As college football gears up for its first four-team playoff, it would be easy to consider this year’s Army-Navy game a mere blip on the radar screen.
But the recent game meant plenty — and not only because of the results on the field.
For the record, Navy edged Army 17-10 Saturday in the academies’ 115th meeting. In doing so, Navy maintained its recent dominance with a 13th straight win over its rival.
The game also came 70 years after the December 1944 contest, when — with World War II still raging — top-ranked Army capped an undefeated season by beating No. 2 Navy. Army would run off three straight national championships from 1944-46.
The two football programs will never again see such lofty heights.
Signing on with a service academy also means post-graduation active military duty. Only a scant few elite high school athletes with a shot at an NFL career would consider such a commitment.
But even as Navy’s Midshipmen and Army’s Black Knights can only dream of runs at national championships, the longstanding rivalry remains relevant because of what it means to the nation.
The young men who fought one another Saturday must look ahead to a far greater risk — especially with the nation at war. The brothers in arms are fierce rivals one day who eventually will go to work side by side in defending the nation.
More Americans need to understand the tradition of a game that’s not only a source of pride for Army and Navy personnel and veterans, but for all who served.
Saturday’s Army-Navy battle did attract College GameDay television coverage, which gave the nation an opportunity to learn more about the student-athletes who carry a much heavier burden than their peers at other schools.
The extra TV exposure was welcome. At a time cheating and other scandals mar both college and professional sports, it was good to spotlight an event where such values as respect, honor, duty and commitment truly resonate.
Consider the Army-Navy game an American classic — one of the better traditions in sports, and still in a class all its own.