Army-Navy: Honoring tradition, football and otherwise

The annual Army vs. Navy game is one of the nation's oldest football rivalries, dating back to 1890. The football teams from the US Military and US Naval Academies honor all those who came before them.

Matt Slocum/AP/File
In this file photo, Army cadets hold up a sign as Navy midshipmen march off the field before an NCAA college football game between Army and Navy in Philadelphia. No single game is as important to its participants than Army-Navy.

The 113th edition of Army-Navy football takes place Saturday in the City of Brotherly Love, which is appropriate since the young men who will play on the gridiron will ultimately be brothers-in-arms defending the United States.

And like most brothers, the two teams will compete fiercely for 60 minutes (if not more), then salute each other's academy. For those of you who haven't traveled to either West Point or Annapolis, you owe it to yourself to take a regular season game at both locations (these days, the Army-Navy game is not played at either campus).

The US Military Academy in New York state sits on a bluff high above the Hudson River, 50 miles north of New York City. When I visited in the mid-1990s, the foliage around Michie Stadium was a cavalcade of color. The 'Long Gray Line' of cadets marched smartly on the campus parade grounds, prior to the football game. Statues of some of this nation's greatest generals watch over all. And the sounds of the game - everything from Howitzers firing to salute Army touchdowns to traditional marches performed by the Army cadet band - are impressive.

The US Naval Academy in eastern Maryland is located where the Severn River flows into Chesapeake Bay. During another mid-90s excursion, I witnessed one of the closest flyovers anyone might experience. A handful of Navy jets screamed over the top of Navy-Marine Corps Stadium just as the national anthem finished. The names of Navy and Marine battles, fought over the years in far-flung places, were written on the stadium walls.

Another highlight of the afternoon was running into former Baltimore Oriole and Baseball Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson on the sidelines. He, too, appreciated all the traditions of the service academy.

All of that tradition from each academy comes into play when these two schools meet at the end of their respective seasons. This fall, Navy is enjoying the better football campaign, with seven wins and a bowl game later this month. The Midshipmen are led by senior running back Gee Gee Greene, who's accounted for just over 1,000 yards of total offense this season.

Army is 2-and-9, but they own the nation's best rushing attack, averaging almost 370 yards per game. The Black Knights are looking at Saturday's encounter as their bowl game.

The Army-Navy football game will be televised by CBS, beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

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