Army-Navy Game 2011: 5 Coolest Traditions Surrounding the Game

Stix Symmonds@@stixsymmondsCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2011

Army-Navy Game 2011: 5 Coolest Traditions Surrounding the Game

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    If you want to talk about tradition, you'd be hard-pressed to find any institution with as much history and tradition as the two that face off in the annual Army-Navy game.

    A game of this magnitude has to have some pretty cool traditions, right?

    There certainly are some interesting ones. What makes some of them cool are the lengths cadets and midshipmen will go to in order to preserve these great traditions. Some are completely unique.

    There's also a level of mutual respect and admiration that isn't often found in other rivalries.

    Here are five of the coolest traditions surrounding the Army-Navy game.

    Special thanks to Erik "the Goat" Lord, a Navy veteran, for his input on these great traditions!

Prisoner Exchange

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    Where else would find a taking of prisoners? Well, the military of course!

    Where else would find students swapping schools for a semester just for a football game? Only the military.

    That's exactly what happens between the Army and Navy.  During their junior year, selected Mids and Cadets spend a semester "in enemy territory" attending the opposition's institution until game day, when they are returned to their own side during a prisoner exchange.

    How cool is that?

    This tradition is not only involved, it's mutually beneficial. The selected cadets and mids get a taste of life and training from the view of their brothers-in-arms. It fosters mutual respect and helps open the gates of communication between rival entities.

    This would be the equivalent of a Michigan student spending a semester at Ohio State.

Kidnapping Bill the Goat

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    There actually isn't just one Bill the Goat. There are typically at least two or three at any given time. Currently, Bill XXXIII and Bill XXXIV are serving as the mascots of Navy.

    That aside, it's not at all uncommon for students of rival colleges to attempt to kidnap their opponent's mascot. That's perhaps one of the oldest pranks in the books.

    What makes this cool is the lengths Army will go to in order to keep this tradition alive and well.

    Legend has it that a group of seniors in 1995 sneaked to the Maryland dairy farm where the Navy's mascots were being cared and kidnapped all three. The incident went all the way to the Pentagon, where official orders had to be handed down to get the goats returned to their home.

    A letter was supposedly sent out from the Pentagon stating that the kidnapping of cadets, midshipmen or mascots would not be tolerated. That didn't stop the West Point cadets.

    In 2002, cadets donning Grateful Dead t-shirts revived the tradition.

    Again in 2007, Bill XXXII, XXXIII and XXXIV were kidnapped under "Operation Good Shepherd." The cadets responsible went so far as to create a mini-documentary of their operation, which they posted on YouTube.

    Leave it to the Army to create an entire operation just to get back at Navy, and leave it to military programs to get the Pentagon involved in a couple of missing goats.

Spirit Spots

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    You want creativity? You have to check out spirit spots!

    Both Cadets and Midshipmen put a lot of thought and effort into creating short spoofs, typically of movies or commercials that they post on YouTube.

    Of course, they carry a "Go Navy, Beat Army" theme or vice versa.

    Some include song and dance, others are direct spoofs of popular media. They're very unique, though, and often very humorous. Go on YouTube and search "spirit spot" and you'll find several from both service academies.

The March-on

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    There's just something about people in uniform. Nothing tugs at the soul quite like seeing young men and women marching in sharp uniform with military precision.

    As each academy enters the stadium, they are line up in tight rows and columns, conscious of every movement, from the distance of their step to the arc and travel in the swing of their arms.

    If anyone has ever seriously conducted Drill and Ceremony drills, you would know that the amount of attention to your own body movements required is immense. When it all comes together, it's a spectacle of precision and discipline.

Honor the Fallen

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    I couldn't find a photo that appropriately fit this particular tradition, but I thought this was close enough.

    At the conclusion of each Army-Navy football game, the teams meet in the center of the field. Both teams first turn to the stands containing the fans of the defeated team, and they sing that team's alma mater. Then, both teams turn to the side of the victors and return the favor to their fans.

    It is a clear sign of solidarity and mutual respect. Compare it to the Red River Rivalry. It would be the same as having Texas and Oklahoma players standing at mid-field, singing each others' school song.

    Nowhere in college football does this happen outside of this game. It's the greatest display of sportsmanship you will ever see on a routine basis at a collegiate event.

    It is a reminder that, while the rivalry is as deep as any other in the nation, these two programs are ultimately on the same team. Away from the field of collegiate competition, they serve side-by-side in the deadliest game of them all: national defense.