On Dec. 14 the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy football teams will face off in the 120th Army-Navy Game. This year the game returns once again to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, where the Black Knights will look to defeat the Midshipmen for the fourth consecutive time and keep the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy in New York for another year.
The fields of friendly strife between the two academies have helped to develop a president and countless generals and admirals who have led America’s Armed Forces. As a cadet at West Point, future Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and President Dwight D. Eisenhower played in the game, as did his classmate and future General of the Army Omar Bradley.
The Army Navy Game stands alone on the NCAA schedule, with a weekend to itself every year. Scheduled for the week after conference championship games, the rivalry, which dates back to 1890, closes out the college football regular season.
The annual game is a sporting event like no other and should be on everyone’s bucket list whether you’re a college football fan or not.
Here are a few reasons why you should add the game to your list and plan a trip to an upcoming clash between Army and Navy:
1) Witness the show of force that is the “March On”
Perfectly in step, the Corps of Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy marches onto the field. First comes the Color Guard carrying the American Flag along with those of the Army and the academy. Then, company by company, the 4,400 members of the Corps of Cadets exit the tunnel and cover the field.
Dressed in their hand-stitched gray long overcoats that in part have led to the alumni of the academy being called the Long Gray Line, the Corps of Cadets stretches from endzone to endzone filling the field where the game will soon kickoff.
The dueling March Ons that take place before the kick truly sets the stage for the competition as the academies try to prove themselves as the most disciplined and prepared by being the most in step, having the straightest lines and getting the spacing just right.
Come to Army Navy to see the Corps of Cadets who will be the future leaders of the Army and I dare you to not get chills when the 4,400 cadets and the Army fans (in the stands) join together to cheer on the Black Knights by performing the academy’s traditional cheer “The Rocket”
“U.S.M.A. Rah! Rah!”
2) It is more than just a football game
The highlight of the weekend is the football game, but Army Navy is so much more than a four-quarter game between two college football teams. Come to the game to experience the teams behind the teams and the unique and powerful individuals who make up the Army Navy Game weekend.
The Friday before the game, the academies’ Patriot Games Teams compete throughout the city for supremacy. They race up the stairs in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art like Rocky Balboa. They visit and compete at Independence Hall, where the country they have sworn to protect was born. Come cheer them on as they go toe-to-toe during a pep rally featuring both academies’ bands, cheerleaders and mascots at The Shops at Liberty Place in downtown Philadelphia. Then see them test their strength in a bout of tug-of-war in the shadow of the U.S.S New Jersey.
If you feel like getting in a workout the afternoon before the game, meet West Point’s marathon team at the foot of the Rocky Steps and join them for the last leg of their annual ball run carrying the game ball from West Point to Lincoln Financial Field.
Then Saturday, visit ESPN’s College Gameday, which travels to the game annually and settle into your seat in time to hear the combined West Point and USNA Glee Clubs sing a stirring rendition of the National Anthem alongside men and women who have or will soon serve America in the profession of arms.
3) Witness all the iconic moments in person
More than any other football game on the calendar, the Army Navy game is steeped in tradition. It is a truly an experience that must be witnessed in person to appreciate.
Skip the pregame concession lines or bathroom break and grab a seat in the stands to see the traditional Prisoner Exchange when cadets and midshipmen who are spending the semester at the rival academy are traded back to their home corps so they can cheer their team on to victory.
Stare into the sky for the dual flyover which features aircraft from both the Navy and Army and then be wowed as skydivers from the services’ demonstration teams jump into the stadium.
Get ready for the game by cheering on the Patriot Games Teams as they take part in the final event on the field with yearlong bragging rights on the line and then support the West Point Marathon Team as the cadets bring the game ball they ran from West Point to Philadelphia into the stadium.
Have a chance to see the nation’s leaders such as the President of the United States, cabinet officials and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as they come to support the future officers.
4) Sing along to the alma maters, regardless of who sings first or second
“Hail, Alma Mater dear, To us be ever near. Help us thy motto bear, Through all the years.”
For 60 minutes on the field, the Black Knights and Midshipmen fight with their all to defeat their closest rival in the most important game of the season for either team. But once the clock hits 0.0, the two bitter rivals come together for one of the greatest moments of unity and sportsmanship in all of American sports.
Win or lose, the players from both academies sing the alma mater of each school. As in war to the victors go the spoils and the tradition at Army Navy is that the winning team gets the chance to Sing Second, sending home the fans with the lines of their alma mater.
You can hear the alma maters on TV, you can see the cadets and midshipmen come together to sing, but the moment cannot truly be experienced except in person. Whether you support Army, Navy or are just there for the game, sing along to the alma maters that say so much about what these future officers have signed up for, are willing to sacrifice and stand for.
“E'er may that line of gray, Increase from day to day. Live, serve, and die, we pray, West Point, for thee.”
5) Come and support those who are willing to fight for you
Thousands of college football games occur on Saturdays throughout the fall, but when the service academies face off, the stakes of the game are infinitely higher. When Army, Navy and the Air Force Academy take the field, it marks the sole time when the players on the field are willing to die to protect all those who are in the stands or watching at home.
Upon graduation from the service academies, the cadets and midshipmen will begin their careers as leaders in America’s armed forces where they will work together to defeat the country’s enemies and protect the country’s freedoms. But for one day a year, the future Army and Navy officers become of the fiercest of competitors. You can do them no better homage and offer them no bigger sign of support than joining them at the annual Army Navy Game, an experience that can only be truly appreciated in person.