Postgame Haiku, Vol. 100

Eleven wins, Mids?
Take tomorrow off, you guys.
I think you’ve earned it.

Some Thoughts on This Week

The Navy football program does not have a history of adjusting very well to coaching changes. The team’s success under Wayne Hardin and George Welsh were followed by even longer stretches of futility. That history made Paul Johnson’s 2007 departure for Georgia Tech somewhat frightening, but it was hardly a surprise.

Everyone knew the deal when Johnson was hired. He is fueled by a relentless desire to prove his doubters wrong, to the point that he almost seeks out new people to doubt him. His fans would call it a competitive spirit. His detractors call it ego. However it’s framed, that drive is what makes him the successful coach that he is. It’s what brought him to Navy, and ultimately what caused him to move on to the next challenge.

Ken Niumatalolo has different motivations, although they are every bit as compelling. Don’t get me wrong; he is just as much of a competitor as his predecessor, and detests losing. He is an innovator that never stops looking for ways to improve every aspect of his program. At the same time, he is driven by more than what happens on the field. The winningest coach in Naval Academy history is a family man dedicated to his faith, and those values are reflected in how he runs his football program. He makes sure that his staff has the time to make their families a priority, too. Players want to play for him and coaches want to coach for him. While it’s a different kind of impulse compared to his predecessor’s, it’s no less a part of what makes him successful. And it too was almost the catalyst for his departure.

Almost.

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Long Live the Streak

Navy has now won 14 straight games against Army. Nothing accomplished by the likes of men has ever been so beautiful, yet there are some among us that do not appreciate this gift that we’ve been given. There are Navy fans that feel sorry for Army, and say that things would be better if maybe they won a game every once in a while. I wrote about this phenomenon a couple of years ago. My feelings have not changed.

Not everyone says these things out of sympathy. For some, it’s pragmatism. They worry that because the series has become so one-sided, ratings will decline and the game will lose its value for the next television contract. I disagree, and after the game I said this:

Well, the ratings are in. So how were they?

Fantastic.

The streak doesn’t hurt the Army-Navy game. To the contrary; it makes Army-Navy must-see television.

People who like football will watch whatever game is being shown. What draws the general public to sports is the drama. That’s why you see so many human interest stories during the Olympics, for example. When you get to know the athletes and their stories, you care more about how well they do. You watch.

Navy’s winning streak has the same effect. People tune in because they want to see if this is the year the streak ends. Every Navy win just adds more desperation to the Army side. It adds more emotion. It adds more drama.

As a result, it adds more viewers.

Someone on Twitter made a great comparison:

People watched the Triple Crown races because it had been so long since a horse had won it. Now that it finally happened, do you think there will be the same interest next year? I doubt it.

Army-Navy is the greatest rivalry in sports, and that brings with it a certain level of drama on its own. People are going to watch. The streak just adds to it. So cheer for the Mids without guilt, Navy fan. It’s better for everyone.

(Seriously, why does this even need to be explained to you ungrateful malcontents?)

Postgame Haiku, Vol. 99

Fourteen in a row
And it will never get old
Win another one

ARMY WEEK

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Houston 52, Navy 31

The American is a league that’s driven by offense. Navy is second in the country in rushing, obviously, while 4 of the top 15 teams in total offense also play in the conference. Given that so many high-scoring teams call the American home, I’m surprised that more of them don’t take the same approach that Houston did when they face Navy.

That approach was to completely sell out against the option and more or less ignore the threat of the pass. Tulane tried the same strategy, but they didn’t have an offense that could build a lead before Navy got their act together. Houston, on the other hand, most certainly does.

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Postgame Haiku, Vol. 98

Defense great all year
Couldn’t get it done today
Third downs were the key

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