“There is only one day a year out of the 365 when we are bitter rivals…that is during the Army-Navy game. Worldwide we are brothers and sisters in arms, doing what our country calls us to do in the profession of arms.”
-Brigadier General, Timothy Trainor
The Army-Navy football game has become what many deem as the greatest rivalry in college sports. Every year excitement surrounding the game builds, reaching its climax during the week prior. The motto “Beat Navy!” can be seen and heard throughout the West Point campus. At Annapolis, it is “Beat Army!” While the winner is awarded the Thompson Cup, the true prize is the inter-service “bragging rights” for the entirety of the following year.
The ferocity of the rivalry has become a platform of tremendous enthusiasm and support for the armed forces. Neither West Point nor Annapolis have the capacity to host the annual game at their respective stadiums anymore. The game is now hosted at Lincoln Financial Field, the home stadium of the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles. The stadium is able to accommodate the enormous crowds that flock to the event and its ideal location is halfway between West Point and Annapolis. The Army-Navy game is traditionally hosted as the last regular season game, holding the greatest significance for seniors who will soon be stationed and deployed worldwide. The 2015 Army-Navy Game marks the Rivalry’s 116th meeting and 86th time played in Philadelphia. While the game has evolved into a national spectacle of patriotism, its beginnings were of a far more humble nature.
The rivalry began 125 years ago when Cadet Dennis Mahan Michie accepted the “challenge” from the Naval Academy. On November 29, 1890 the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipman faced off at the West Point Military Academy here in the Hudson River Valley. The Midshipman earned the first victory of the series, yet the Black Knights stormed back with vengeance in their second meeting. Since the game became an annual event, it has only not been played on 10 different occasions. The few cancellations occurred due to Army’s cancellation of its entire schedule after the death of Cadet Eugene Byrne in the game against Harvard, as an order from the War Department during WWII, and due to eligibility disputes in the 1920’s. During wartime the game becomes increasingly emotional, as some of the senior players and cadets will not return. In 1944, West Point graduate General Douglas MacArthur sent the team a telegram from the pacific following their victory proclaiming, “The greatest of all Army teams … We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success. MacArthur.” With appearances from the majority of high ranking officers, and the president himself, the game has become a symbol of American military pride, especially in times of great adversity.
Navy leads Army in the series all time, 60-49 with 7 ties, dominating the 21st century matchups. In the 2015 matchup Navy outlasted the Black Knights in a close victory 21-17, bringing their win streak to 14 games. The rivalry between academies is fierce, but the reality remains that on the battlefield the two military forces fight hand-in-hand. The greatest significance of the event remains that for the 60 minutes of play the United States forces of land and sea battle one another. Win or lose as the final seconds of clock expire the brotherhood is renewed.