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.
There seems to be a growing subculture of Navy fans that almost feels guilty about the Mids’ success against Army. For the last couple of years I’ve seen a lot of comments on this blog and on Twitter along the lines of “I hope Army gets better soon” or “We need Army to win for the good of the rivalry” or some other similar nonsense. The more Navy wins, the more I see it, and for the life of me I cannot understand it.
Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you people? How can you be so unappreciative of this incredible gift that we’ve been given? We say “Beat Army” from I-day until graduation. We yell it out when we square corners in Bancroft Hall and every time we sing our alma mater. We print it on t-shirts and bumper stickers and on all the weights in Ricketts Hall. Beat Army is a way of life. It isn’t “win our fair share against Army.” Right now we’re in the middle of the greatest stretch of beating Army that we’ve ever seen. That shouldn’t be lamented. It should be proclaimed from mountaintops, and without even the slightest hint of “but.” Trent Steelman isn’t the only player to break down after an Army-Navy game. It’s happened plenty of times on the Navy sideline, too. I never want our players to have to feel that way again. If you have any respect at all for the hard work and sacrifice that they put into this game and the entire season, then you wouldn’t want that either. We celebrate the game as fans, but it isn’t about us. It’s about the guys who worked their asses off all year. Army isn’t entitled to win a few just because it’s always been that way. The victory goes to the team that earns it each year, and I hope Navy wins every game by 50.
Some people try to hide this feeling behind a mask of pragmatism. They might say that we need Army to keep it competitive so TV ratings are high, but that’s just not true anymore. With Navy joining the American Athletic Conference, they will no longer be dependent on Army-Navy television revenue once the current contract expires. Navy’s primary revenue source will be the conference television contract, which will include the Mids’ home games in the rivalry. Some other people say that we need Army to be successful because somehow their struggles have an effect on all the service academies. That’s hogwash; Army has had problems for decades. Besides, the last round of conference realignment should have made it crystal clear that the service academies are most definitely not joined at the hip.
Whenever I have this conversation with someone, their response is usually that I just don’t “get it.” If that’s the case, then I hope I never do. The rivalry is the best in all of sports, but it isn’t more important than our own team’s success. I am a Navy fan. I’ve experienced enough heartbreak to know better than to ever take the thrill of victory for granted. If the Brigade wants to chant “Twelve more years,” I say hell yes and then twelve more.
Beat Army. Forever.