What would Nixon have done?
In 1894, President Grover Cleveland held a special cabinet meeting to discuss … football. Army-Navy football, in particular. Just a few months earlier, the contest had inspired brawls in the stands and a near-duel between a rear admiral and a retired general. Fearing for the reputation of the military academies, Cleveland's meeting resulted in a cancellation of the game.
In 1899, President McKinley restored the gridiron rivalry.
More than just a game
In 1999, Navy safety Gary Lane gave Smithsonian magazine a taste of the game's importance. "I saw players crying in the locker room, the toughest guys I knew just blubbering like babies after we lost. And hugging the Army team even though we don't know any of them. Army-Navy is like playing your brother. You play harder, but you share something because you know what the other guy has been through."
Good luck, boys. I've got an important game to see
In 1926, Army and Navy saluted Chicago's spanking brand new Soldier Field by playing their game there. Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne clearly thought it was a big deal -- he skipped out of the Irish-Pitt matchup that day to spectate in Chicago. Meanwhile, Pitt upset the Irish, 19-0.
War is hell
During WWII, travel restrictions prevented the usual enormous cheering squads from going to away games. So in 1942, under orders from the Navy, some midshipmen filled the visitors stands in Annapolis and cheered for Army. In 1943, Army returned the favor.
After Army won in 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur took a moment. As his troops battled in the Phillipines, he cabled Army's locker room. "We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success," read the telegram.
That 1944 game was a huge deal. Army's cadets could cheer on their squad again (they came by steamer to Baltimore, protected by five Navy destroyers). Army was great, featuring Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, aka Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. And if you bought tickets, you bought war bonds -- the game was used to raise money for the war effort. The gate ended up bringing in $58 million -- with single tickets going for more than $1,000 each and private boxes fetching $1 million.
Aim for the pumpkin heads
In 1962, Navy's receivers played the game in orange helmets, intended to increase their visibility as receiving targets. Navy won.
And my leadership skills include …
Former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot pulled one of the all-time great pranks in Army-Navy history. In 1975, Perot, Navy class of 1953, managed to sneak into West Point chapel the night before, and serenaded the cadets with a few tunes from the belfry: "Anchors aweigh, my boys …," followed by "The Marine Hymn" and "Sailing, Sailing." Perot was captured by cadets and handed over to military police.