Postgame Haiku, Vol.86

Navy wins again
Doesn’t have to be pretty
When it’s beautiful

ARMY WEEK: MONKEN’S MAGNUM OPUS

Football commentary from national outlets, for the most part, sucks. Whether in print or over-the-air, discussion of the game consists primarily of clichés and conventional wisdom regurgitation being passed off as insight. There’s a reason for this. It’s hard enough to be knowledgeable and detailed when discussing one program. When there’s over 100 in the entire FBS, there’s no way anyone can speak with authority on all of them. The talking heads can’t tell their audience that, of course, so instead they give us talking points. It doesn’t matter how true they are; they just have to make you sound smart. Repeat them enough, and they’ll be accepted as fact.

When you’re a fan of an option football team, you’re quite familiar with the talking points. Tell me if you’ve heard this before:

*clears throat*

“Defending this offense is all about assignment football. You need one man on the dive, one man on the quarterback, and one man on the pitch. And you need to hit the quarterback on every play. If you do that, you can get them off schedule, and this offense isn’t built for 3rd & long. It’s not a quick-strike offense, so if you get an early lead you can force them to throw the ball, which isn’t their strength. It’s not an offense designed to come from behind.”

Yeah, we might’ve heard that once or twice or every day.

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Navy to Wear Custom Under Armour – NAVYSPORTS.com – The United States Naval Academy Official Athletic Site

Navy to Wear Custom Under Armour – NAVYSPORTS.com – The United States Naval Academy Official Athletic Site.

Hot fire, people. Hot fire.

ARMY WEEK

Army lost to Yale.

ABOUT THE FOG…

Yesterday was the annual Army-Navy media luncheon, and things are already off to a… well, interesting start. The main party from West Point (team captains, head coach, and AD) didn’t make the trip after their flight was cancelled due to fog, and instead joined in via teleconference. Chet Gladchuk was not pleased. I’m sure that some people were taken aback by the bluntness of the Navy AD’s comments, and the “no excuses, nobody cares” line sort of rubbed me the wrong way, too. However, Gladchuk had every right to be upset, and had to say something.

First, you have to understand what the Army-Navy luncheon is. Calling it a press conference would be a bit of an understatement. This is more like a full media day, and the kickoff for a week of events leading up to the game. There are representatives from the city of Baltimore and the Ravens as hosts of the event. The title sponsor of the game, USAA, is also represented. Local and national media are in attendance. This isn’t a few guys at a table with microphones in their faces. It’s a big deal, and Army’s absence put Chet in an awkward position.

The Army-Navy game is a business partnership. Cities and companies like USAA invest in the Army-Navy game because they believe in the Army-Navy product and trust that both Army and Navy will do everything they can to deliver a return on that investment. With Army not showing up, it left Navy holding the bag in a room full of people who have these expectations. If your business partner didn’t show up for something like this, wouldn’t you be upset too? Gladchuk explained this after the luncheon:

“I don’t know what their issues are. I just know that the City of Baltimore deserves – with the energy and the commitment they’ve made to this game – they deserve everything that we can give them,” he said. “ … And I’m disappointed that Army wasn’t able to be here.”

Gladhuk said talk to Army about the reasons.

“But in the final analysis, it’s OUR package,” he said. “It’s not their package. It’s not my package. It’s our package. It’s the academies. … What we talk about is we deliver on every front, okay, and we didn’t deliver today.”

Gladchuk was upset because he knows his product, and he knows what the Army-Navy partnership is expected to deliver. He was the one left apologizing to stakeholders at the podium because that partnership didn’t come through that day. You’d be upset too.

Army’s misstep isn’t the end of the world, but it shouldn’t be dismissed as no big deal, either. The Army-Navy Game is everything to these two programs, now more than ever. While the sports media is busy obsessing over the playoff committee and Jameis Winston and coach searches, there was still a room full of media members who carved out time to give Army and Navy their undivided attention. We are in an era where the have vs. have-not split makes that kind of exposure nearly impossible for schools like ours. This is our Super Bowl, and everything about this game has to be a top priority. I understand the inconvenience of the weather, but if your flight is cancelled then you drive or take a train. Maybe you get to Baltimore late, but your efforts will demonstrate to everyone in attendance how important this game is, which is vital. If we don’t make this game a top priority, nobody else will, either.

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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