It’s usually the only game on the college football schedule come the second weekend in December. A contest steeped in tradition, it captures the nation’s attention — and its hearts.
Army vs. Navy. There’s nothing like it on the American sporting landscape. Forget the Giants-Dodgers or Yankees-Red Sox in baseball. Give a wave of the hand to Duke-North Carolina in basketball. Bears-Packers? Cowboys-Washington? The NFL doesn’t come close.
There’s hate in all rivalries. But the other intangible — respect — is what separates Army-Navy from the others.
For 60 minutes, sometimes longer, the two service academies try to kill each other. Emotions run high, both on the field and in the stands. Yet, when the final gun sounds, the two teams stand together, shoulder to shoulder, first at the loser’s end of the field, then the winner’s, and listen to the alma mater of each school.
The memories last a lifetime. Those who played take the glory or the grief to their graves. The heroes are immortalized on their respective campuses.
Come Saturday, Army and Navy will meet for the 121st time. But unlike the usual neutral site of Philadelphia, this year, they’ll play at Michie Stadium, the picturesque 23,000-seat home of the Black Knights which sits on the bluffs of West Point overlooking the Hudson River.
The record shows that Navy has a 61-52-7 advantage in the series. It also shows the Midshipmen won the last time this game was played at West Point back in 1943. In fact, Navy is 3-0 in games played against Army on the Cadets’ home field.
As of Tuesday, the game was still a go. Army was installed Sunday morning as a 4-point favorite (total 41.5) at Circa Sports and the line quickly moved up to -5.5, then -7. It is one of 43 games on the college football slate in Week 15. But given the volatility of the schedule this year with numerous games being canceled due to the coronavirus, the service academies won’t mind sharing the stage. They’re just glad to be playing at this point and maintaining tradition.
Chuck Esposito, the race and sports director at Sunset Station, said it will be a bit different from years past.
“When it comes to the Army-Navy game there is so much history surrounding this game,” he said. “Anytime either in pro football or college football we have an isolated game it always generates tremendous handle and enthusiasm as this game has in the past. “Although there will be other games on the board this year in comparison, and this isn’t a standalone game. I still feel it will draw a lot of interest from the bettors. It’s just the spirt, history, rivalry, pride and bragging rights of this game that make it so special. Personally, I love watching it.”
As for the point spread, Esposito admits there will be some influence from not playing at Lincoln Financial Field this year.
“I made Army a six-point favorite,” he said. “With the game being moved from the neutral site, I’m thinking there will definitely be a slight adjustment in the line. You have to think about the fact that this is the first time Army has hosted since 1943.”
Esposito said he’ll be watching and the game will find a dominant spot on the big-screen TV’s in Sunset Station’s sportsbook.
“I’m sure the hype and atmosphere will be unbelievable that day in West Point,” he said. “This game still means so much to so many people and is most certainty one of college football’s most cherished events.”