More than a rivalry, more than football


Erik Jesberger

Lincoln Financial Field, the setting for the 119th meeting between the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen

PHILADELPHIA- A contest originated on November 29th, 1890, the college football game between the West Point Black Knights (Army) and Naval Academy Midshipmen (Navy) can be distinguished as a sibling rivalry, where the service men and women may stand together as a part of our nation’s military future.  But for 60 minutes the teams battle to walk away with bragging rights till the next meeting. In the 119th annual meeting between these two respected teams, it’s important to understand and reflect on the significance of the game and its traditions. 

Erik Jesberger
An army themed cement truck (top) and “Go Navy Beat Army” titled flag (bottom) demonstrate the fans support for their team in this rivalry

While there are many great traditions in college football, such as Clemson’s Howard’s Rock,  Auburn’s war eagle, Oklahoma’s Sooner Schooner, and Notre Dame’s “Play Like a Champion” banner, the most spectacular is given the title, “The March On”. Before the pre-game kickoff, both the Cadets and Midshipmen file into the stadium, all 9,000 strong, filling the entire field in their respective ranks. Where they may stand divided by the team they support, the ones on the field and ones in the stands represent the service, along with the will and spirit of our great nation.

Other distinguished pre-game festivities include the blackhawk fly over, Navy Seal parachute descent, and midfield prisoner exchange. In this exchange, 7 juniors from each academy spend a semester at the other schools campus until they are given back over to their side of the field, and run back to their respective sidelines with cheers and fists in the sky. The pride to win the biggest rivalry in college football and have the honor of singing their alma mater second, drives each squad standing on opposite sidelines, to bring the spirit they obtain in their military training and instruction to a football field on a 30 degree Saturday. While those who watch may not know the difference between an endzone and a construction zone, all who take part in the festivities of this annual event understand the dedication and tradition revolving around this game, and how the clash between football teams represented by a goat and a mule, represent the past, present, and future of our country’s military. Before sitting down to watch the next meeting between the Black Knights and Midshipmen, remember those who lay their lives down for our country, and bring the will to fight and protect the ones they represent, which will be you, the American people, when they swap out their football helmets for military ones.  

Erik Jesberger
Amongst the many pre-game festivities, a flyover of four Blackhawk choppers commenced before the opening kick off.

Representing the significance of how this meeting is more than a game, Chaplain (COL) Matthew Pawlikowski said the following in his pre-game prayer.

“In this game, every player on the field is willing to die for every person watching and there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for what’s truly good.”

The pageantry of the rivalry makes it a staple on many people’s calendars and give it the honor of holding the title as America’s Game.