ARMY: Institutions are against one another, but then serve together
Everyone talks about what they think is the greatest rivalry in college football. Most of these include border wars like Michigan and Ohio State. Or in-state battles like Auburn and Alabama.
But nothing compares to the rivalry of Army vs. Navy. People are born to root for one team or another it seems, and this creates great rivalries, but the dynamic that separates Army-Navy is the total commitment of the institutions against one another and then serving together in the armed forces once you graduate.
What I mean by that is, it’s not just a football game at West Point. It’s a way of life that is instilled as soon as you walk on campus. You are immediately thrust into a fast pace of military discipline, the highest level of academics, a whirl wind of responsibility, and to BEAT NAVY!
I remember as a plebe as I was just trying to survive cadet life and play football, an upperclassman yelled at me the first few weeks. Once he found out I was a football player he said, “Klein I don’t like football players. You ruined my Army-Navy weekend because we got beat. And you better not ruin my senior year by losing again this year.” I was taken back as I thought what do you care, you don’t play football. But I came to realize the game and who wins changes the experience of going to school at West Point.
When the football team beats Navy it improves the daily lives and atmosphere of the entire school and enhances the experience. Bottom line, plebes lives improve because the upperclassmen can now graduate and say they Beat Navy their senior year.
What other rivalry takes every member of the student body to attend the game. The game is woven into the fabric of every cadet and midshipman. You are playing for the entire cadet core, representing the Army stationed around the world. It’s more than a great rivalry. Beating Navy is what you breathe and live.
Derek Klein was a defensive back for the U.S. Military Academy and is part of the Class of 1996.