The season couldn’t feel any better, any more optimistic for the Navy since we will once more take reign of something so close to our hearts. Tomorrow’s game between the Naval Academy’s Midshipmen and Army’s Cadets of West Point has been played since 1890. We have met Army 118 times since then with annual games occurring since 1930. Navy leads the series 60–51–7. Since 2002, the Army’s only wins have been 2016 and 2017.
Believe it or not, NAS Lemoore is linked to a piece of Army-Navy game history. Our airfield, Reeves Field, is named after the “Father of Carrier Aviation,” Admiral Joseph Mason “Bull” Reeves. Admiral Reeves is known for his role in integrating aircraft carriers into the Fleet as a major part of our Navy’s attack capabilities.
Along with a brilliant mind, Midshipman Reeves was revered as a stellar football player, even a football hero. It seems the young Midshipman Reeves’ forward-thinking, along with a doctor’s strict orders, led to the invention of the modern football helmet.
Those years on the gridiron, both at the Naval Academy and during his high school years, made necessity the “mother” of his invention. It is widely reported that Midshipman Reeves was advised by a Navy doctor that another kick to his head would result in “instant insanity,” or even death. The Naval Academy’s football star had a shoemaker create the leather head covering.
While played with an incredible amount of mutual respect, one of our Country’s favorite football rivalries is fiercely intense. Even the mascots (Navy’s Bill the Goat and the Army Mule) have been known to play pranks on each other. The Cadets live and breathe the phrase “Beat Navy,” while Midshipmen live just the opposite with the phrase, “Beat Army,” (even the weight plates in the Navy weight room are stamped with “Beat Army”). They both have become a symbol of competitiveness, not just in the Army–Navy Game, but in the service to their Country.
A long standing tradition at the Army-Navy football game is to conduct a formal “prisoner exchange” as part of the pre-game activities. The prisoners are the Cadets and Midshipmen currently spending the semester studying at the sister Academy. After the exchange, those students have a brief reprieve to enjoy the game with their comrades of like service.
So, when you settle in to watch a favorite college game of the year on Saturday, remember our heritage and the impact Admiral Reeves had on the football field, Naval Aviation, and our own Reeves Field.
While these Service Academies are intense rivals on the football field, they are even more intense comrades who serve with a common purpose of protecting the greatest Nation on the planet. I could not be more proud to serve alongside each and every one of them.
Enjoy one of the most traditional and enduring rivalries in all of college football!
Go Navy, Beat Army!