By Master Sgt. Doug SampleDecember 8, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 8, 2010) -- You won't find two bigger fans of the Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, on Saturday, than former cadets Bob McClure and Morris Herbert.
Although both retired colonels would love to see Army (6-5) end its eight-year losing streak against the midshipmen, they say the Army-Navy game, which attracted more than 80,000 fans last year, is as much about the spectacle of the event as it is about winning or losing.
"No college sport contest rivals the Army-Navy game," explained McClure (Class of 76), who played center for the Black Knights and now serves as president-CEO of the West Point Association of Graduates. "The pageantry, the history, and the intensity of both teams and both institutions, it's all wrapped up in one.
"The Army-Navy game has become a huge reunion," he added. "I'm going to see people there that I haven't seen in years, and certainly since the last Army-Navy game. It's become a major social event as much as a football game. It's become a special place for Americana."
This American-military tradition has provided some great moments in football for a die-hard Army fan like Herbert, 83, (Class of 1950), who became hooked on Army football in 1936, at the age of nine, after listening to his first Army-Navy game on the radio.
In 74 years of following the game, Herbert said the 1995 contest was the greatest ever. In that matchup, the Black Knights marched 99 yards from their own 1-yard line to score with less than a minute to play and beat Navy 14-13.
"It was a tremendous effort that was finally set up when we had to make a fourth and 24 to get a first-down on the Navy 28-yard line," Herbert explained the play. "And we passed for that first down, and then scored a touchdown a play later. To me that was the greatest game we ever played and certainly it was the greatest drive ever."
Second best game on Herbert's list is the 1950 Army-Navy game when Army beat Navy 38-0 to cap an undefeated season.
"It was a great thrill because most of the players were classmates, people I knew well on the team," said Herbert.
McClure, of Atlanta, Ga., however, points to Army's victory in 1972. He was a freshman center on the team that miraculously blocked a Navy field goal that was returned for a touchdown and a 23-15 victory.
There were special, and sometimes odd, moments off the field as well, the cadets recalled.
McClure remembers the 1974 game when the commander-in-chief and 38th president of the United States walked into the Army locker room.
"And so President (Gerald) Ford comes into the locker room - he'd only been president for about three months - to give a pep talk to the players. We were playing in JFK stadium (Philadelphia), which at the time was one step removed from the Roman Coliseum in terms of age and decrepitude. And here we are in this stinky and dank locker room and in comes the president of the United States. And I'm thinking: 'Boy I bet this doesn't happen every day.'"
McClure noted the president's pep talk did little to muster the cadets who lost miserably to Navy that day by a score of 19-0.
Meanwhile, looking back, Herbert said an incident at the 1963 game could have ended his military career.
"We had lost that game when we were unable to score in the last minute of play on the Navy one-yard line. It left us feeling pretty bruised. And as we walked off the field we exchanged words with a couple of Navy commanders," Herbert said, jokingly. "Thank goodness it didn't end in a fight because that would have surely ended some careers right there."
Right now, however, all thoughts are on the big game. And McClure and Herbert, like thousands of 'Go Army' fans, are hoping and praying this will be the year the Black Knights earn victory.
"The important thing I think is that it is a game of where both teams are determined to win at all costs on that one day a year," Herbert explained. "For the rest of the year, Army and Navy are the best of friends."
If Army wins, Herbert said the scene at Lincoln Financial Field will be indescribable.
"Everybody will simply go wild," he said. "With eight straight losses, there isn't anyone at West Point, any cadet that has ever seen Army beat Navy, so this is going to be very special for them. It's exciting enough when you beat them in basketball and baseball, but nothing compares to a football win."
"Navy has been rubbing it in for a long time," Herbert said. "It will be very exciting when it happens, and it will sooner or later."
An Army win would also be a great feeling for Soldiers everywhere, added McClure.
"Our Army has done a huge amount of work for the nation in the past several years," he said. "Many of our graduates are overseas doing the nation's work as we speak. It would be an incredible sense of accomplishment for the fans, our players, and particularly our Soldiers."