Navy beat Notre Dame! The last time Navy beat Notre Dame was 44 years ago, which would put it in the 1963 season when Roger Staubach led Navy to the national championship.

The service academies haven’t been really competitive with the top football schools since the early-to-mid 1960s. That’s when a combination of factors (Vietnam, growth in NFL salaries, the five-year commitment to the service after graduation, etc.) changed things so that the academies became much less desirable to the top high school football players. Because they aren’t competitive, the only reason Notre Dame kept Navy on its schedule is that the Notre Dame-Navy game is the longest-running continuous rivalry in college football, even though it’s been very one-sided for most of my life. Very few players at the academies can hope to make the NFL a career after being away from the game for five or more years. I can’t speak for graduates of West Point or the Air Force Academy, but one of my classmates had a tryout with the Detroit Lions as a punter, although (so far as I know) he didn’t make the cut, and, of course, Napoleon McCallum (who attended after my time) played several years for the Oakland Raiders.

I’ve attended a couple of Navy-Notre Dame games. One was at the Notre Dame campus. The highlight of the trip for me was attending a Paul Simon concert that evening – he appeared with the Dixie Hummingbirds and Urubamba as backup groups. The other thing I remember was all of the Notre Dame students I met (it seemed like all of them, anyway) importuning me to buy them drinks with my “free government money.” As I recall, at the time I was getting an allowance of $10 or $20 per month out of my salary; USNA didn’t trust us to budget.

The other game was in Philadelphia, so the entire Brigade (apart from those in the hospital or working off too large an accumulation of demerits) attended. I was convinced, watching that game, that the entire refereeing staff was Catholic, and going to the Notre Dame bench between quarters for confession: when the Navy ballcarrier was stopped, it seemed as though he would be held in place while several Notre Dame players smashed into him. If he lost the ball, it was a fumble. When the Notre Dame ballcarrier was hit and lost the ball, there was no fumble, the play was blown dead.

Some of that is just poor memory, partisanship, and sour grapes, I’m sure, but it’s been shown in more sports than one that the stars and favorites are given more slack by the refs, and Navy hasn’t been a star in the football world for a long time. I’m glad to see them take this one. I wish I’d been there.

2 Responses to “Sweet!”

  1. Cheryl says:

    Yay! So you’re going to take me to the important game again this year, right?

  2. wheels says:

    Of course! How could you think otherwise?