I guess I might as well get it over with.
Anyone who writes about Navy and Notre Dame is expected to talk about The Streak. I would rather not, but there’s really no avoiding it.
I hate The Streak, although not for the reasons you think.
I hate The Streak because I think it is overrated. Notre Dame is, as Tony Kornheiser puts it, the “University of College Football in America.” The Naval Academy is a 4000-student military school. Notre Dame coaches go into a kid’s living room and tell him, “Come to Notre Dame, son. You’ll be treated like a king and be heir to the greatest college football tradition in the country, setting you up nicely for the NFL.” Navy coaches go into a kid’s living room and tell him, “Come to the Naval Academy, son. You’ll be treated like goat dung for your first year, then serve 5 years in the military after you graduate!” WTF do people expect is going to happen when these two teams play? In this environment, Navy beating Notre Dame would be miraculous. Are miracles supposed to happen more than once every 43 years or something? Notre Dame is supposed to beat Navy.
I hate The Streak because Navy fans are obsessed with it. There’s always the eternally optimistic crowd that thinks thinks every year is “the year.” Then there’s the crowd that starts talking about next year’s game about 45 minutes after this year’s game ends, and doesn’t stop talking about it until kickoff a year later. I’m not just talking about the message board crowd here. In Paul Johnson’s postgame press conference after beating Air Force, some unidentified guy asked him about Notre Dame. Are you kidding me? We just won the first leg of the CIC Trophy round robin and have a three game stretch of Pitt, Wake Forest, and Delaware coming up, and this guy asks about Notre Dame? And then, of course, there’s John Feinstein. The columnist and Navy radio color analyst talks all the time about how he thinks Navy and Notre Dame shouldn’t play every year. Of course, the week’s opponent might be Ball State, but Notre Dame will be the topic of conversation. If you’re a Navy football fan, chances are that you have Notre Dame on the brain.
Don’t get me wrong; I want to beat Notre Dame as much as anyone. But for me, it isn’t about The Streak as much as it’s about what that win would do for meeting each year’s goals. A win over Notre Dame, no matter how much they are struggling, would be a media bonanza. This year, beating Notre Dame would be a huge boost to a team coming off of a bad loss. Not only that, but the difference between 5-4 and 4-5 is huge. This isn’t a big game because it would snap a 43-game losing streak; it’s a big game because it would prevent a 3-game losing streak.
I’m just as sick as you are of seeing Roger Staubach highlights every year captioned with the words, “The last time Navy won” or something to that effect. And while I understand the logic, I was just as annoyed as everyone else the way the talking heads have assumed that Notre Dame would end the year on a 4-game winning streak, beginning with Navy. But that’s not what’s important here. What’s important is that this Navy team has a lot left to accomplish, and a win this week would be a huge step in the right direction.