We begin this week with a father-son story.
On Saturday in Philadelphia, in the last pure sporting event left in America, the football teams of Army and Navy will renew acquaintances for the 111th time.
In addition to its magnificent pageantry, the game holds for me, a much deeper connection.
On December 7, 1963, at the age of eleven, some two weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy, I watched my first college football game, that year’s Army/Navy game, which featured Navy quarterback, and Heisman Trophy winner, Roger Staubach.
I watched with my dad, in the living room on the top floor of our Dorchester three-decker.
We watched on a black and white Philco television, and even though the “old man,” was WW II army, I was a Navy fan.
It was a spine tingling ending, with Navy hanging on for the 21-15 victory, as time ran out on Army, who had the ball on the Middies one, ready to go in for the winning score.
It began a life long love affair with the game of college football, in which I now participate as; a Heisman Trophy voter.
But for me, the rivalry’s significance doesn’t end there.
My dad passed away a little over nine years ago, but four years before his demise, in the spring of 1998, he experienced a “mini” stroke, which made me realize that this 75 year old man wouldn’t be around forever.
It was that realization, which put my plan into action. I would surprise my dad, by taking him to witness the Army/Navy game first hand, sort of a “full-circle” journey.
It was to be a one day whirlwind excursion, so I made the airline reservations, but now I needed tickets.
Not just any seats, but something good, especially for a guy in his mid-seventies.
I called my pal, the great Boston Globe photographer Bill Brett, and asked him, if he would ask the late columnist Will McDonough, if he would ask his son Sean, who at the time was working for CBS Sports, and broadcasting the game, for help securing some good seats.
They all came through, and I picked up the tickets at the will-call window in an envelope marked: CBS Sports. The guy at the window said, “You must be important.”
Little did he know! We ventured to our seats; lower level about 8 rows up from the rail, 45 yard line – perfect!
Now as we are sitting around various Naval brass, after a few minutes my father, the former army private looks at me, and says, “Are you sure we are in the right seats?”
Translation: How could a nitwit like you, possibly pull off seats like this!
We had a great day, watching what turned out to be at that time the highest scoring game (since surpassed) in the history of the rivalry, a 34-30 victory by Army.
On the plane ride home, just as we were about to take off, the old man leaned in again and said, “In case I forget, I want to thank you.” For a WW II father, that simple statement was like War and Peace.
That’s why the game has such deep meaning for me.
Now to the game
Army vs. Navy – Philadelphia (Ch. 4, 2:30 p.m.) The West Point faithful are hoping; this is the year.
And Yes, Virginia (in the spirit of the season), there is reason for such optimism.
Despite an eight game losing streak to its heated rival, Army Coach Rich Ellerson’s Cadets (6-5), will be going bowling for the first time since Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office in 1966, Army’s last winning season.
The triple option Black Knights, under the command of QB Trent Steelman, (11 rushing TDs) is the igniter of the nation’s ninth best rushing attack.
The steely leader is assisted by tailback Jared Hassin and when Army does throw (last in the nation) wideout Austin Barr is the primary target.
The D, led by backer Stephen Anderson, and ends; Josh McNary and Jarret Mackey is a plus 11 in turnover margin, and efficiently solid in all phases.
The Middies option is led by starry QB Ricky Dobbs (806 yards – 13 rush touchdowns), whose stated goal is; to be president of the United States in 2040.
The director of the nation’s fifth best rushing attack (302 yards a game) is as tough as a $5 steak, and sails along with assists from tailback Alexander Teich and wideout Greg Jones.
The pedestrian D, behind ends Billy Yarborough, Jabaree Tuani and backer Tyler Simmons, hasn’t played to Annapolis standards; ranking 69th overall.
In a game in which Army may even have the lead, we think the better athletes are still on the side of the blue Middies, and the streak, although threatened, climbs to nine.
(Material from other sources was used in compiling this report.)
In the final report of the season:
Last week’s record: 5-0 Season record: 47-23.