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Correcting the B.S. the Army-Navy Game announcers spout every year

Posted by John Reed on

Ever since I graduated from Army in 1968, I have been gnashing my teeth at the garbage that comes out of the mouths of the TV announcers for the Army-Navy game each and every year.


I was not a football player at West Point

First, I did not play football or any other intercollegiate sport at West Point. I am simply not that good of an athlete nor was I big or fast enough. At West Point, I was six feet tall and about 165 pounds. At that size, I would have had to be exceptionally fast. I was usually something like the second fastest kid in the neighborhood. I would have had to be the fastest kid in town to play for Army.

Far be it from me to take anything that the Army football players have earned away from them. Some have been excellent cadets or officers or citizens or all of the above. However, there is a big difference between giving the Army football players their due and refraining from any criticism whatsoever of the nonsense the announcers say in praise of them. This article is a criticism of Army-Navy Game announcers, not players. Here is the standard bullshit the announcers say every year, and my version of the truth about that issue.

Announcers say
The truth according to Reed
Army football players live the same lives as the other cadets This ranks with “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” as one of the great lies of all time. See below

Corps squad (intercollegiate) athletes do not “march” to use their term. Indeed, my impression was that it was the height of embarrassment for a corps squad athlete ever to march in an academic-year (September to May) parade other than the graduation parade at the end of their senior year. Indeed, I would not be surprised if many, maybe most, tried to get out of that parade as well. You may have been to West Point and seen a parade on the Plain during the school year. Would you like to know how many corps squad athletes marched in the parade you saw? I’ll bet it was zero.

One of my roommates there played three intercollegiate sports. At the end of his spring season junior year, he instantly went on sick call and got himself declared unfit to march in parades for the rest of the year. Once your season is over, you have to march or get a medical excuse. My impression was that there was nothing wrong with him. He was just horrified at the prospect of marching. I guess he would have been taunted unmercifully by his fellow athletes, all of whom also got medical excuses, if he had to march in a parade. Was he practicing his sport while we marched? Nope. Season over. He was lounging on his bed.

I have joked at reunions that the corps squad guys were commenting on how neat it was that the cadets all moved the same leg at the same time when they marched in parades. (In the interest of full disclosure, getting out of parades was a universal desire at West Point. I got out of my share by means other than intercollegiate athletics.)

In June, 2008, we received a letter to all our class informing us of changes at West Point. One was that they now have a parade every Monday at lunch and that the Corps Squad athletes have to march in it. Any chance this article had anything to do with that? If so, my message to the guys marching in that Monday parade is that I think all military parades where the number of marchers exceed the number of spectators should be outlawed. My point above is only that intercollegiate athletes at West Point do not live the same life as the other cadets. Whether they ought to and to what extent is another issue.

Hole in the shoe

When I was a plebe in beast barracks, we had to spit shine our shoes to a mirror finish such that we could smile into the reflection and count our teeth. One day, an upperclassman inspecting us stopped at the plebe classmate standing next to me and exploded with laughter. “What position do you play, Mister?” “Guard, sir,” my classmate said. The upperclassman then called his classmates over to see the plebe with the hole in the top of his shoe.

A hole in the top of his shoe?! I have never heard of anyone—cadet or otherwise—having a hole in the top of his shoe. At West Point in Beast Barracks (July and August of 1964 for us), we had only been there a couple of weeks. How do you get a hole in the top of brand new West Point-issue shoes in a couple of weeks? Especially when you are required to keep every tiny little aspect of your uniform in perfect condition at all times? Had any of us non-football players have even a scratch or dullness in our spit-shine, we would have gotten our asses chewed perhaps by several upperclassmen at once. The football players, even as brand new plebe privates, were privileged characters who, in some respects, outranked upperclassmen wearing corporal, sergeant, or officer stripes.

Jump school To enter jump school in 1968, we had to do six chin ups. I did. So did all of my classmates as far as I know, except one. He was a fat, starting linebacker on the Army football team. He was unable to do even a single chin up and was thrown out of jump school as a result. To keep our privileges and even stay in West Point, we had to take and pass physical tests about every three months all through the four years there. We also had all-four-years mandatory physical education which had similar tests and evaluations. In plebe gymnastics, for example, we had to do a number of very difficult horizontal bar and pommel horse maneuvers to pass. I cannot imagine a football lineman performing those maneuvers. I surmise that the football linemen must have been exempt from such tests.
“Cut man”

You often heard the phrase “cut man” at West Point. He was the football player with the worst grades on the team but was good enough to be wanted by the coaches. The phrase “cut man” referred to the fact that if you ranked below him in the class, you would be flunked out of West Point. Above him, you would not be. It is akin to grading on the curve, only at West Point it was not a curve. It was just one guy’s GPA in that subject.

My sick-call-to-avoid-parade roommate was apparently the cut man in his sport (not football) for a while. I recall walking past one of his games when a whole bunch of West Point brass were watching. They were deciding whether he was a good enough athlete to stay in spite of his grades. Had my grades been the same as his, I would would have been out the door with no review by any brass.

Saturday classes We had class almost every Saturday morning when I was a cadet. The only exceptions were rare days when the entire Corps of Cadets traveled to New York or Philadelphia or some such. If we were at West Point, we had class Saturday morning. As far as I know, no football player ever attended Saturday classes, at least not in season.
Corps squad tables

The worst part of Plebe year was the mess hall. Three or four plebes sat at the foot of each table and got harassed by the three classes of upperclassmen at the same 10-man table. Athletes, including plebes, sat at so-called Corps Squad tables, which were athletes-only tables in a separate athletes- and certain clubs-only section of the mess hall (middle section). The plebes ate like normal human beings at those tables.

Again, in the interest of full disclosure, getting on such tables was a universal plebe desire at West Point. I got on them for several months by various means other than intercollegiate athletics. Also, we were allowed to fall out (eat like normal human beings) from the 1964 Army-Navy Game victory until Christmas leave and the seniors decided that we did not have to brace with our necks during second semester, although we still got harassed at the table. So the famous way that plebes used to eat was yet another thing that the football players did not much experience after Beast Barracks. Recently, football plebes have even avoided various Beast Barracks activities like the Plebe March—a long, full-pack hike from west of West Point back to the main post.

The same June, 2008 letter I mentioned above with regard to parades also said that Corps Squad athletes now have to eat breakfast with their companies instead of with their teammates. Again, I wonder if this article had anything to do with that. I agree with that decision. My Corps Squad roommates used to complain that they missed all sorts of important announcements because they did almost nothing with the main body of non-athlete cadets other than live in the same rooms when they were not in class, at practice, or competing. I do not know how they assign mess hall table seats to company members who only go to one meal a day.

Combat duty after graduation

According to the TV announcers, the football players almost go straight from the Army-Navy Game to war in Vietnam, Iraq, or wherever. Some do. But the more accurate picture is that all cadets get to choose their branches and first assignments. I believe they are now being offered additional choices like graduate school as part of a retention campaign.

I am not saying that football players are less likely to serve in combat. I do not know that statistic. Rather, the notion that all West Pointers go straight to combat is inaccurate. They go all over the place. Many of my classmates never went to Vietnam. Instead, they chose Germany, Korea, England, graduate school, etc. By the time they were due to go to Vietnam, it was over. Also, we did not all choose the infantry or armor branches, which are generally the only ones who get into small-arms range of the enemy. For some Army-Navy Games, they mention the branch choices of the senior players. Many, if not most, were rear area branches like transportation or medical service corps or finance—the un-infantry.

Cheating scandals

The occasional multi-cadet cheating scandal at West Point has generally had at its core cadet athletes in general and football players in particular. Reading I have done on the subject revealed that many athletes had an us-versus-them attitude about the rest of the academy and its rules and that they felt they were entitled to privileges and leeway not granted to the other cadets. Based on the various things I listed above, you can see how that could easily happen. At reunions, I have noticed that the corps squad athletes tend to spend all their time with their teammates—as they did when they were cadets. The rest of us spend our reunion time with our companymates—as we did when we were cadets. This in spite of the fact that the athletes were assigned to the same companies as the rest of us. For example, there were an average of about two football players in each 120-man company. They were almost never rooming with another football player. But in spite of the fact that they lived in the same room with us, they spent all their time at West Point and, since at reunions, with the guys they practiced with, not the guys they lived with.

That is not to say that football players are less honorable. I never felt that when I was a cadet, nor did I hear it from others. Still, when cadets had to leave for honor violations, the football team was always disproportionately represented. That’s on the individual cadets in question, not on the team as a group. The fact that it has recurred again and again suggests a systemic problem with the way football-playing cadets are treated in general.

Army and Navy football players play just for the love of the game Since I was not a player I am not sure of the motivations of the players, but I think such comments apply only to the Division III level where there are no scholarships and no spring ball and no prospects of playing in the NFL. Army and Navy football players get a scholarship of sorts if they would not have gotten admitted to either school without football. They have a long shot at playing in the NFL. There are almost always active NFL players from one of the service academies. At West Point, they get to play on national TV, which is not happening at the D-III level except in the championship tournament. They get bragging rights to having been Division I-A football players. Some get to be graduate assistant coaches after graduation while on active duty in the military. It does not appear to be a pure love of football as Division III players demonstrate. The test of purity would be how many of them turn down being NFL draft picks.
Exclusive franchise on war service after playing Ever heard of Pat Tillman? He played football. He did not attend a service academy. He served in the military in combat. How about Rocky Bleier who was wounded in Vietnam and came back to star for the Steelers? No service academy. I do not have room to list all the others. Service academy football players do serve disproportionately in wars in the military, but they do not have an exclusive franchise on the combination of playing college football then serving in combat. Many a civilian college football player served in the military during war. During World War II, so many did that Army’s dominance in the mid-40s was a bit of an embarrassment. Then, the football players of the U.S. Military Academy were about the only college football players not going to war—because they were the only ones who could not be drafted. Army won three national championships and had two Heisman Trophy winners during the war years. Had Blanchard and Davis not been at West Point, they would have been drafted and served in the war. By playing football at West Point, they missed that war.

Friend who sent his son to a service academy

One of my West Point friends had a son who graduated from another of the three major service academies. I asked him how he could subject his son to any facsimile of the the ordeal we went through. He quickly added that he would not have encouraged it had his son not been a recruited intercollegiate athlete, which meant he got to avoid the usual cadet chickenshit.

I have told a number of my West Point classmates who were corps squad athletes that their diploma should have an asterisk. I was only half joking when I said it.

Football players say they have it harder

I have discussed these issues with West Pointers who were corps squad athletes. One point they always make is that they had it harder than we non-intercollegiate athletes did. Essentially, they claim that the work load of being a varsity athlete plus the cadet work load exceeds the non-varsity-athlete cadet workload.

How would they know? They have never had to do the full cadet work load. That is not to say they may not be right. But there are only 24 hours in a day whether you are a football player or a non-athlete cadet.

My son who played football in the Ivy League had a harder time than his non-athlete classmates, but that’s because of year-round conditioning and 20 plus hours per week during season of practice and games and travel. As far as football was concerned, the football players at West Point have to do about the same stuff as my Ivy League football player son. It is not harder to be a football player at West Point during football practice or games than it is to be a civilian college football player. It’s about the same.

My son’s non-player classmates had no practice, conditioning, games, or any of that. But at West Point, the non-athlete cadets also have year-round conditioning and military training full time for at least two months every summer so when the football players are doing something footballish, the non-players are doing something else, not doing nothing.

As mentioned above, all new plebes used to make the plebe march from Camp Buckner west of West Point back to the base with rifle, helmet, full pack. Now, I understand the plebe football players are practicing instead of marching. Is one tougher? I would prefer the practice myself. They typically give you more rest, chalk talks, the fun of competing, and so forth in football practice.

Football players also often think they are more what the public thinks of when they think of West Point than non-athletes. Indeed, in the Clint Lane series of books about the four years of West Point by graduate Red Reeder, Cadet Lane was a football player.

In fact, the notion that the public thinks the football players are more quintessential cadets than the non-athletes is entirely contingent on the public not learning the contents of this Web page. If they knew the whole truth, the public would feel about the same as the cadets themselves. The football players are us, but they are also not us. They have a very different four-year experience—sometimes five-year experience—than cadets who go through all the stuff West Point is known for: plebe year, mess hall harassment, Saturday classes, parades, demerits, walking the area, and so forth.

Team does poorly because announcers are partly correct

Since it fired Bob Sutton as head coach and got rid of the option offense, Army football teams have done poorly in competition. Why? I suspect because what the announcers say about life as a cadet/football player is partly right. They did not have to do everything that we non-players had to do, but they had to do parts of it. So prospective recruits are wondering, “Why do I need any of that crap to play for a team that ranks at the bottom of the NCAA every year?” Good question. Generally, they are concluding they don’t and going elsewhere. My impression as a recent high school football coach is that Army only gets guys who were not recruited by any other Division I-A team.

Too cool

Fundamentally, many, if not most, of the football players see themselves as too cool to do, and do NOT do, many of the things that the public erroneously assumes all West Point cadets must do.

This is a partial analysis of the question of whether football players are the same as the other cadets at West Point. In recent years, there are also questions about criminal behavior.

Some football players every year are exemplary. That’s the same as in civilian colleges. Lots of football players are in the Animal House frat, but some are double majoring in engineering and pre-med. The problem comes when the TV announcers rattle off their annual statements about how the players at West Point, unlike those at civilian colleges, have to do all the same stuff as regular cadets. That’s bullshit! They are privileged characters. Army football players have an easier cadet life than other cadets albeit a harder life than they would have at civilian colleges.

I would appreciate it if someone would apprise the TV and radio announcers of this Web page. They are supposed to be journalists who report the truth. It’s high time they did just that with regard to the Army-Navy Game. The student bodies of the schools are unique and deserve to be celebrated for that uniqueness and for the sacrifices many of them make to attend those schools and after graduation. The schools have tens of thousands of great stories. They do not need a bunch of phony bullshit from announcers to embellish who they are.

No more quibbling

The fact that persons knowledgeable about the false statements that have been made all these years have not corrected them arguably violates the Cadet Honor Code. That Code prohibits among other things: quibbling. Quibbling is defined as remaining silent in a situation where doing so results in others believing a false statement is a true one. I am sure as hell not the only West Pointer who knows the annual statements about Army football players doing all the same stuff as the other cadets are nonsense.

The game itself

The announcers also hype the game itself. One of the lines they use is

You can throw the records out for this one.

I would like to address that in two ways:

  • Is it true?

  • If so, is it good?

Is it true?

Has anyone ever checked whether this is actually true? First, let’s translate it from basket-weaving-major-drop-out-former-pro-football-player TV analyst speak to criteria that would be appropriate to a discussion by college graduates who studied a curriculum heavy in math and science—like us West Pointers.
I think what the “athleticism”-addled, former-NFL-player announcers are trying to say is that,

The percentage of upsets is greater in the Army-Navy game series than in other college football games.

I do not know the percentage of upsets in college football. I read a book once called the National Football Lottery. It is about betting on NFL games. It said that the favorite won 72% of the time in NFL games during the season the book was about. That, in turn, means that 100% - 72% = 28% of the games were upsets. Using that stat until we get a better one, I make the claim precise by translating it to:

The percentage of upsets in the Army-Navy Game series exceeds the norm of 28%.

Great play or lousy expectating?

The whole idea of upsets is kind of squirrelly. There is no single authoritative source for pre-game predictions. On some Army-Navy Game days, some forecasters favor Army and some, Navy. Even when there is a pre-game consensus as to who will win, is an upset evidence of great football playing or lousy expectating?

So let’s look at the last 20 Army-Navy Games and use the winning percentage of the two teams coming into the game—the “records that you can throw out” when it comes to the Army-Navy Game—as the forecaster.

Favorite’s winning percentage before the game
1987 .400 no
1988 .800 no
1989 .600 yes
1990 both teams were .500 meaning no favorite Army won 30-20
1991 .400 yes
1992 .400 no
1993 .500 no
1994 both teams were .300 meaning no favorite Army won 22-20
1995 .500 yes
1996 .900 no
1997 .600 no
1998 .300 yes
1999 both teams were .364 meaning no favorite Navy won 19-9
2000 .100 yes
2001 .200 no
2002 both teams were .100 meaning no favorite Navy won 58-12
2003 .580 no
2004 .800 no
2005 .600 no
2006 .670 no
Total   5 upsets out of 16 games with favorites

As of the time I am writing this, I found five upsets in 16 games that had a pre-game favorite or 5/14 = 31% upsets.

Is that higher than the normal 28%? Yes. Is it “throw the records out?” No. The favorite still won 11 of the 16 games or 69% of the games. The correct statement about the recent Army-Navy series games is that they had slightly more upsets than you would expect. Again, I remind the reader that I have no stat on the normal percentage of NCAA Division I-A upsets other than the old NFL figure from that book. If 2007 is the sample, upsets may be more common in NCAA than 28% especially among teams ranked number two for the week.

My magician/socks-for-gloves classmate says there have been 22 upsets in the whole 107-game series (21%). He only found two upsets in the last 20 years. He uses the traditional definition of upset, that is, based on pre-game point spreads. I do not have that info. He says, “Overall, there have been 22 upsets in the 107 years of A-N games (23 if you count the 1981 tie). In the last 50 years there have only been seven upsets where the winners of the A-N game beat or tied a clearly superior team ('62, '67, '76, '81, '85, '89, and '91).”

In other words, there are not more upsets in the Army-Navy Game than in other games. The perennial claim that you can “throw out the records” is false.

Are upsets a virtue?

Radio and TV announcers seem to think an increased percentage of upsets is a good thing. How so?

Seems to me that an upset is merely an inconsistency. From the perspective of the game-winning team, it is a positive inconsistency. But it begs the question of, “If you are a good football team, why were you the team with the weaker performance in prior games?”

Better late in the season than never, but better early than late. What determines the quality of the team is its final overall winning percentage, not its percentage of upsets. In the absence of incompetent handicapping by the prognosticators, upsets are simply later-in-the-season inconsistencies in the win direction. Perhaps the most valid comment to make to a team that has just upset an opponent is, “I see you finally cleaned up your act.”

I am a coach, not a fan. Come-from-behind victories and upsets are, to me, evidence of poor performance early in the game or season. I do not like poor performance any time and I give no extra credit for making a mess, then cleaning up your own mess.

I am well aware that for the purposes of attracting and keeping TV viewers, the ideal game has no pre-game favorite—what gamblers call a “pick ’em”—stays close and has lead changes until the end of the game. That is drama, but not good coaching or good player performance.

So for viewer ratings purposes, upsets are attractive to broadcasters. From a fan standpoint, the same is true. But as a statement about the character of the athletes and coaches participating in the game, upsets show a lack of character—namely, inconsistent performance over the course of the season. Certainly, that is not something we should want in our military leaders.

Always a close game

Another comment you might hear about the Army-Navy Game is that it is close more often than other games. I am not going to research that, but I can recall many blow-outs and multiple-score margins of victory in the Army-Navy series.

Taped skits from military units around the world

Coverage of the Army-Navy game has given way gradually to the featuring of generally lame, don’t-quit-your-day-job skits from military units around the world. I surmise this is a result of Army and Navy sinking to the bottom of Division I-A rankings. Many years, the game was a “Battle of the Bums.” For example, in 2000, the “favorite” had one win coming into the game.

Mindful of the game’s storied history, promoters have been desperately trying to find excuses to make it important and interesting and have turned away from the playing field for material. It has become a sort of additional Armed Forces or Veterans appreciation day.

More and more air time is given to Army and Navy football players of the past and even to Army and Navy personnel who never attended the service academies let alone played football there. The fact that two branches of the service—Army and Navy—have the same names as two of the nicknames of the U.S. Military and U.S. Naval Academies is mildly interesting, but it is a stretch to say that the game is between the two branches of service.

West Point and Annapolis are colleges. The branches Army and Navy are composed 99% of men and women who attended other colleges like Notre Dame or Florida or who did not attend any colleges at all.

Branch-of-service teams

The Army and Navy branches do have athletic teams, you know. At least one West Point basketball player in my era went on to play for the Army branch basketball team after graduation from West Point. If the sports broadcasters want to engage the entire “alumni” of the Army and Navy branches of service, why don’t they cover and make a big deal out of the Army-Navy basketball game between the branch teams rather than the West Point and Annapolis teams? That’s the real Army-Navy Game. The so-called Army-Navy Game is really the West Point-Annapolis Game.

Indeed, West Point athletic teams generally have the words “West Point” on their uniforms to distinguish them from the Army branch teams like the Army Golden Knights competition parachute team. Similarly, the team nicknames “Black Knights of the Hudson” and “Midshipmen” are shared only by the students and graduates of those colleges, not by everyone who ever served in the Army, Navy, or Marines. The whole thing seems rather jumbled and muddled to me these days—like the game is still on national TV for reasons other than football.

The Army-Navy game is a college football game. College football games should be of interest to the students and graduates of those colleges and, when the teams are moderately or highly ranked, to fans of good college football.

An argument can be made that keeping the Army-Navy Game on life support through all sorts of non-football means unheard of 40 years ago has a slight adverse effect on the national defense. For one thing, if there were no Army-Navy Game, the quality of the student body at West Point would be higher—fewer admissions compromises to get Division I-A football players admitted.

Also, tying the identity of the West Point football team to the Army as a whole is not the greatest public relations or confidence-building ploy when the Army team is a perennial hapless doormat of Division I-A. The announcers are now making the Army football team a metaphor for the whole U.S. Army world wide. Maybe the Army should follow the example of the Postal Service and sponsor a professional car racing or bicycle team. Lance Armstrong made his postal service sponsor look like winners. Army football, on the other hand, has become synonymous with ineptitude and losing—hardly a comforting linkage—or one likely to help recruiting. The NCAA record for most losses in a season belongs to Army’s 2003 0-13 team.

The value of beating Navy

Here are some perennial bullshit announcer lines on the importance to the Corps of Cadets of beating Navy.

Announcers say
The truth according to Reed
If the Army team loses every game but the Navy game, the Corps of Cadets considers it a successful season. Do you have to be stupid to get a football announcer job these days? The correct version would be that the Corps of Cadets wants its team to go undefeated and West Point did not teach us that losing half or more of your games was good. About the only thing we would agree to in this vein is that, most years, if we could only win one game, we would want that win to be over Navy.
The Corps of Cadets cheers for Navy to win every week except the week of the Army-Navy game. Maybe some cadets do. I can see the logic of wanting your opponent to rank as high as possible so that your defeating them is a greater accomplishment. Personally, I liked some individuals from there, but I did not care for the middies as a group. I would rather the SOBs go 0-13 than just lose to us.
The game the Corps of Cadets wants most to win is the Navy game. Not true. In seasons where we played a nationally-ranked team that was higher ranked than Navy, we most wanted to beat the highest ranked team. For example, Army played Notre Dame in 1965 and 1966 when I was a cadet. Notre Dame ended up ranked 8th in the nation in 1965 and they won the national championship in 1966 with Terry Hanratty and Jim Seymour. That was the year they settled for a famous tie against Michigan State. Navy was not ranked those years. You don’t think we wanted our team to beat Notre Dame those years? Hell, in 1965, we played Notre Dame in Shea Stadium. The Pope came to the U.S. that summer and the joke was he was coming to try to get tickets to the Army-Notre Dame Game—not the Army-Navy Game. In 1963, the year before I entered West Point, Navy ended up ranked 2nd in the nation (Staubach won the Heisman Trophy as a junior). That year, I am sure the cadets wanted most to beat Navy—which Army did the following year when I was a plebe and Staubach was a senior.

I was able to watch some of the 2007 Army-Navy Game on CBS on 12/1/07. I thought the announcers Boomer Esiason and Ian somebody did a great job of avoiding the garbage I listed above. First time I can recall an absence of B.S. hype in the game broadcast. They emphasized how fired up the teams are—more than Super Bowl according to the Army coach who played in one. Interesting and believable.

Esiason is one of the best-kept secrets in football announcing. He has the same intelligent understanding of the game as Ron “Jaws” Jaworski, but unlike Jawarski, no one has convinced Boomer that to be a football announcer, you have to gesticulate wildly and yell all the time. Boomer conveys the same valuable information quietly.

Boomer and Al Michaels had a little argument about when to use a final timeout during their broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIV. Later in the game, after a play when the team that had saved the timeout used it, Boomer told Al, “You were right, Al.” Actually, Boomer was right the first time. You judge decisions by what was known at the time, not by results. I wrote that up on pages 153 and 154 of the third edition of my book Football Clock Management. I sent Boomer and Al copies of it and drew their attention to that discussion. Never heard from either of them but Al seemed to make the occasional intelligent football clock management comment thereafter suggesting that he read my book.

To my suprise and relief, we were spared the dumb skits from military units around the world. Although Pete Dawkins and Roger Staubach each did a “don’t quit your day job” little scripted pep talk before the game. At least they were former Army-Navy Game star players, not high school dropouts who never got within 1,000 miles of an Army-Navy Game and couldn’t tell you what state either school was in.

Looked to me like Navy’s Reggie Campbell was a faster, better football player that any that Army was able to recruit—a man playing with boys. On a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown, not only did Campbell outrun all the Army players, a Navy blocker came from behind and easily overtook and passed all the Army players on the play.

But that does not excuse kicking and punting to Campbell. That requires a dumb coach, which Army apparently has. (When I coached youth and high school football, I always prohibited my kickers and punters from ever kicking to any opponent’s returner—let alone to a returner like Reggie Campbell. Army also had a punt blocked in the 2007 Army-Navy Game. That is lousy coaching. Most coaches are scandalously uncompetitive when it comes to special teams. They just want to get them over with. Accordingly, they typically have only one play to practice—in this case, protecting the punter. When you only have one exceedingly simple play, it takes incompetence to screw it up and have a punt blocked. I make my living in part by writing books on football coaching.) Just before half time, Army punted to Campbell. Even the announcers said before the punt that that would be a bad idea. Campbell got a great return and with :01 left on the clock, Navy kicked a field goal that hit the cross bar before going through. Thank you Army coaches for those three points.

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions.

John T. Reed

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