Tag Archives: Army

WakeyLeaks, not a Louisville Problem

Another day another scandal here at the University of Louisville. Luckily this one is not a university problem.  The WakeyLeaks scandal (if you can even call it that) is a Wake Forest problem. It is not UofL’s job to inform the team when one of its radio broadcasters is handing out offensive game plans to the opposing teams.  Is there integrity involved? Yes. And should Lonnie Galloway have gone straight to Bobby Petrino and told him what just happened? Sure.  But that still doesn’t mean it’s UofL’s problem nor should this even be a talking point for UofL.

Virginia Tech has come out and also stated that the same man, Tommy Elrod, gave them plays back in 2014, and Army said it received plays twice from Elrod in 2014 and 2016.  No proof has come forward to show that any of the teams used the plays to their advantage. Judging by the first three-quarters of the UofL vs Wake Forest game I would’ve guessed Wake Forest had UofL’s playbook by the way it locked down Lamar Jackson and company.

UofL’s response to the allegations was strong and swift, and sent a message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated on this team, which is good.  Though it’s not a problem. The fact of the matter is that Galloway did accept plays knowing good and well what could happen if he got caught.  The suspension of Galloway for the Citrus Bowl is the correct punishment, focusing on the individuals’ actions rather than making an entire team suffer.

Take notes UofL Basketball.  The $25,000 fine, which is the maximum fine under ACC bylaws, seems a bit lofty especially without proof of the plays being used and the fact that the plays were more handed over than requested.  That being said, UofL will just accept the fine because big school, big money, and go about preparing for LSU in the Citrus Bowl.

All in all I believe this situation was handled well by all parties and the punishments are to the correct degree.  This is one of those instances that this may be a story now but until more information is found or another angle comes into play, this should all be over and forgotten in a months’ time.  It also helps that this is happening at the same time as the Joe Mixon tape (the tape is extremely graphic, viewer discretion advised) being released. I’m guessing that tape will continue to get a much larger uproar.

 

Image:FlickrMedia

Way-Too-Early Schedule Game: Notre Dame Edition

Well, it’s that time of the year. Summer is upon us and it’s almost okay to start dreaming of the college football season. Yes, it is only June, and still way too early for a legitimate top 25 and too early to count anyone out – or in, for that matter – of the national championship race.

Where does that leave us, you ask? I think it puts us in the perfect place to play everyone’s favorite game, the schedule game.

Over the course of this column I’m going to take a look at each of the 12 opponents Notre Dame will be facing during the 2016 regular season, give a quick breakdown and background information, and make a “way-too-early” pick on the game. Sound simple enough? Good!

Week 1 at Texas – Sunday, September 4 – Austin, TX

In a rematch of last season’s opener, Notre Dame will travel to the University of Texas to take on the Longhorns to begin the season. Last year, the Irish smoked Charlie Strong’s squad 38-3 in South Bend. Just as there was last year for Texas, there is a quarterback competition heading into camp. The difference between Notre Dame’s QB battle and Texas’ is the talent level. The pressure is building on Strong at Texas, and I don’t expect the Notre Dame game to help ease any of it.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 35 – Texas 17

Week 2 vs Nevada – Saturday, September 10 – South Bend, IN

Unlike last year, the Irish won’t open up the home portion of their schedule with a marquee opponent. While that isn’t meant to be a knock on the Wolf Pack, it’s the truth. Nevada projects to be a borderline bowl team this season and Notre Dame has higher aspirations than that level. The strength of the Wolf Pack will be their offense, specifically the backfield made up of Penn State transfer Akeel Lynch and James Butler. Nevada very may well have a nice season, but I doubt that this game is one of their highlights.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 42 – Nevada 20

Week 3 vs Michigan State – Saturday, September 17 – South Bend, IN

The third week of the season may be Notre Dame’s first real test. Michigan State is coming off of a College Football Playoff appearance and the Spartans have won two out of the last three Big Ten titles. Yes, last year took a lucky bounce at the Big House and a sick Zeke Elliott at The Shoe to get their two biggest wins, they were wins nonetheless. Sparty should be heading into 2016 ranked in the top 25. It will certainly be interesting to see who replaces Connor Cook under center for the Spartans. MSU will open the season with Furman at home followed by a bye week before their trip to South Bend. A night game at Notre Dame Stadium will be the first real test for this young team.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 27 – Michigan State 20

Week 4 vs Duke – Saturday, September 24 – South Bend, IN

While the Blue Devils are traditionally known for their success on the hardwood, they have been much improved on the gridiron lately as well. The Blue Devils are coming off a win in last year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl, however their team is not without its share of question marks. The biggest one of these may be the quarterback position. Last year the offense was driven by Thomas Sirk. Sirk was due to return to the helm this season, however he ruptured his Achilles for the second time during offseason conditioning drills in February. It is unknown if Sirk will be back and how effective he will be. If he is unable to play look for Parker Boehme to fill in. Just like their brothers on the hardwood, I think the Blue Devils will struggle with Notre Dame on the gridiron.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 38 – Duke 17

Week 5 at Syracuse – Saturday, October 1 – East Rutherford, NJ (MetLife Stadium)

Syracuse is entering a new era with Dino Babers taking over as head coach of the Orangemen. This season looks as if it is going to be a rebuilding year for Cuse, and a win against Notre Dame is highly unlikely. It would be surprising to see Syracuse in a bowl game, with many schedule predictions having them at or around four total wins. Notre Dame certainly shouldn’t be one of them.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 35 – Syracuse 3

Week 6 at North Carolina State – Saturday, October 8 – Raleigh, NC

For the second time in the first six weeks the Irish will be taking on the Wolfpack, although this breed is based in Raleigh, NC. NC State has the task of replacing Jacoby Brissett who graduated last year. Last season, the Wolfpack scored 33.2 points per game with Brissett in control. I would look for that number to drop a little bit, although I do think new offensive coordinatior Eliah Drinkwitz will do a good job keeping that number around 30. This is a tough spot for Notre Dame. The Irish haven’t recently played that well on the road (cough Virginia 2015 cough) and the Irish could be caught looking ahead to Stanford. I think this game is much closer and tougher than people think.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 31 – NC State 28

Week 7 vs Stanford – Saturday, October 15 – South Bend, IN

Stanford-Notre Dame has quickly become one of my favorite rivalry games in college football. Since the rain-soaked overtime classic in 2012 this series has produced some extremely memorable games, including last year’s Stanford victory at the end of the regular season on a last second field goal. I think this game could certainly be another classic in this rivalry. If Stanford figures out how to replace departed QB Kevin Hogan in the first six weeks, then I see no reason why this shouldn’t be a great game.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 21 – Stanford 17

Week 8 – BYE

They won’t win, they won’t lose. Not much to see here.

Week 9 vs Miami – Saturday, October 29 – South Bend, IN

This game hasn’t gotten much run yet, but I definitely think that this will be one of the best games on Notre Dame’s schedule. I think Miami is set to return to a product similar to their glory years, with Mark Richt at the helm. This is a tremendous opportunity to not only kick-start that resurgence for the Canes, but also to reignite the rivalry between Notre Dame and The U. Junior QB Brad Kaaya is one of the more underrated signal callers in the country. This is a game Notre Dame very well could lose. The biggest thing I think they have in their favor is that they are coming off the bye week. Truthfully, I think this one could go either way, and is a start to bringing back one of college football’s most missed rivalries.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 21 – Miami 20

Week 10 at Navy – Saturday, November 5 – Jacksonville, FL (EverBank Field)

Going from one rivalry that college football misses to one of my absolute favorites. Obviously the reasoning for this rivalry are more for off-the-field traditions rather than the competitive play on the field, but the respect shown between Notre Dame and Navy is one of my favorite things to witness. This year the game shouldn’t be as close as it has been in recent years. Navy lost Keenan Reynolds to graduation and he will arguably be the program’s biggest loss since Roger Staubach. Notre Dame shouldn’t have any problem with the Midshipmen.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 34 – Navy 14

Week 11 vs Army – Saturday, November 12 – San Antonio, TX (Alamodome) SHAMROCK SERIES

I don’t think that this game will be very competitive. Truthfully, I think that the most interesting part of this will be seeing how Notre Dame looks in their yet-to-be-released alternate uniforms. The Irish have yet to lose a Shamrock Series game, and I would be stunned if this is the first.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION – Notre Dame 41 – Army 9

Week 12 vs Virginia Tech – Saturday, November 19 – South Bend, IN

What does life after Frank Beamer look like for the Hokies? By this point in the season we will know the answer to that. Justin Fuente is in to replace Beamer as head coach. Fresh off coaching first round NFL draft pick Paxton Lynch at Memphis, Fuente will have his work cut out for him in deciding between Brenden Motley, Jerod Evans, and Dwayne Lawson to run the offense. Evans is a junior college transfer and many expect him to win the job. I think this is a game that Notre Dame should win, but it is one I could see them looking past with the date with USC the following week.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Notre Dame 28 – VT 27

Week 13 at Southern Cal – Saturday, November 26 – Los Angeles, CA

If all goes according to my predictions (it likely won’t), Notre Dame will be entering this showdown in LA unbeaten, just like in 2012. That being said, I don’t think that this matchup turns out the same as it did in Brian Kelly’s third year on campus. In my opinion, USC is one of the most underrated teams in the country and this game will ultimately decide which of these teams heads to the final four and which doesn’t. I give a slight edge to Southern Cal at home, but I feel as if this one truly is a toss up.

WAY-TOO-EARLY-PREDICTION Southern Cal 24 – Notre Dame 21

I think Notre Dame will be very good this year and on the cusp of playoff contention once again. There are obviously a few games I think could be trap games as well as a few games I think are going to be toss ups. I could be right, I could be wrong, I guess we will find out in November how I did.

Monday Morning Breeze: Football is a Phenomenon

This weekend college football is nearly asleep, apart from the Heisman ceremony (Derrick Henry) and our military homage with the always entertaining Army – Navy game. While the playoff is set with incredible matchups soon to come, we must wait for New Year’s Eve to learn what is the final sum.

However, the NFL takes no such break as these players are professionals and actually (ideally), properly compensated for their efforts. I love watching these amazing dudes smash their precious, fragile brains and bodies weekly for our entertainment, because there’s nothing else in the world like witnessing it, as a fan, as a movement, as a television phenomenon. We watched to see if Cam’s cats would stay unbeaten, if the Seahawks are really on the up-and-up, if all that 3rd-string action made Johnny Football a better QB, and much more. Let’s dive in to the weekend that was…

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 12 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Great games to come soon once bowling begins, for for this week we turned our attention to the nation’s servicemen and servicewomen.

College Football Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

Alabama RB Derrick Henry wins this year’s Heisman in close vote over Stanford’s Christian McCaffery, headlines 2015 All-American team…Ole Miss’ stud DE falls 4 floors and is ok!?…Navy’s electric QB Keenan Reynolds sets all-time CFB rushing TD record in win over Army…Coaching carousel updates, including DUKE’s own Scottie Montgomery in at ECU and Greg Schiano’s return (D-coord.) to CFB at Ohio State…

The Only College Game This Week

keenan

Navy 21 – Army 17

85 rush TD’s is hard to conceive, even with option-3, but Keenan is one to believe, Navy nips Cadets

NFL WEEK 11 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

The umpteenth week where everything went crazy, and things were difficult to predict again.

NFL Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

The rise of Allen Robinson…Great look at what it was like screening the “Concussion” movie with ex-NFL’ersColts’ Punter pays for local powerGiant DE released for fight over headphones, more…Nice interview, retrospective with Raiders’ CB Charles WoodsonRussell Wilson’s sister is good at sports too

NFL Game of the Week

red rifle

Steelers 33 – Bengals 20

Here’s One Play that Defined the Game, My Way: AJ Green Toasts Punk DB: So, yayaya the Bengals got smoked and Andy Dalton busted his thumb trying to tackle a huge player that’d just intercepted his pass and AJ (McCarron) to AJ (Green) is a fun but probably unsustainable sideshow endangering the Bengals for a bit, but I’m going to focus on a karmic turn of events irrelevant of the final score, because it’s that important. The lesson, rule, Law of Nature: Don’t talk shit and mess with someone that’s way better than you, because (God-willing) they’ll quickly smite you and make you look stupid on national TV. Case in point: #41 Antown Blake, Pittsburgh’s corner covering AJ Green for part of the day was clearly caught up in the chippy-ness of this game. PIT’s Vontaze Burfict, no stranger to breaking the rules of being a sportsman, got things heated up pregame by eyeing-down and trash-talking the Bengals during warm-ups, and there were slap-fights and extra-hits galore in this game, as would be expected in this contest between two of the tougher towns and teams in the good ol’ U Ess of A. Basically, they don’t like each other. So, it wasn’t completely out of context when Blake power-slammed Green after a short catch with extra oomph along the sideline, garnering an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and (more importantly) Green’s full attention and ire. Nor was it totally out of the question (but a shady play) for Blake to thump a defenseless Bengals receiver over the middle on a clearly impossible to catch incompletion shortly thereafter. But not too much later,  a clearly fired up Green got revenge for all things holy and righteous in the world (Watch it again, look for the concealed revenge rage clearly powering Green’s steam as he looks back just before crossing the goal line, though nary a gloat to find in the esteemed receiver). Filed under “Thank Powers Greater than Us” Karma Police, in the form of AJ Green, went ahead and arrested that Blake man, beating him badly for the gorgeous 66-yard catch-and-run TD witnessed above. There was no chance in the world AJ was not catching that ball and getting tackled before scoring. It was as certain and natural as gravity. Green caught, he shamed, he conquered, and pirouetted around Blake’s assisted-yet-feeble attempt at stopping inevitability then waltzed into the end zone for a TD that mattered more in the reputation rankings than NFL standings. Either way, AJ Green, I applaud you for punking punky play, keeping hope alive, and providing us with the redeeming sight of a buster solemnly, silently watching his opponent score at his expense.

NFL Results Roundup

Vikings @ Cardinals (Thursday)

‘Zona busts Peterson’s bonah, continue winning with the world in Palmer’s hand

Saints @ Bucs

New Orleans remembers what it’s like to win, pin Winston as Brees leads to V

Chargers @ Chiefs

Alex’s Apaches win late to defeat Rivers’ DIsciples

Falcons @ Panthers

So, Cam’s great, the Panthers seem purrrty great, smash the hell outta ATL and stay unbeaten

Seahawks @ Ravens

Pete’s peeps keep rolling along with their annual Resurgence campaign, smoke Poe

Redskins @ Bears

Cousins keeps cruising, bruising Bears and Cutler’s sluts in Washington’s win

Lions @ Rams

Detroit loses this one in more traditional fashion, Rams blam Lions (lambs)

Bills @ Eagles

Shady vs. Chip yields a great game, but Rexy falls short and Sammy slams a win for Philly

49ers @ Browns

The City hits a new Brown note as Cleveland’s Johnnies stomp San Fran

Titans @ Jets

New Yorkers’ Snark trumps Nashville’s Charm, shaved Fitz smacks Marcus Hawaii

Colts @ Jaguars

Bortles bestows gift of shame upon Indy, tosses trillions of TD’s and obliterates the Horseshoes

Raiders @ Broncos

(Sings) “Return of the Mack” or perhaps debut, as Khalil makes (5 sacks!) do-do of Brock’s Broncos

Cowboys @ Packers

“Discount Double-Check this dick” shouts (thought) Rodgers while helping Dez drop ‘Boys Club

Patriots @ Texans

Gronk clonks back, stomps Billy’s boys as Pats regain Super-form

Giants @ Dolphins (Monday Night Football Prediction)

Eli’s face and Ricky Three-Fingers defeat ‘Fins as Tannehill continues to sin

PM to Donald Trump’s Central Nervous System

trump middle

Down By Contact #2: The Fun and Games

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The late week edition of Down By Contact will focus on the fans, and how they can be interactive with the action on Sunday, Monday, and even Thursday. Some people like to do it all, office pools, friendly wagering with friends, betting games against the spread, and of course, the ever-popular game of Fantasy Football.

This week, Jeff Rich welcomes Mike Burgermeister and Tarik Adam, the facilitator and top player in the Cheddar Bay Reality Football Competition, respectively, in the first segment. They preview the prime time and other marquee matchups in the National Football League, and even weigh in on the classic Army-Navy game in the college ranks on Saturday. Then, we shift gears from reality to fantasy, where More Than a Fan guru Alex Squires gives our host a remedial lesson on Fantasy Football, and gives some tips on who to start/who to sit in Week 15.

The Players
Jeff Rich (Host) – @byJeffRich

Mike Burgermeister – @603_brown
Tarik Adam – @ClevTA
Alex Squires – @ASquiresFF

Un-War "The Game of the Century"

Charlie Ward, Jim Flanigan
It is the Game of the Century, right? I’m told to “UnWar” that term, as it’s use or over-use has diluted its value. If we have a Game of the Century every year, then it’s really just the Game of the Year, and it doesn’t always add up to even that.
Anyone who follows College Football has likely heard the Auburn faithful exclaim War Eagle, but it was the Jim Rome radio show that had its callers end their rants with War Other Things. I haven’t listened to the guy’s show in a few years, but I recall that he’d periodically explain to the newbies that would ask, you say “War” and then something you like. Well, the War gimmick begat the UnWar gimmick, you know, for things you don’t like. I hope we’re all clear on this.

 
Back to unWarring the “Game of the Century”. If you’re not a fan of a particular team involved, how much do these games really resonate over time? You put two good teams on the field, watch them kick each other’s asses for about four hours, and then you answer the question, did it live up to the hype? If it didn’t, you don’t give it another thought or drop some sarcastic quip, along the lines of “Game of the Century, my ass!”. Either way, you probably aren’t telling your grandkids about it, fifty years from now. Now, if said game comes close to living up to its billing, you have some things to think about.
Now look, this isn’t about being a wet blanket and ruining the moment. If fans want to maintain the euphoria, that’s fine; take 24 or 48 hours for this game to be the greatest ever, but don’t hold on to that unless you only surround yourself with people who unconditionally agree with you or in that rare case that your game is and will actually remain the best, most meaningful game in a 100-year period. By definition, you can’t have a Game of the Century every year, though these days it seems like someone is trying to sell you on the idea that one gets played every week.

If you subscribe to the theory of our hero Peter from Office Space, where every day is worse than the day before, hence every day is the worst day of your life, then the opposite could also be true. Every Game of the Century is better than the Game of the Century before it, so every Game of the Century is the Game of the Century. I doubt that’s even somewhat true, but levels of epic are in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. It’s probably a damn good thing there’s no official authority on such matter.
It’s the greatest game ever since the last greatest game ever, right? Or, perhaps it’s the greatest one until the next greatest one? What sparked the line of thinking is the rematch, and we really shouldn’t refer to any sequel separated from its original by two decades like that, involving Notre Dame and Florida State this weekend in Tallahassee. Both the Irish and the Seminoles go into Saturday’s tilt with a sweet, juicy zero in the loss column, but this game hasn’t been sold to us at anywhere near the level the 1993 game in South Bend was.

If not that game, then it was that Florida State team that was hyped all summer and autumn as the team to beat. Bobby Bowden had no National Championships to his name, his school was void of representation on the list of Heisman winners. Now, they had a kicker, the since-forgotten then-frosh phenom Scott Bentley was the Sports Illustrated cover boy, needed to beat Miami (FL), the benefactors of woes such as Wide Right and Wide Right II. They had an eventual NBA point guard in Charlie Ward, who was no slouch in quarterbacking Bowden’s offense, with the help of an outstanding supporting cast that included Warrick Dunn, William Floyd, Tamarick Vanover, and Kez McCorvey. On the other side of the ball, they were stacked with a cast of NFL talent, led by Derrick Brooks. They were 9-0 with four wins over ranked opponents when they woke up on that snowy morning in Indiana 21 years ago next month.

Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame team was put together a little different. Though they too sat at 9-0, their road to the game that mattered more than any other in the 20th Century only saw them play #2 ranked Michigan, who finished #19, and no one else in the Top 25. Alas, a win over the only team that stood ahead of them in the AP Poll on November 13th would be all they needed; style points were irrelevant at this point. They were built differently too, if you aren’t a huge Notre Dame fan, the names you’ll know are limited to TV’s Aaron Taylor, long-time Denver Bronco Bertrand Berry, and current Tennessee Titans front-office man Lake Dawson. In other words, the Irish were led by a lot of good College Football players, whereas their opponent ran more of an NFL training program.
There’s hardly anything David and Goliath-ish about 1 playing 2, but the Catholic school 95 miles east of Chicago was decidedly the underdog, Vegas said the ‘Noles were 7 points better, in fact. Notre Dame quarterback Kevin McDougle did a wonderful job running the offense that day, but that day’s heroes had names like Lee Becton and Shawn Wooden, the Notre Dame safety that knocked down Ward’s final pass attempt of the day, which would have given Bowden a chance to walk away with a tie or even a victory in the days before College Football overtime. Instead, it was Notre Dame 31 Florida State 24, giving the Irish the win and the #1 ranking, which they would lose seven days later on that same field.

Notre Dame’s 41-39 loss to Boston College a week later would doom their championship hopes, and Florida State would rebound well enough to get a title shot at Nebraska, which they won, but that didn’t do anything to taint what happened on that Saturday afternoon or the hype machine building up to it. In fact, you know that pre-game show ESPN does on campus every Saturday morning? Well, that was strictly a studio show until they decided to take the show on the road to South Bend that day, starting what has become almost as much of an institution as the games themselves in College Gameday. It was Notre Dame’s first game of that magnitude, and remains the biggest game of all of my 36 years, but the Irish arguably played in other games given a century-long superlative, against Michigan State in 1966, Army in 1946, and Ohio State in 1935.
GameoftheCentury2
Speaking of the Buckeyes, fans of recency so desperate to live in the moment of every “Greatest Ever” might appreciate their 2006 encounter with Michigan, who sat just one slot below #1 Ohio State in the rankings. You don’t need any any circumstances, let alone a really low number next to your name to make an Ohio State-Michigan game something special, but when Michigan’s long-time coach Bo Schembechler passed away 24 hours before kickoff, a “win it for Bo” element came into play for that game in Columbus. Much like Notre Dame 13 Novembers earlier, the home team held serve most of the way and survived a dramatic finish, earning themselves a trip to the National Championship in another 1 vs 2 battle. Like Notre Dame, the winner in this one would not win the title; in fact, this game’s aftermath spoils the game’s lasting effect because it did not yield the sport’s eventual champ. Also, I’m pretty sure most Big Ten purists don’t want a 42-39 game headlining the annals of the league’s rich history of 3 yards and a cloud of dust.

Given the final BCS standings for the 2011 season, it was inevitable that one of the teams competing at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 5th would be crowned a champion, but even with #1 at stake in the regular season, the winner of LSU-Alabama wasn’t guaranteed much beyond an SEC West division title and a berth in the Conference Championship. While this one had the makings of something great, two undefeated teams in the consensus best conference in the land, a close final score in a defensive struggle was not enough for the ends to justify the means. College Football isn’t baseball, where 1-0 games are often considered works of art, so with a 9-6 final in favor of the Tigers, and needing overtime to do it, makes this come up short.
The good news is, there are are a lot of years, hence a lot of games, left in this century. Maybe we’ll get one yet. Until then, WAR the future and the many great seasons of great College Football that inevitably comes with it, WAR the great games of yesteryear, and definitely unWAR trying to make the present into something it isn’t.

Game of Honor

Better late than never, I say. I recorded Game of Honor in January 2012, during a free Showtime weekend, and I just got around to watching it on the DVR this morning, but is there a more fitting day to take in this documentary that followed various aspects of both service academies during the 2011 season?

While I do have a military background, my enlistment in the Marine Corps, during peace time, was never in the same ballpark with the students accepted to the United States Military Academy in West Point or the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. This isn’t your standard college experience; a war may await them during their five-year commitment that comes with the full scholarship. It also requires a recommendation, usually from a congressman, so these aren’t just any young men and women; they’re prom kings, valedictorians, and captains of their high school football team.
As Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalola explains, they must recruit their football players amidst the perils of war. In some cases, they are turning down offers from the Ivy League and the Big Ten. Niumatalola’s friend, mentor, and counterpart Rich Ellerson faces the same challenges at West Point. Ellerson coached the Navy coach at Hawaii, and they later worked together on the same coaching staff. Beyond their friendship, there is a mutual understanding of need for each other, as Ellerson points out, “the nation needs us all”.

“It is easy to pick the real winner of the Army-Navy football game: the people of the United States”
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The film begins with a quote from President Kennedy, who was killed just 15 days before the 1963 Navy-Army game, and it stands true today. It starts with a locker room montage, and the words “everything you got” stand out. We are immediately taken off the field to see the beginning and the end of the journey through these service academies; to graduation in May 2011, and then to the homes of two incoming freshmen, Annapolis-bound Micah Polamalu and West Point-bound Terry Baggett. Neither figured to see the field as freshmen, and in fact, Polamalu, who is a first cousin of the Pittsbrugh safety of the same name, can be seen in the stands with his fellow Middies at an early season game. Neither are shown any special treatment on rough first days; for the Midshipmen, it’s called Reception Day or R-Day, while their counterparts up the Hudson River call it Induction Day or I-Day. Polamalu’s issues begin before facing the rude awakening of the upperclassmen, being told his previously approved tattoo was unacceptable, and that he can get it removed or leave. He opts to say, but appeals the ruling and wins.

Baggett broke a school record in 2013, with a 304 yard performance.

The story shifts away from the incoming freshmen, and we meet Alexander “Gigi” Green, a junior running back at the Naval Academy, on Commitment Day, a point of no return at the academy. It’s a seven-year commitment, which includes those five years that he’ll owe to the Navy or Marine Corps after graduation. At West Point, we’re introduced to a senior captain Steven Erzinger, receiving his ring on Ring Day, a right of passage for 4th year students or “firsties”. We also meet a few alumni; Coach Ellerson invites Tyson Quink, a disabled veteran of war, who was a senior on the Black Knight football team when the 2011 seniors were freshmen. Quink reminds us of a scary reality, when we learn that an IED claimed both of his legs and he shows us his burnt, tattered fatigues from the day of his injuries. We also get to know the family of Clayton Perkins-Holmes, who played his football at Navy in the early 90s, and is currently deployed in Afganistan, right in the heart of the suck, Kandahar.
We do get into the football eventually, but the under-lying theme is that football is secondary to the battlefield and that football is the easy part. Though things are different in this day and age, there is plenty of football tradition at these institutions that have combined 5 Heisman Trophy winners and 4 National Championships. On perhaps a grander scale, these academies have produced 8 Presidents of the United States.
In early season action, the gameday experience is shared with us, and the incredible camera angles make the documentary better than the actual CBS Sports presentation of the game. After the game, the alma mater is sung, which always ends with “Beat Army” or “Beat Navy”. After Navy’s win over Delaware, it’s “Beat Army” and that’s exactly what Northern Illinois would do on this day, with a 49-26 win in Dekalb, Illinois.
This season was played a decade after the September 11th attacks, which hit close to home, literally for some of these young men, though they were in grade school or middle school at the time. Malcolm Brown was fortunate that his father, Roscoe Brown, was not on duty with the FDNY on that fateful Tuesday, but he lived the anguish with the elder Brown, who lost 35 friends and colleagues on a day we will never forget. On the eve of the tragedy’s 10-year anniversary, San Diego State came to Michie Stadium, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke before the game, and the players were amped up about the work they put in, citing how their opponents were playing XBox all summer, while these men were in field training. Eight fumbles made for a nightmare game, but the alma mater still ended with a “Beat Navy”, though much less enthusiastic than the “Beat Army” we heard after the Middies triumph over Delaware.
Not to be forgotten in the pageantry of this rivalry, a third academy, a little brother exists in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Academy. They are the third cog in a series of games that determine who wins the Commander-In-Chief Trophy, awarded by the President himself, which means a White House visit for the winner of the hardware. In these Commander-In-Chief games, both schools alma maters are sung, but the winner goes second, while the loser stands by, respectfully. Air Force won it in 2010, and displayed their rebel ways, charging through a morning formation at West Point in the days before seeing the Black Knights fall apart in the second half of a loss to the visiting Falcons. On the other hand, Navy was able to overcome an 18-point deficit to force overtime. In that overtime, Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor, who we got to know throughout the film, drew a controversial unsportsmanlike penalty for taunting after a go-ahead touchdown, forcing them to attempt an extra point from 15-yards further than usual and the kick was blocked. Air Force scored in their half of the “inning” and added the extra point for the win. Niumatalol0 specifically instructed his players to be respectful with the media, but that proved too tall an order for captain Alexander Teich. For his criticism of the officiating, Niumatalol0 suspended him for the a game against eventual Conference USA champ, Southern Mississippi. They would lose that game.
Things got rougher for the Midshipmen in South Bend, Indiana, when Notre Dame punched them in the mouth in the first half, and Niumatalol0 began to accuse his players of quitting, stating he was worried about giving up 100 points. They were outscored 21-7 in the second half, to salvage a more respectable 56-14 defeat.

As good as the football footage is, the off-field coverage is still worth the price of admission. We get to see a surprise homecoming for Perkins-Holmes to a thrilled family. John Dowd, a Staten Island native affected by 9/11, had aspirations for the Marine Corps, and we got to see some of the struggles that a bigger football player deal with, as he attempts to complete an obstacle course for the Marines in Quantico, Virginia. We meet Joe Bailey, a senior leader, denied his one and only opportunity to start for Army against Navy, because of a mid-season, career-ending injury. We visit the mess hall at West Point, open to only Cadets, who eat every meal together, all 4400 of them. They take us inside the classroom, where they claim their academic standards rival their Ivy League counterparts. We go into the field, where we are reminded of not only the war that awaits, but how the rivalry game is always on their mind, when Erzinger loses his leg in a battle simulation, and a fellow cadet jokes how they were minus a pretty good linebacker for the Navy game.
Army-Navy week is an experience in, and of itself. The Head Coaches and longtime friends are reunited at the press conference. West Point’s Andrew Rodriguez, whose father was just appointed to the rank of General by President Obama, wins the Campbell Trophy, which is known as the academic Heisman, and John Dowd is recognized by Coach Niumatalol0 as the first 2-time Academic All-American. There is a tradition at each school with the game ball, both academies have a marathon team that runs the game ball from their campus to the game site, which was FedEx Field in 2011, the first time the game would be played in the nation’s captial. As the film states, the players don’t go to this game, which is in Philadelphia in 2013, alone. The entire student bodies of both academies are bussed to the game site, and many of the parents of both current players and past players attend.
Obama attended the game, supporting both of his service academies, walking across the field to switch sides at halftime. On the field, it took a 4th down stop in the red zone, late in the game, for Navy to win their 10th straight. In the game, Trent Steelman, the Army quarterback whose first half fumble turned the tide in the 2010 game, played well for Army, orchestrating a great 2-minute drill with his arm, but as Coach Niumatalol0 stated to his players, Navy was just better than Army. Malcolm Brown played well in the game and scored as well. The once-suspended Navy captain, Alexander Teich had a big kickoff return to swing the momentum, after the two teams were tied at the half. They could have ended the show after the game, but the story would have been incomplete without seeing where the seniors were going on their first assignments out of their respective academies.
Overall, the Game of Honor experience was emotional and informative. While my own military background may have given me a different perspective, I think that active personnel, veterans, and lifelong civilian alike would consider time spent watching this documentary as 120 minutes well spent.

Stop the hating…unless it’s your rival

I make it a point as a fan to never root against a team just for the sake of rooting against them.  An exception can always be made when facing a rival.  If you are rooting against a team for no other reason than your own allegiances, there is a good chance that you are falling into a demographic that the kids refer to as “hating.”

“Hating” drives me nuts, when in all honesty it breeds from a jealousy of the success of a team that is not your own.  No one “hates” on a bad team, it’s all the teams at the top.  It’s also not a coincidence that those teams on the top seem to have fans that may be a little too proud and rub some people the wrong way.

As I mentioned before I try to stay away from those actions.  I make an exception for one team in particular; The University of Michigan Wolverines.  In professional sports, I root against division rivals, not to hate, but rather to benefit my own team.  A loss by the Ravens, Bengals or Steelers benefits the Browns in divisional standings.  A loss by Michigan in a bowl game or in the tournament has no bearing on Ohio State’s season.  However a loss on the nation’s biggest stage by them causes reason for joy.

There is something about the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry where we truly enjoy watching the opposite fan base in pain.  When it comes to this rivalry, we could care less about representing the conference.  I have heard the arguments from other fan bases on how theirs is bigger and more important.  To each his own; although I can point to several books and an excellent HBO documentary about ours.  If you’re coming at me with either Army/Navy or Alabama/Auburn, the argument can be made.  All others are mute.  While Army/Navy is part of the traditional nature of the service academies, Alabama/ Auburn is similar to Bucks/Michigan where the fan bases genuinely hate each other.

The purpose of this column however, is not to talk about different rivalries in college sports.  It’s to state that it’s ok to openly root against your rival.  This isn’t even focused to us as fans; it’s to those out there who cheer for a team to lose with no real connection to them.  If you hate a team for being great and in the title chase every year, you shouldn’t hate them; you should strive to be like them.

All too often following a Buckeye loss I get a surprising amount of attention through social media of fans happy that my team lost.  I just don’t get it.  I have no problem with people cheering the other team and being satisfied by their success for various reasons, but to be joyous because a certain team lost is mind boggling to me.

I hate to use the term hater, but it is the simplest definition of those types of fans.  Maybe it’s time to start wondering why your team isn’t playing at that level.  I don’t want to sit here and tell people how to channel their fandom, but rooting for others to endure sadness and despair is a hard way to go through life….unless of course they are fans of your bitter rivals.

2012: My Best Year as a Fan

A few days late, thanks to the crazy Holiday work schedule, weather, and travel plans I bring to you my final column of 2012.  While only one of my “teams” found considerable success, it was still my best as a fan all of sports.

From a team standpoint, the football Buckeyes were the only team that gave me something to be proud of.  The bowl ban never bothered me, I know this team isn’t at the level of the national powers and Urban will have this team in position for multiple perfect seasons before he is done.

The basketball Buckeyes threw away a shot at a National Championship by falling a part in the final minutes against Kansas in the Final Four.  I don’t really need to get into the on field/court performance of the Tribe, Browns and Cavs.

Despite my teams, it was a great year as a fan.  My wife and I made it to Yankee stadium this year, marking another check in the box in our quest to see a game in every major-league stadium.  Next year we are determined to hit PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Citi Field in NYC and Fenway Park.

I was also able to experience something as an adult that I never had before.  A summer’s long pennant race filled with playoff heroics in the city I live.  While I will never claim to be a die hard O’s fan, I always have taken a liking to them since the days of Cal, which made it easy to get behind them this year.  About 30 miles down the road the Nats were doing their thing and the two cities provided great baseball for the entire region.  With their playoff berths I was able to mark something off my bucket list.  “See a MLB playoff game in person.”  I was able to see them at both stadiums.  A thrilling win over NY in Baltimore and then possibly the greatest moment I have ever seen live, Jason Werth’s walk-off home run in the NLDS.

Speaking of bucket lists, I nailed two more items this year.  “Attend an MLB Opening Day” and “Attend an Army Navy Game.”  I did the opening day in grand fashion, my wife and I flew to Chicago and witnessed opening day at Wrigley Field and the next morning took an early flight back to Baltimore to see Opening Day at Camden Yards.

My most recent live sporting event was the Army Navy game.  It has sat a top my bucket list for years and I was thrilled to finally be able to attend one.  Navy has now won 11 straight in the series and has not lost since I joined the Navy (they last lost in 2001, the year before I joined).

I know 2013 will bring even greater things and I look forward to experiencing them.  I hope 2012 brought you joy on the sports landscape, even if our home teams didn’t.

It’s been a great year fans, let’s keep it rolling into 2013.