“Age wrinkles the body.
Quitting wrinkles the soul.” Douglas MacArthur.
Army vs. Navy – Baltimore (Ch. 4, 3:00 p.m.) We begin this week, in the spirit of the season with our annual piece about taking my “old man” to the last pure amateur sporting event left in America; The Army/Navy Football Game.
It’s our version of; “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”
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 Army versus Navy, and featured the Middies Heisman Trophy winner; Roger Staubach.
I viewed the game with my dad, sharing the couch in the living room on the top floor of our Dorchester – “Wattendorf owned” – three-decker.
We watched on a black and white Philco television, with the mandatory rabbit ears, and even though the “old man” was WWII Army, I was rooting for Navy.
The game ended on a controversial no call, as the Midshipmen hung onto a 21-15 victory, with the Cadets perched on the one-yard line as time expired.
It began a lifelong love affair with the game of college football, one in which I remain intimately involved, by writing a seasonal on-line newspaper column, as well as participating as a Heisman Trophy voter.
But now, a tick over a half-century later, the game’s significance, has much deeper roots for me.
My dad, Ed, passed thirteen-years ago, and four years before his demise, in the spring of 1998, he experienced a “mini” stroke.
That episode made me realize that this, then 75-year old veteran wouldn’t be around forever, and inspired me to put this plan into action.
I would surprise my “old man” by taking him to the witness this classic first hand, a “full-circle” father-son football-life journey.
It would be a one day whirlwind excursion.
I made the airline reservations, but now I needed some tickets. Not just any seats, but something of the decent variety, especially for a guy in in mid-seventies.
I called my pal Bill Brett, the former “great” photographer of the Boston Globe.
I asked Billy, if he would ask, the since-deceased sports columnist Will McDonough to ask his son Sean, who at the time was working for CBS Sports and calling the game, for assistance in securing a pair of seats.
They all came through, and I picked up the tickets at the stadium’s will-call window which were in an envelope marked; CBS Sports.
The kid at the window glanced at the CBS logo on the envelope, then looked up at me and proclaimed; “You must be important!”
Little did he know!!
We ventured to our seats, lower level at Philadelphia’s Old Vet Stadium, eight rows up from the rail at the 45-yard line. Absolutely, Perfect!
Here we are sitting around various Naval Brass, and after a few minutes the “old man” a former Army corporal, who walked in and out of France and Germany, looks at me and says; “Are you sure we are in the right seats?”
Translation: “How could a nit-wit like you, pull off seats like these?”
Even though it was the fifth of December, the weather was balmy, and we were treated to a great day, watching what was at the time (since surpassed) the highest scoring game in the series: a 34-30 victory by Army.
Sitting in the plane just before we were about to take off for home, the “old man” leaned in and said, “In case I forget, I want to thank you.”
For a WWII father, that simple statement was like; “War and Peace.”
My dad died three years later, but to paraphrase what Bogie said to Bergman in “Casablanca;” “We’ll always have Army/Navy!”
“And yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”
Now to the game;
In the 115th get-together, the Sons of Jimmy Carter, the Naval Academy, have sailed off with 12-consecutive victories, and during that historic streak have outscored the Cadets by the eye-popping aggregate total of: 400-132.
It would appear that after Saturday’s game that losing streak will have climbed to a “baker’s dozen.”
Army QB Angel Santiago is the commander of the nation’s fifth (305) most prolific rushing attack, with assists from his 1000-yard tailback (9TDs) Larry Dixon.
When the Cadets take to the skies, which is rarer than a Marty Walsh smile, (less than 75 times all season), wideout Edgar Poe is the team leader with 10-catches.
Yes, his middle name is Allan, and yes, he leads the Sons of Dwight Eisenhower with 10-catches, which Alabama’s Heisman finalist Amari Cooper sometimes amasses in a half.
The D of the Sons of George Patton led by backer Jeffrey Timpf, and corner Josh Jenkins, has more holes than the Iraqi and Ukrainian Armies combined, surrendering an average of 34 points-a-game.
The Middies, aka the Sons of Admiral Matthew Perry, will once again be bowling for the holidays.
The Midshipmen cruise behind the nation’s top-ranked rushing offense (357) on the thrush of a pair of lasered torpedoes QB Keenan Reynolds, and his partner Noah Reynolds, who have combined for over 1900 yards, and 25 TDs.
When Sons of Adm. Chester Nimitz go aerial, (96 times all season), wideout Jamir Tillman leads the squad with 18-catches, while averaging 18 yards a grab.
The D, of the Sons of David Farragut, anchored by backers Jordan Drake, and Daniel Gonzales, is shakier than a Bernie Madoff investment portfolio, surrendering an average of 29 points a game.
To quote Edgar Allan Poe (the poet, not the Cadet) from his classic poem; “The Raven;”
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary …
“Ah, distinctly I remember, it was a bleak December; ……”
And we think, come early Saturday evening, it will another bleak and weary December for the Black Knights of the Hudson.
Last week: 5-0 Season record: 55-20
This is the last blog of the season. Thanks to all for reading, or at least checking in.