Editorial by John Ziegler

Why Army/Navy Deserves Better

11/28/2001

Army/Navy Deserves Better than Philly is Offering

Although we all know that it is human nature to not fully value something until it is gone, it is a reality whose warnings we rarely heed. This weekend we in Philadelphia will get a unique opportunity to learn that lesson before it is too late.

On Saturday, for the 76th time in 102 contests, the Army/Navy football classic will played in Philadelphia. It will certainly be their final meeting ever at Veterans Stadium, and the evidence seems to suggest that it could be the penultimate Army/Navy game ever to be played in the city where it belongs. The city’s contract with the academies runs out after the 2003 game at the new stadium, and, while our courtship with America’s college football game has grown cold in the past only to be suddenly resuscitated, this time the relationship appears to be even less secure than even a typical Hollywood marriage.

Last year Baltimore romanced the game away from Philadelphia and showed it the respect that it so richly deserves. They are reportedly itching at the chance (along with the Meadowlands and Washington, D.C.) to compete for the new contract starting in 2004. But while other cities have been lusting after the right to host this historic rivalry, Philadelphia has seemingly been going out of its way to blow its chance at retaining the game and the 15 million dollars that it traditionally brings to the city.

The game has been stuck at the well named but antiseptic Vet since the late 70s, playing on one of the worst fields in sports that in some years still had the Eagles logo at midfield. Then, in 1998, several cadets were injured in a horrific looking accident that occurred when they fell over a defective railing while celebrating a touchdown. But the worst indignity that the great game has suffered occurred earlier this year when the 2002 game (which had been on the calendar for years) had to be moved to the Meadowlands because, somehow, the geniuses at the Convention & Visitors Bureau scheduled a major medical convention for the same weekend and the city apparently doesn’t have enough hotels rooms for both events. Considering what New Orleans is pulling off with a suddenly displaced Super Bowl now overlapping the Marti Grais holiday, this fiasco is not only an affront to an American institution, but also an embarrassment to our apparently second-rate city.

Some may say that the Army/Navy game has long ago lost its luster and the city is right to ditch it like an unappealing prom date. After all, the teams are usually barely competitive on the Division I level and the demographics of those who still care about such antiquated vestiges of a time long gone are hardly economically desirable. But those who fall prey to such faulty thinking don’t have a clue about the Army/Navy game.

This year may be the most dramatic example ever of why the Army/Navy game cannot be evaluated by the standard methods of our modern age. Against rather weak schedules, this season the teams have won a grand total of just two games between them, and yet the contest is sold out and tickets are being scalped for over face value. Because of the attacks of September 11th and the fact that we are currently at war, even if it is a blowout (which it almost never is) the game figures to be as memorable a sporting event as this city will see all year long. Nowhere else can you see our country’s finest do friendly battle against one another as they prepare to eventually fight together in defense of the nation. This year’s renewal in particular will likely provide a stirring patriotic pep rally for a nation in need.

Even though I am only 34 and have no direct connect with either academy or the military I have gone to several of the games since my youth. On a couple of occasions I have even gone alone (hopefully a more powerful testament to the rivalry than an indictment of my personal popularity) and I actually skipped my final SAT test to attend one contest. If I can find a ticket, I think I will go to this one, perhaps to say goodbye.

If Philadelphia does lose the Army/Navy game, I fully realize that the vast majority of Philadelphians (especially those under the age of 50) will hardly even notice. However, there are many who, like me, will be very sorry when it is gone. I, for one, will not blame the game for leaving its “home.” It is worthy of far better treatment than it got from us and, like a lover who has been apathetic for far too long, we may well finally get exactly what we deserve from it.

source:<a href="http://www.phillyburbs.com/couriertimes/editorial/1210ziegler.htm"> The way that this column appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times </a>

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