Army-Navy Football, It’s Far More Than a Game

Today was the 122nd Army-Navy football game.  I watch it every year.  I am glued, because it is far more than a football game.  It is a rivalry between brothers.  I call it a ‘band of brothers’, much like how it was in WWI and WWII.  They are warriors on the football field, and the war field.  They live their lives with respect, purpose, honor, integrity, and kindness.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our son was a Naval Academy graduate in 2003.  When he was in high school, he was assigned to a Blue and Gold Officer, someone who could answer his questions, and judge if he had the ‘right stuff’.  The three words he said have resonated with me ever since:

Ship.  Shipmate.  Self.

It’s what the Navy lives by.  It’s Life-101.  First take care of your ship, then take care of your shipmate.  Lastly take care of yourself.  Ever since I heard those three words I have incorporated that philosophy into my teaching and classroom.  Modern terms say ‘kindness’ and ‘giving’.  The Navy knew that well over 100 years ago.

I was lucky to attend the 100th Army-Navy football game.  That was when I understood.  The stands were full of people who could have been my dear friends.  Honestly, I could have left my seat and asked someone nearby to watch my belongings.  There were ‘Spirit Spots’, spoofs made by the Midshipmen and Black Knights on the giant video screen.  Parachuters landed on the 50-yard line.  The home team ran the football from Annapolis to the stadium.  I got an email today from a friend who was stuck in traffic outside of New York; Army (this year’s home team) was running the football into the stadium.  Our son was part of Navy’s 13th Company who ran the ball from Annapolis onto the field in 1999.

Army was cheering today.

Navy was cheering today.  That is my great nephew.

Tradition runs deep.  Tradition is a foundation.  It builds who we are.  The tradition at the end of the Army-Navy game is singing the Alma Mater.  That’s ship.  The team who wins joins the other team as they sing their Alma Mater.  That’s Shipmate.. The team who wins then sings their own Alma Mater.  That’s Self.

Army singing their Alma Mater

Navy singing their Alma Mater

The Naval Academy has a beautiful Japanese brass bell on the campus (now a replica), a gift from Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854.  The bell is only rung when Navy beats Army.  It has been a number of years since the ringing of that bell.  Tradition lives on.  When that bell rings, winning the football game is important, yet what that win means is far more important – hard work, brotherhood, team work… and all the values of Army-Navy football.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, military, patriotism, Singing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Army-Navy Football, It’s Far More Than a Game

  1. beth says:

    here’s to navy! ring that bell!

  2. Carla says:

    Definitely a great tradition.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    I’m sure you’re all happy tonight. Congratulations!

  4. petespringerauthor says:

    I enjoyed part of the game today too, Jennie. It’s one of those traditions I look forward to every year. The competition is fierce most of the time, but you seldom see poor sportsmanship. It must have something to do with military discipline.

  5. Ritu says:

    What a great tradition!

  6. This was a very uplifting post! I enjoyed it.

  7. GP says:

    So happy to see your g-nephew enjoying the game along with his fellow Midshipmen!! I enjoy watching the game each year as it reinforces my hope that patriotism and teamwork will never die.

  8. srbottch says:

    Jennie, I absolutely loved this post. There was so much more in your story that I never knew about the game and it’s traditions. I love traditions and the military is an institution where traditions abound. Thank you for enlightening me.

  9. It’s an All-American event. I’ve been several times. I have a Navy daughter and an Army son so it’s a particularly meaningful event in our family.

  10. quiall says:

    If only the rest of the world could understand the mindset of the military personnel. It’s not about war it’s about us, all of us. We are in this together. We are the ship, the shipmates and self.

  11. Super post, Jennie. Thank you.

  12. Wonderful traditions! I think they’re in the glue that binds us.

  13. bosssybabe says:

    I’m Canadian so never heard of this but what a great tradition.

  14. Jim Borden says:

    the singing of the alma maters is the best ending to any sporting event…

    I’m kind of surprised that ship comes before shipmate; I guess I need to think about that a bit more…

  15. Don Ostertag says:

    And don’t forget the tradition of stealing the goat.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes!!! They also stole the Army mule. They dropped paper airplanes at West Point. There is a long list over many, many years of (great) pre-game adventures. It’s what makes a team and a band of brothers. Good stuff!

  16. Wow! I’m not a football fan, so I’ve never watched an Army-Navy game. But I loved seeing it through your eyes. The way you described it, I agree: it’s far more than say, a USC-UCLA game. Thanks for educating me. : )

  17. I read this yesterday but could not comment, Seeing your comment at my end reminded me to return! This post is so poignant in so many ways. The Army-Navy game is special and you touched on many of the points. That is also emphasized by the simple aspect that this game is played on a day when the rest of major college football does not play. In itself, that shows what this game really means. Cheers to your family and the tradition this has meant for you. Thank you, Jennie!

  18. The Hook says:

    Thank you for sharing, Jennie.
    Well done.

  19. What a lovely post, Jennie. I enjoyed learning about your personal connection to all this. Hugs on the wing.

  20. beetleypete says:

    We don’t have a similar football tradition here, but we do have the boat race between Oxford and Cambridge universities on the Thames every year. Most people support one side or the other, even when they have no connection to the colleges. (I support Oxford)
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you for telling me about this. Traditions and rivalries are a wonderful thing. They’re bonding for everyone, whether it’s football or boat racing.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    My rivalry is Yale/Harvard. A couple of years ago a very cheerful me looked around at very morose diners in New Haven.

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