We begin the 113th Army/Navy Week, the last pure amateur sporting event left in America; with our version of: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
The Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed classic, is a must watch during the Christmas season, and the following story; of taking my old man to the game, will be the annual lead into our analysis.
Here it is:
On December 7, 1963, at the age of 11, some two weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy, I watched my first college football game.
It was the Army/Navy game, which featured Navy’s Heisman Trophy winner, QB 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 World War II Army, I was rooting for Navy.
It was a spine-tingling and controversial ending, with the Midshipmen hanging on for the 21-15 victory, as time ran out with Army perched on the Navy one yard line.
It began a life long love affair with the game of college football, in which, I remain involved, by writing an on-line newspaper column, and as a Heisman Trophy voter.
But for me, the significance of the Army/Navy Game has much deeper roots.
My dad passed away a shade over 11 years ago, and four years before his demise, in the spring of 1998, he experienced a “mini” stroke, which made me realize that this 75 year old guy 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 classic first hand, sort of a “full-circle” journey.
It was to be a one day whirlwind excursion.
I made the airline reservations, but now I needed some tickets.
Not just any seats, but something good, especially for a guy in his mid-seventies.
I called my pal, Bill Brett, the former great photographer of the Boston Globe.
I asked Bill, if he would ask the late sports columnist Will McDonough, if he would ask his son Sean, who at the time was working at CBS Sports, and calling the game, for help securing some tickets.
They all came through, and I picked up the tickets at the will-call window in an envelope marked; CBS Sports.
The kid at the window proclaimed, “You must be important!”
Little did he know!
We ventured to our seats, lower level at the old Vet Stadium in Philadelphia, 8 rows up from the rail, 45 yard line; Perfect!
Here we are, sitting around various Naval brass, when after a few minutes, my father, a former Army corporal looks at me and says, “Are you sure we are in the right seats?”
Translation: How could a nitwit like you, pull off seats like these!
We had a great day watching, what was, at the time, (since surpassed) the highest scoring contest in the rivalry; a 34-30 Army victory.
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 is like War and Peace. He passed away three years later.
That’s why the game is my version of a Christmas story.
Army vs. Navy (Ch.4, 3 p.m. – Philadelphia) This is the first time since the Administration of W (2005) that the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy will be awarded to the winner.
In the last decade, it has been rough seas for the Cadets, as the Midshipmen have sailed to a record; 10 consecutive victories.
The triple-option is the operative choice for both teams, and there will be more sleight of hand, than a Houdini show, or a New York pickpocket in Macys, on the last shopping weekend before Christmas.
The Sons of Roger Staubach averaging 285 yards rushing are commanded by freshman QB Keenan Reynolds, with assists from tailbacks: Gee Gee Green, and Noah Copeland.
When the Middies take to the air, a rarity, (Navy is 3rd from the bottom in passing) wideout Brandon Turner is an effective chain mover.
The D, featuring backers; Keegan Wetzel (13.5 tfls – 6 sacks), and Matt Warrick, isn’t stellar, but ranks a respectable 36th in points allowed; surrendering 23 a game.
[Note: Navy’s team has a Middie, with what may be the best name to have ever matriculated through the Academy: Wave Ryder, a safety, who is from, where else; Hawaii!]
The good news for the Black Knights of the Hudson, who are last in passing, is that they lead the nation in rushing: grinding out 369 yards a game.
Unfortunately for the Cadets, its D is a bottom feeding second worst in attempting to stop the opposition’s runners.
Army marches behind its stellar QB, Trent Steelman (16 rushing TDs – over 1100 yards), who along with tailbacks; Raymond Maples, and Larry Dixon, have combined for a shade under 3000 yards.
The Army albatross is a colander defense, which would make George Patton apoplectic. These goldbrickers featuring backer Nate Combs (12 tfls – 6 sacks), and tackle Robert Kough, allow an abandon ship total of; 37 points a game.
In what we believe will be a very competitive game, the Commander-In-Chief Trophy returns to Annapolis, as Navy, Anchors Aweigh with its eleventh consecutive victory.
Last week: 4-1 Season record: 51-19.
Well another season in the books! Thanks to all for reading – it was fun!! Stay well, Merry Christmas, Peace, and listen to the music. PK