It’s known as “America’s game,” and for good reason.
With impressive pageantry and tradition, the annual Army-Navy football game stands out as a source of pride for all who served, as well as the nation as a whole.
For today’s nationally televised game, players on both sides will wear special uniforms celebrating historic achievements, with details of special interest to Kansans.
Army’s Black Knights will honor the “Big Red One” infantry division now headquartered at Fort Riley — a meaningful salute to this year’s 100th anniversary of the 1918 ceasefire ending World War I, and the 1st Infantry Division’s instrumental role in the Allied Powers’ victory.
The “Fighting First” won the initial American victory in WW1 at the Battle of Cantigny, the first major American offensive in the war. Soldiers of the famed 1st Infantry Division now don the “Big Red One” symbol well known in Kansas and beyond, which the Army uniforms will showcase.
Navy’s Midshipmen will sport an alternate uniform celebrating “Bill the Goat,” the school mascot. The goat’s involvement in the Army-Navy game began in 1893 with an appearance by a goat named El Cid, a passenger on the USS New York anchored near Annapolis prior to the game. Navy won that day, and goats have served as good luck charms for Navy teams ever since.
Another Kansas angle: In 1953, Army cadets stole the Naval Academy’s goat before the big game. President Eisenhower — a West Point graduate who hailed from the Sunflower State — ordered its return.
Expect today’s game to feature many interesting stories about the long-running rivalry and how its participants play for the love of the game. Few score NFL contracts, but they always compete with passion. Army, now 9-2 and headed to the Armed Forces Bowl, pushed playoff-bound Oklahoma to overtime in a loss earlier this season.
And even though Navy sits at 3-9, the records aren’t paramount. While today's final score may provide bragging rights, the Army-Navy game always means so much more.
After it ends, the young men who battled one another will become brothers in arms and work side by side in defending the nation. Every American should applaud the outstanding show of respect, honor and duty unrivaled in college sports.