That’s the Way It Was

“Yesterday’s football game between Annapolis and West Point is the first instance on record of competition between the two national institutions. In army and navy circles it is looked upon as the beginning of a series which will vie in importance with any of the great intercollegiate matches.”

-The New York Times, November 30, 1890

One of the cooler things that has been showing up on the internet is an expanding collection of newspaper archives, going back about as long as there has been a press.   Way easier than poring through leather volumes of periodicals or blinding microfiche in Nimitz Library, I find it enjoyable to read how historic events well-known to us today were portrayed to the public when they actually happened.  Curious about how the sinking of the MAINE was reported the day after?  You got it.  How did she do in sea trials?  Got that too.    It’s a glut of information, if you want it, as well as a certain drain of time.

Of course, all this gives us is another angle from which to blather about Navy sports.  Especially given the prominent role Navy played in the early years of collegiate athletics, there is a potential windfall of material out there most of us have never seen.  In that vein, I think it would be fun to inspect well-known events in Navy sports history through the words of the journalists of the day.  And what better place to start, than the very first Army-Navy game?

Wax your moustache, call for your pipe and your bowl, and loosen your high rise trou.  This was Navy Football in 1890.

Click on the Picture:

Quick Takes:

Say What?

“When victory finally perched on the maroon and white colors of the Naval Academy … “

We won the cheering competition, apparently:

A group of naval  sympathizers … gives in startling chorus this cry:  “Rah, rah, rah!  Hi, ho, hah!  U. S. N. A!  Boom, siss, bah!  The Navee!” There is so much of this cheer and it is given so vehemently that the army looks frightened for a moment.  At this point however the West Point team appears. … It is greeted with a rousing “Rah, rah, rah!  U. S. M. A!”

Gonna have to keep our ears perked to hear if Keenan calls any of these audibles this season:

“Splice the mainbrace!” shouts the Captain of the navy, and immediately a hole is made in the army’s centre.  “Tack ship!” is the cry, and off for the end dashes a half back.  “Wear ship!” and off goes another for the other end.  “Anchors in sight!”  “Veer chains!”  “Reef topsails!” and “Savez the Bobstay!” are other examples of this marvelous code of signals caught during the game.

I’m guessing RADM Luce would not have been cool with filling in Dewey Basin for a sports field:

In a recent paper before the United States Naval Institute Rear Admiral Luce severely deprecated the tendency of men in the navy to resort to sport on shore.  He pointed out that there was too much baseball and too much football; that instead of finding recreation in boat sailing, rowing, swimming, and the like the young naval apprentice and officers generally found it more congenial to seek sport on land. The Admiral believed the navy tended too much toward the military.

(Don’t look at me, I passed my kayaking class.)

And finally, it looks like NAAA has had our athletes’ backs from day 1:

Another thing that struck terror in the heart of the army was the announcement in confidence from the navy that the discipline at Annapolis had permitted the football team to eat hot beefsteak for supper, a privilege not accorded to any other naval cadet.  Such consideration and co-operation on the part of a Faculty almost unnerved the army, but it grittily determined if it must die it would die in the glory of doing its utmost to avoid defeat.

Verily, there shall be hot beefsteak for all.

There’s a lot of humor in articles from this time period, and more than enough hyperbole.  But one can’t help but be struck by how interchangeable some of the themes are from that era to ours.  The struggle to find balance between brains and brawn, Athens and Sparta in training midshipman?  At least 124 years old it seems.  Institutional policies affecting the competitiveness of the respective service academies against one another?  It started with the menu for evening meal.  Intense alumni interest in the running of affairs at their commissioning source?  “Every officer in the [Army], it is said, will take this defeat directly to heart, and no matter what Col. Wilson’s personal ideas may be on the subject, it is believed impossible for him to resist, even should he feel so desirous, the temptation to bring these two teams together again.”

Everything old is new again.

NAVY 34, ARMY 7

Looking at the final statistics from Saturday, you might think that this year’s edition of Army-Navy was completely different from the nip-and-tuck affairs of the recent past. This looked like a blowout, with Navy winning 34-7 and out-gaining Army 343-157 on the ground. There is no greater truth than the scoreboard, so in that I suppose you could call the game a rout. It sure didn’t feel that way as it happened, though, and once you dig a little deeper into the numbers you can see why. Both teams struggled to convert on 3rd downs, and combined for 12 punts. Four runs made up 165 of Navy’s rushing yards; it took 53 more to get the other 178, which is why the game felt like such a grind. Take those long runs away, and Navy’s advantage becomes a lot more modest. Unfortunately for Army, the big plays count as much as any other, and the Mids’ ability to make them was the difference in the game.

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BETTER THEM THAN US

On a human level, it’s only natural to feel some measure of sympathy for Army after losing to Navy for the last 12 years. Anyone that has ever attempted anything worthwhile has at some point failed to do so and can relate to how that feels. We know the emotion of the game and see images like an inconsolable Trent Steelman last year and can’t helped but be moved. That’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and it’s why people watch sports. However, while I understand Army’s frustration, I’m not sure why I should care about it.

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Postgame Haiku, Vol. 73

O glorious day
Not rain nor snow nor Army
Stops this Navy team

ARMY WEEK: THE GAME

Does Rich Ellerson’s job hang in the balance on Saturday?

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ARMY WEEK: LET’S TALK UNIFORMS

I assume that by now you’ve all seen what Navy will be wearing at Saturday’s Army-Navy game. If not, then point your face at these glorious images and bask in their warm glow of excellence.

These are the home version of last year’s equally fantastic Nike uniforms, and I sort of wish that this was our permanent setup. It’s modern, yet still restrained, and undeniably Navy. I know some of you don’t like the look, and it’s understandable. You can’t be blamed for your horrible taste. What one could be blamed for, however, is saying that you don’t want something new because of “tradition.” Navy’s only uniform tradition is one of constant change. Sometimes it’s evolutionary, sometimes it’s revolutionary, but it’s always changing. The uniform that Navy wears now is different from the one from ten years ago, which was different from the one from ten years before that. Designs have changed, colors have changed, helmets have changed. We’ve seen all manner of combinations of blue, gold, and white between shirts and pants, complete with various stripes and shoulder hoops and patches and whatever else you can think of. Then there’s the helmets, which have had anchors (awesome, awesome anchors), numbers, and stripes at times over the years. And all that is before you factor in what Navy has worn for the Army-Navy game, which has had all kinds of bonkers stuff. And that’s Navy’s uniform tradition: to have fun with them. Despite what the “down in front” sourpuss that sits behind you at NMCMS and leaves at halftime says, football should be fun.

When people say “tradition,” what they’re really saying is that they want Navy to be plain. That’s fine if that’s your taste, but it’s not the same as tradition. Did Navy fans of the ’40s complain that uniforms didn’t look like this anymore? I don’t know, but if they did I’m glad that nobody listened to them. Navy isn’t Alabama or Penn State, where the traditional football uniform is part of the brand image of the program (and the school for that matter). Navy’s brand is defined by other things. That doesn’t mean that any change is great simply because it’s new; there’s a certain classiness that we want to convey, and nobody wants to look at a jumbled mess. But if something sharp comes along that helps showcase the Navy team, I say go for it. If you don’t like it, don’t worry. It’ll probably change in a few years anyway.

(Seriously, though. Anchors.)

ARMY WEEK: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ARMY?

You didn’t think I was going to sit this one out, did you?

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