FEBRUARY 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 2
ALSO THIS MONTH
Canada turns its back on the NHL.
MARK DEWING, a freelance writer and British expatriate, moved to the U.S.A. partly to experience heavy snowfall, but primarily because he got tired of having to wait until 2:00 a.m. to watch the Super Bowl live. He has worked as a social worker, freelance photographer, tomato picker, mortuary cleaner and bookstore buyer/manager. He most recently worked within the publishing industry as a PR consultant. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and he wishes the Dodgers still lived there too.
TRADITION & HONOR: SERVICE ACADEMY FOOTBALL
Gaining admission into either service academy as a student is not easy, since it requires a very good GPA, a high degree of physical fitness, and the ability to accept discipline and a rigid traditional structure of rules and regulations that date back to the Civil War era. At West Point for example, cadets have to arise in time to assemble in full uniform on the parade ground at 6:55 a.m., and their academic schedule consists of eight to nine classes per day, with lessons extending until 4:00 p.m.. The mandatory physical fitness test requires 42 push-ups in two minutes and a two-mile hilly cross-country run in less than 16 minutes. Female cadets are not allowed to even sit on the same bed as male cadets, and when opposite sexes are in the same room the door must be left open! There are no athletic scholarships at Annapolis or West Point, and every spot on a team has to be earned around the other obligatory academic and physical requirements. Anyone applying therefore needs to be very serious and passionate about the reasons why they are doing it. For many, these reasons are ones of patriotism, and a desire to follow in their father's footsteps. Others are perhaps seeking some kind of identity through joining a powerful group.
The tailgating at an Army-Navy game is outstanding, and it is not uncommon to be offered a cold beer by a complete stranger. I once spent an entertaining 20 minutes with a group of hamburger munching 101st Airborne Vietnam and Gulf War vets, who kept me nourished with food and drink on a cold day. The 100th game was not the most exciting in history, though it didn't seem to effect the spectacle of the event on an unseasonably warm sunny day, which commenced with a sudden low fly-past of naval fighter jets (which resulted in the nervous spilling of several beers around Veterans Stadium) and a ceremonial coin toss by the surviving aforementioned Heisman winners. The game was marked by an error prone Army team, which turned the ball over on four occasions. Navy took advantage of every Cadet mistake, and ended up winning the game handily 19-9, primarily behind the battleship-like strength of their tough 6-foot-1-inch, 211-pound. sophomore quarterback, Brian Madden -- a mid-season replacement for their injured regular starter Brian Broadwater. Madden, a state wrestling champ in his Oklahoma high school, rushed for 177 yards on 41 carries, easily surpassing Army's entire team rushing which only amounted to 115 yards total. Navy kicker Tim Shubzda (a senior from Texas) was the perfect complement to Madden's rushing game, and was perfect with four of four field goals all in the mid-30s. Army's cannons boomed louder, and they can rightfully claim to have had the only football player to go on and become a general and a President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, but on this the centennial game they were outplayed.
Postscript: Army's coach Bob Sutton, who foolishly proclaimed at a press conference following the game, "I have a contract, and I'm anticipating that my contract will be honored," was fired a few days later. He was a very good coach and he even took Army to the Independence Bowl in 1996, where they narrowly lost to Auburn by a missed field goal, but he didn't seem to have control over this past season. I particularly remember when he lost his cool and started (Bill Parcells like, another former Army assistant coach incidentally) screaming at officials (an Army no-no) due to a close call not going his way at the otherwise dramatic night-game, 59-52 double OT victory over Louisville back in October. Losing the most prestigious game of the year certainly did nothing to help his cause. Sayonara Bob -- we hardly knew you.
Philadelphia has hosted 75 of the 100 contests, but is probably about to lose the right to host the game because 30-year-old Veterans Stadium has never been anybody's idea of a great sporting venue, and last year part of it collapsed during the Army-Navy game. I was seated directly above the railing which gave way, and at the time I thought it looked there were going to be severe injuries and possibly fatalities. The site of the Cadet fans lying motionless on the rock hard Astroturf as Army paramedics swarmed around them with tubes and traction devices was straight out of a war-zone, and was frightening to observe. A subsequent inquiry found out that the railing was not designed to take as much weight as the surging cadets (a CBS camera crew was eliciting a huge cheer) put on it. Yet it did conform to city standards, and so no blame was attributed.
Now, however the stadium's contract is up in 2002, and because Philadelphia is being financially cautious about its next step -- there is pressure to build both a new football field and a new baseball park -- the game is looking around. "What we're looking at, says Jack Lengyel, Navy's Athletic Director (cheekily ignoring their official corporate names), "would be the Meadowlands, Jack Kent Cook Stadium in Landover, MD, and Ravens Stadium." Ravens Stadium (now called PSINet Stadium) is in downtown Baltimore, across the street from Camden Yards, and is only a couple of years old. It gets it first real test this coming December when it hosts the 101st Army-Navy classic. Meanwhile Philadelphia needs to come to a decision very quickly about its stadiums, or else it will lose that which it was seen as the always natural choice for, since it lies exactly midway between the two academies.
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PICTURES: 1999 game copyright © AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy; 1963 game copyright © Total Sports, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy.