If you've watched any college football over the past four days (and if you haven't may I be the first to say what the hell is wrong with you?) you've probably heard the word "rivalry" thrown around quite often. It was after all Rivalry "week," a weekend in which teams from around the country squared off against their cross state or traditional antagonist in games which, depending on the rivalry and the stakes at hand, made or broke those teams' seasons. Curiously lost in the discussion of border wars and iron bowls was Army-Navy, a game which, very simply, transcends the bonds of collegiate athletics with ease, and commands the attention and rooting interests of a Nation in an actual war for survival. It is a game that means much more than two universities or institutions, and embodies the highest examples of mutual respect, sportsmanship, and competition. It is, even in today's age of big time money making machines and conference championships, the Nation's rivalry, and one of the last vestiges of an event which I can only describe as absolutely American.
Yet not everyone feels the same way. Last year I penned a piece for the Fan House in which I asserted that the Army-Navy game was not only the best rivalry in college football, but arguably the best rivalry in sports. Period. Since that time I've heard plenty of chatter regarding what truly is the "best" rivalry in sports, with irate fans from Michigan and Ohio claiming their own cross state rivalry, as well as a fair share on snooty and condescending cosmopolitan types who inevitably claim that we jingoistic Americans neglect to feature the finest rivalries of premier league "futbol" or whatever they are calling soccer these days. Yet, even in the face of these arguments (some better than others) many of us are undeterred, and continue to point to that first Saturday in December as the most platonic example of what a rivalry should be.
With each team being some half a century removed from being in the National Title picture, it's not difficult to see why there are doubters in the conversation. Yet for as much is made about Michigan-Ohio State or Alabama-Auburn, at the end of the day those local rivalries are just that, local. Don't get me wrong, I'm not naive enough to think that people from around the country don't have rooting interests in those games, and by no means am I suggesting that such rivalries don't often have major implications on the college football postseason. But what happens when your not a fan of either of those schools, and when you couldn't care less about the implications of those games? The great thing about Army-Navy is that everyone has some kind of connection to the game, even if your not a graduate of one of the institutions or have some other proximal affiliation with the schools. With personnel from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps stationed around the world and often in areas of danger, I don't need to tell anyone that this game is anything but localized, and despite the certain fact that the eyes of the college football universe won't be trained on M&T Bank Stadium exclusively, it doesn't diminish the importance the game holds for the teams and their fan bases.
Later in the week we'll get to breaking down the matchups of this game, and sometime following the game I'll get around to writing a somewhat lengthy and long overdue post about myself and my own personal, albeit limited, experience with the rivalry, as well as where I plan to go with the blog itself in the coming months.
Until then (as if I had to tell you): BEAT ARMY