's coach in 1944. "THE GREATEST OF ALL ARMY TEAMS," MacArthur wired. "WE HAVE STOPPED THE WAR TO CELEBRATE YOUR MAGNIFICENT SUCCESS."    
MacArthur's hyperbole was deliberate, but there was nothing exaggerated about his belief that the Army-Navy game should serve as an antidote to dark times. 

When the Army-Navy game of 1963 was canceled as a result of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it was played a week later at the request of the Kennedy family, and the coin that President Kennedy would have flipped to decide which team received the opening kickoff was sent as a gift by Secretary of the Army Cyrus Vance to Navy's winning football Captain Tom Lynch [USNA‘64]. 

The following year, with the Vietnam War in its early stages, retired President Dwight Eisenhower [USMA’15], then living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, put his own stamp on the Army-Navy game. Ike had desperately wanted to be a football star, and in 1912 he was heralded as one of the best running backs in the East. A knee injury ended his football career and kept him out of the 1912 Army-Navy game, but over the years, Ike maintained his interest in Army football. When he was asked by a cadet interviewing him for West Point's student-run Pointer magazine to send the 1964 Army team a telegram on the eve of the game, he happily complied. 

The telegram was designed to rally Army's players, who had lost five straight games to Navy, then led by All-American quarterback and future Dallas Cowboys star Roger Staubach [USNA’65]. But what emerged from Ike's telegram was much more than a call for victory. For Ike, the essence of the Army-Navy game was the pressure it put on everyone who participated in it to hold nothing back. "You will always have what you give today. The more you give the more you will keep!" Ike wrote in a message that is as relevant today as it was in 1964. 

Army-Navy football remains a stellar attraction but it has suffered from the increased competition for fans' attention at the pro and college ranks. That doesn't, however, take away from what the game stands for. 

This year's game, like those of the past, marks the last time most of both teams' seniors will ever step on a football field. As they have known ever since they arrived at West Point and Annapolis, what awaits them is not a tryout in the National Football League or a lucrative job in business, but active service, which amounts to a military career commitment. In no other athletic rivalry is the price of participation higher.

By Nicolaus Mills 

 Daniel Squier - The Times-Standard

    If you have memories of ABC and autumn Saturday afternoons from the 1970's, you remember Chris Schenkel sitting at his desk in the ABC studio, wearing that gold blazer with the ABC sports logo on the front pocket. You remember the image of the Prudential rock over his shoulder as he read off the scores and narrated the highlights from "The Prudential College Football Scoreboard". 

    Long before the advent of ESPN's 'College Gameday,' there was Schenkel, as he ran down the list of big games. Auburn-Alabama in the perfectly-named "Iron Bowl." USC-UCLA, watched by those of us who lived on the east coast with a sense of envy as they battled in the warm California sunshine, while we endured the last crisp winds of autumn, signalling the onset of winter. 

    You remember Woody and Bo, stalking the sidelines during the Michigan-Ohio State game, a game that every year, seemed to have an impact on the national championship picture. Schenkel even made it a point to mention the score of the Slippery Rock versus whomever they were playing -- just because he found the name of the school so intriguing. 

    On this weekend, now commonly known as "Rivalry Week," we get to see the most intense matchups the sport has to offer. While discussing rivalries, we have to remember what makes them such compelling viewing. 

    The history, the traditions, the stories of players, coaches and fans who have colored the landscape of college football with tales that are retold every year, and never seem to get old. 

    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is home to the longest enduring rivalry in college football: Lehigh-Lafayette. Those two teams have been playing each other since 1884. Longer than Harvard-Yale, longer than Oregon-Oregon State, longer than Washington-Washington State. Longer than any other two schools in history. 

    Why mention Schenkel, great rivalries, the excitement of late autumn matchups, that year after year, regardless of team records and regardless of whether we are an alumni of a particular school or not, bring us back to watch every year? 

     Two words -- Army. Navy. 

    No other college football rivalry comes close. Sure, Alabama and Georgia once again will have a direct impact on the national title picture. So will USC-UCLA. Heck, even the OSU-Michigan game, once the fiercest rivalry in the country, has title implications this year. Doesn't matter. They are not Army. They are not Navy. 

    They are not the Corps of Cadets and the Brigade of Midshipmen, marching into the stadium, preceded by the Stars and Stripes, carrying their respective battle flags adorned with ribbons denoting every battle this nation's military has fought. 

    These two teams have played the game annually, dating back to the first contest on December 2, 1890, a game won by Navy, 24-0. No other rivalry -- with apologies to the fantastic traditions of every one of them -- carries the national import this one does. No other rivalry is watched -- by veterans and alumni of both academies and the 99.9 percent of viewers who never set foot on either campus -- with such regularity. The pranks pulled by each academy in the weeks leading up to the game. The attendance of the President, who would split his time by sitting on each team's respective side, started by Teddy Roosevelt and curtailed following the assasination of John Kennedy a week before the 1963 game. 

    The Navy goat. The Army mule. 

    This is the closest we can get to a "national" game, because the two schools involved are, in the end, representative of every state, commonwealth, district, county, and parish in the country. 

     There is the ever-present undercurrent rippling through the scenes we see, that in a few years, the young men and women on our television screens, or in front of us in the stands, will soon be in harm's way in service of their nation. 

    The game allows us to unashamedly view virtue manifest on a playing field. "Duty, Honor, Country" sound trite, even hokey in the light of our national mania for selfishness and our penchant for screaming "me! me! me!. 

    But when viewed through the prism of teamwork, sacrifice, courage and service, those words are brought to life when the 'Black Knights of the Hudson' take the field against the 'Middies.' 

     The game allows us to take a step back, to view college football as it was once played -- or at least as we wish it was once played -- by young men who truly embody the term 'student-athlete,' and who play the game with a passion that is driven, not by the promise of fat professional contracts, but for pride. 

    Army-Navy is still a week ahead, the other rivalry games take center stage this weekend, and maybe that's the best way. Army-Navy stands on its own. It is about honor, that old-fashioned-fuddy-duddy notion. It is about duty. To one's self and to one's team. It is about country, because no other college sporting event grabs the attention of a nation-wide audience when that audience has so little emotional investment in either school. 

    Schenkel's voice can still be heard, when the skies are gray, the wind cold and raw and the football games are wrought with the passion of history and tradition. For all the pageantry each game brings to the national spotlight, only one game brings us the Armymule and the Navy goat. 

By the way: My Once a year reminder: