Last fall I wrote an article for the Fan House making the case that the Army-Navy Game was the premier rivalry in not only college football sports, but all of American sports. The basis for the argument was nothing new, that being that the unique history, pageantry, and symbolism of the game echo something which is, to borrow a line from author David Lipsky, absolutely American.
Unfortunately, many fans of the game and media services do not see it that way, as indicated by a fairly recent Rivals.com question asking which rivalry has "fallen the farthest." As some would expect, the Army-Navy game has fallen under that category, and judging by the poll results it seems to be one of the games that has "fallen" the farthest.
The poll however has not gone unnoticed by Navy fans. Today, The Bird Dog takes a look at the Army Navy game and asks "what makes a rivalry game?" His analysis is, in my opinion, spot on. Here's an excerpt:
The point I’m trying to make is that it isn’t the rivalry that makes it good. It’s just a game with two powerhouse teams that people want to watch. Other than the fact that it’s an annual contest, is it any different than the Ohio State-Texas series that we had the last couple of years? Not really, from the perspective of the average fan. And that’s the problem...The best rivalries are games where the passion of the teams and their fans are the same whether they are undefeated or winless. When rivalry bragging rights are more important than a national championship, that’s what makes for a good rivalry.
I've added the emphasis, because I think it's important to grasp the point at hand. The Bird Dog goes on to add that games like Williams-Amherst and Harvard-Yale also exemplify the spirit of a true rivalry, but it is the national appeal and rooting interest of the American people which make the Army-Navy game the quintessential American sports rivalry. The Army-Navy game, he writes, transcends the bonds of school or state affiliation, something that the Red River Shootout or the World's largest Outdoor Whatever Party will never be able to do, no matter the size of their TV audience.
This is definitely a must read article not only for fans of Army or Navy, but also for college football fans in general.