Army-Navy Game 2019: Bridging The Divide

Army-Navy Game 2019

Army-Navy Game 2019

We’re a nation divided, no doubt about it. Political, cultural, and social division is evident all around us. Even sports, which is supposed to bring us together, divides us today. The NFL has the national anthem controversy. The NBA has the China controversy. Baseball continues to struggle with drug issues. But one game a year offers sports fans a welcome relief; a sports respite from the daily divide. Army-Navy Game 2019 is upon us.

Army-Navy Game 2019: Bridging The Divide

Hyperbole comes easy with the annual Army-Navy Game. The nation’s collective respect for the cadets and midshipmen, the history of the rivalry, and the pageantry all make for a quick and convenient–and all too often brief and short-sighted–assessment of the Army-Navy game. A deeper look reveals the true value of this rivalry: the many ways it unites sports fans for one afternoon.

The Past And The Present

Even college football fans are divided today. Fans are divided about the College Football Playoffs. Should it be four teams, eight teams, or something else? Fans continue to hammer the seemingly inept NCAA about many issues, including Name/Image/Likeness (NIL) litigation, infraction enforcement, and transfer portal waivers.

None of those issues will be on display Saturday in Philadelphia.

A Simpler Game

There are no playoff implications. None of these players are transfers. No one came through the portal. Coaches don’t have to worry about whether or not to redshirt a player. And there’s certainly not a cloud of NCAA sanctions looming over either of these programs.

But the best part about this blast to the past is that this game is still a relevant, high quality, and modern football game. Navy comes in ranked 23rd in the College Football Playoff rankings, the second time they’ve entered the game ranked in the CFP Top 25 in the last four seasons. They’re 28-23 over the last four seasons in what’s probably the fourth or fifth best conference in the nation in that time, the American Athletic Conference.

Army is 34-17 over the past four seasons, including a 29-10 record and three bowl wins from 2016-2019. The Black Knights finished an 11-win season last year with a 70-14 win over Houston. Army took Oklahoma to overtime last season and Michigan this season.

These teams bring together a simpler style game with top-level collegiate skill.

Those Uniforms, Though

One of the ways the rivalry has kept up with the times is with improved marketing. Army’s uniform, as was the case the previous several seasons, honors one of the Army’s active duty major units. In this case, it’s the Army 1st Cavalry Division. The uniqueness of the uniform, along with the sentiment, makes it a tremendous selling point to market the game.

Navy’s uniforms literally bridge the eras. Navy is wearing classic throwback uniforms to the Staubach era of Navy football. Again, a big win in the marketing department that literally links different eras of Navy football.

The modern marketing effort juxtaposed to the seemingly old-school flexbone option that both teams run, makes this game look like a classic black-and-white football game film brought to life in vivid, restored color footage.

The Army-Navy Game 2019 brings together the purity of old-school football with all the convenience of the modern game.

The Rivalry

With all due respect to the great rivalries in sports, this is the greatest rivalry in all of sport. Not Barcelona-Madrid, not Yankees-Red Sox, not Duke-North Carolina, not Ohio State-Michigan, and not Alabama-Auburn. Army-Navy is unique among all of those rivalries; and in that uniqueness is the true greatness of the game.

The difference lies in their similarity. They’re essentially the same team going through the same experience. And that makes the stakes of this game worth everything. If you haven’t been around either of these schools or teams, you can’t really understand how everything rides on this game.

In the other rivalries, the game brings opposing teams and fan-bases together for one event. The Army-Navy Game brings the rest of the nation to two teams and two schools that are already inextricably intertwined on a daily basis.

Unlike other rivalries, there will be no tree poisoning, no cursing of the other team, no “evil empire” narratives, and no fabricated stories of fake wars. Army and Navy have a shared past on the field, and a shared future in service to nation ahead of them. There’s real wars awaiting these players. You’ll hear “Go Army, Beat Navy,” “Go Navy, Beat Army,” and “Sing Second” rather than malcontent rants and juvenile humor aimed at an opponent. The Cadets and Midshipmen standing with each other at the conclusion of the game and singing each other’s alma maters is one of the irreplaceable moments in global sports.

None of the other great rivalries combine the intensity and the sportsmanship like the Army-Navy Game.

It brings together our most competitive spirit and the best of our on-field behavior.

The Teams

Here’s another difference in this rivalry: no one hates either one of these teams. Even the teams themselves, with everything riding on this one game, respect the opponent. Fans of college football can sit down and watch this game with a rooting interest for both teams easily. It’s a chance to watch two teams that you can appreciate and cheer for without having to dislike the other team. It’s entirely possible to like both of these teams.

With most rivalries, it’s a zero-sum game. If you cheer for or have a rooting in interest in one team, then you by default must have some sort of animosity toward the other. There are no football fans who are both Michigan and Ohio State fans. Nobody loves both Alabama and Auburn. No one wears a Yankee jersey with a Red Sox hat. It’s just not right. It just doesn’t happen.

The game allows for all fans of college football to have a rooting interest in the greatest rivalry in sports without taking sides.

It brings together all college football fans together.

The Reality

Here’s the reality, however. This game isn’t a panacea to what ails sports or society. These players aren’t perfect. The schools aren’t perfect. And the larger institutions they represent aren’t perfect.

But above everything else, what you’ll see on the field on Saturday is effort. Not lightning speed. Not superhuman strength. And not freakish athletic ability. You’ll see two teams giving their best effort to beat their brothers. You’ll see two programs giving their best effort to contribute yet again to the game of college football. And you’ll see two institutions making great effort to be better for the nation.

It brings everyone to be better. As sports should.

In The End

In the end, the Army-Navy Game 2019 is more than a game. It’s everything for the players on the field, the Cadets and Midshipmen in the stands, and the long line of graduates watching from far-flung places.

For the fan, it’s a chance to see football as it was meant to be played.

It’s a chance to enjoy the greatest rivalry in all of sports. College football is lucky to have so many great rivalries, but it is immensely fortunate to have the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

And it’s a chance for sports fans across the country to relax and enjoy the great spectacle of the Army-Navy Game, together.

The Army-Navy Game brings us many things. None more importantly, than the fact that it brings us together.

Together, not divided.

Main Photo:
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