America's Game! A Brief History of the Army Navy Game And Why You Should Watch It

Its December 7th, a date residing in infamy, and also the eve of something big in the college football world. As Bulldog Nation continues to lick its collective wounds and turns its eyes forward to the Capital One Bowl, A wider survey of the football landscape reveals that there is still a very important regular season game to be played.

This is a Georgia football website. But it is a good thing, at certain times to take a look at other important and historically significant games around the country. It broadens horizons, reminds us of our country's great heritage, and gives a chance to enjoy a great rivalry without really losing anything on the outcome (most of us anyway). December 8th 2012 will witness a game involving teams filled by, and representing some of, the finest people the United States has to offer.

As you may or may not have gleaned from my handle, I'm not a graduate of the University of Georgia. My Georgia Fandom is a result of growing up with Georgia fans in South Central Georgia. I was a Georgia fan from my earliest thoughts of football, and that has never changed. My alma mater, by contrast, gets barely a glance from me when it comes to football season. I do however; make certain to pay attention to one game a year.

That game: The Army Navy Game. For Army, and Navy fans, it’s a bowl game, Christmas, rivalry game, hate week and holiday all rolled up into one. For the students at the respective schools it provides a break from hectic schoolwork as all eyes focus on the game for a few days, and for graduates, and members of both Army and Navy military branches it provides a distraction from the daily troubles and drawbacks of military life.

The schools themselves are extremely similar: Both are 4 year undergraduate collegiate programs. The majority of cadets and midshipmen will graduate with Engineering degrees of one sort another, but both schools also offer degrees in the Arts, including languages, history, and management among others. I won’t get too into the details of life at the academies, so we’ll get back to the rivalry.

For a start, here are some pertinent details concerning the history of this game:

Series Tally: 112 meetings

Record: Army 49 Navy 56 7 Ties

First meeting: 1890: Navy won 24-0

Last Meeting: 2011: Navy won 27-21

Streak: Navy, 10 wins in a row

Trophy: Commander In Chief's Trophy (the zoomies Air Force Academy are also involved, beat both your rivals; take come the CIC's trophy for a year).

Rivalry Status: You can go 1-11 as long as that 1 is over Army/Navy (depending on your school/branch of service). As a graduate of the South Hudson Institute of Technology (read: United States Military Academy at West Point) I hate Navy from the bottom of my shriveled, blackened little heart.* Everywhere you go on USMA's campus, you're surrounded by the words "Beat Navy." It is, from an athletic standpoint, the only thing that matters. It is much the same at USNA.

To fully understand this rivalry, follow this recipe: take Vineyarddawg's hatred of Florida, multiply it by Kyle's hatred for Auburn, triple that, and then sprinkle it with just a dash of grudging respect (graduates will be working, and fighting, right alongside each other after all that hate) and you'll begin to have an understanding of the level of rivalry these two schools have. The inherent inter service rivalry really speaks for itself.

It calls itself "America's Game" and why shouldn't it? The teams meet at a neutral site, represent two of the premiere academic institutions within the United States, by proxy the teams represent the two largest branches of military service (the Army and the Navy) and have, if not the most talented, the most dedicated, hardest working football players out there. Additionally, there is no special treatments for Army and Navy football athletes. A football player will commission just like an average cadet or midshipman, complete with the same 5 year service obligation. These two teams have as much history as any other rivalry in the history of the sport.

They first met in 1890, Army's inaugural football season (despite being the older of the two academies army came late to the football world), when the Midshipmen issued a challenge to the cadets, and Dennis Mahan Michie (Michie Stadium is named for him) accepted and the rivalry was born. Navy has the older football program, and in fact had been playing football since 1879 (minus 1880 and 1881 when they didn't field a team). Navy waltzed to a 24-0 nothing victory as you might expect. Since then, the game has been played annually with just 10 exceptions.

The first break came just 4 years after the first game: A reputed disagreement between a Brigadier General and a Rear Admiral (yes that is a real Naval Rank, no it is not a gay joke) tabled the rivalry for several years. The disagreement supposedly nearly led to a duel, and fueled the bad feelings between services. The situation ultimately led to an order from the Secretary of War to USMA that other schools could visit West Point to play football, but West Point could not play away games. The Secretary of the Navy issued a similar order to USNA, and the rivalry was tabled. It was reestablished in 1899 at a neutral site in Philadelphia.

The next cancellation was in 1909, when Army cancelled its entire schedule due to the death of Cadet Eugene Byrne on the "field of friendly strife" against Harvard. The rivalry again renewed the following year when Army returned to organized football. It was next paused in 1917 and 1918 by order of the War Department, and again in 1928-29 when the schools could not agree on player eligibility. Other than that they have played continuously.

Navy may have started earlier, and may own the series record, but Army has the more illustrious overall football history. Army's winning percentage all time is .580, Navy's is just .552. Army claims 3 national titles, in 1914, '44, and '45. Navy claims one national title, in 1926 with a 9-0-1 record under the Boand and Houlgate systems. Army has 3 Heisman winners, in 1945, 46 and 58. Navy has just 2. Navy does own the most recognizable name to come out of either institution sports wise: Roger Staubach won the Heisman in 1963, and after a career in the Navy, he went on to a successful NFL career after a stint on active duty in the Navy.

Both programs have had hard times recently, but Army more so than Navy. Army enters this year's contest at a feeble 2-9 clip, including a loss to FCS Stony brook, but this is a game where you can ignore the records to an extent. Navy enters at a bowl bound 7-4 with wins over such powerhouses as FAU, ECU, and Indiana. Additionally they are riding a 10 game winning streak against the Cadets.

The one bright spot for Army is that if they can pull the upset in Philly, they can claim the Commander in Chief’s Trophy for the first time in over a decade. One of their 2 wins is an impressive 41-21 victory over the Air Force academy.

I would love to go on talking about this, discussing the nuances of the rivalry, and the antics cadets and midshipmen get up to, but I think I've talked about non 'Dawg programs as long as I dare without upsetting the powers that be here at Dawg Sports. I hope you have enjoyed the read, and if you're not doing anything, tune in and watch Army Beat Navy.

Go Dawgs! Go Army! Beat Navy, the mascot, somebody!

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