Army-Navy spectacle goes 'on tour' to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena
Pasadena — They took ''A Chorus Line,'' '' My Fair Lady,'' and ''The King and I'' on the road, so why shouldn't they take the 84th edition of the Army-Navy Game to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Friday, November 25? However, with ony four victories spread between both service academies this season, the halftime show probably will turn out to be more interesting than the game.
In what is being advertised as the largest privately financed military airlift in history, all 9,000 Cadets and Midshipmen will be in attendance, thanks to a non-profit Pasadena foundation created especially for the occasion. The foundation reportedly was able to raise more than $3 million for the move, which should make it a target for anyone with presidential aspirations.
The point is that California gets the whole spectacular Army-Navy package, including the gold braid, white gloves, and swords that jingle, jangle, jingle. For shame, though, the respective mascots - the Army mule and the Navy goat - will be local imposters rented for the occasion to avoid all the difficulties involved in transporting the actual animals most of the way across the country.
While the change in location for this year's game is not exactly a precedent (the participants got as far west as Chicago in 1926), 60 of the previous 83 Army-Navy games have been played in Philadelphia. In fact, after being properly toasted this week in the California sunshine, the game returns to the City of Brotherly Love in 1984 for the next five years.
Although it can't very well happen this year, since both academies have only so-so records, several of the most thrilling skirmishes in the series have occurred when one team was coming off a great season and the other never got untracked
Perhaps the most memorable game in this pattern was the 1946 contest, the last start for Army's pro-like, All-America running backs, Doc Blanchard (Mr. Inside) and Glenn Davis (Mr. Outside).
During their three varsity seasons, Blanchard and Davis played for Army teams that shut out the opposition 13 times while going through 26 games without a defeat. And Navy, in 1946, hardly looked like a team that was about to break that streak.
The Middies had hornpiped themselves to seven straight defeats after a 7-0 opening game win over Villanova, which would not be getting any bowl invitations in the mail either. People weren't asking who would win, but they were speculating about the size of Army's margin.
After Army had taken a 21-6 lead, Navy scored six points in the third quarter and six more in the fourth, closing the gap to 21-18. Then late in the game the Middies drove from their own 33-yard-line to the Cadet 3 with one minute and 25 seconds left.
The upset of the decade wasn't to be, however, as three running plays failed to produce a touchdown and the game ended in confusion before Navy could get off its final attempt. With thousands of fans milling around on the sidelines, there was a lot of confusion about whether the Navy runner on the third down play went out of bounds - which would have stopped the clock. The officials said he didn't, and before the Middies could line up again, time ran out.
Months of planning precede every Army-Navy game. They include everything from arranging the split-second marching schedule of the Cadets and Midshipmen to having two silver dollars on hand for the pre-game coin toss.
That was standard procedure, at any rate, back in a less security-conscious time when US presidents regularly were a part of these ceremonies at midfield. The reason for the two dollars, of course, was so that each team captain could keep one as a souvenir.
Today, presidential appearances are less certain, and frequently not announced until the last minute. And of course meticulous security provisions are now taken routinely - as they have been here in the event President Reagan should decide to attend.
Even the cheerleaders from the two academies, for instance, will disclose their carefully planned halftime stunts to FBI men for approval, so security can act quickly if the script is suddenly interrupted by persons unknown.
There are plenty of other problems for the planners to contend with too, such as the protocol question of where to seat Air Force generals who are not graduates of either institution.
The post-game cleanup over the years has produced some odd leftovers too. While overshoes and single earrings usually head the list, back in 1950 two five gallon cans of gasoline were found side by side near the top of the stadium.
Nobody claimed them and their presence still remains a mystery, although one sports writer was quick to claim that a fan, and not a member of some subversive group, had brought them to the game. The fan, this writer insisted, only wanted to make sure his favorite jet-propelled fullback didn't run out of fuel!