The word "awesome" gets thrown around a lot on the internet these days. The word literally means "extremely impressive" and "inspiring," and there's a lot about the Army-Navy Game that fits this description, even when the teams aren't having a great football season.
Most of these awesome events happen before the first play is even called. To see some of them, you might have to go to the game in person. But whether you watch them live on the field or in the comfort of your own living room, they are all an awesome spectacle.
1. Special Uniforms
For every Army-Navy Game, each service academy honors an aspect of their service, history or individual units by donning a new uniform created just for the big game. In the past, Army has honored the 25th Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division, World War II-era paratroopers and the Big Red One, the 1st Infantry Division. Navy has worn uniforms to honor the Naval Academy chapel, its 1960s-era Midshipmen team and Bill the Goat himself.
The 2021 Army-Navy Game uniforms for the Black Knights features a Nike design called "United We Stand," honoring the U.S. Army's Special Forces Command. It has design elements dating back to World War II and through its role in the 2001 Invasion of Afghanistan. For Navy, its alternate uniform will honor the service of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
2. The March On
Any college football fan can watch their marching band take the field with precise facing movements and exhaustively practiced formations, but only fans of the Black Knights and the Midshipmen can watch their entire school take the field that way. Before each Army-Navy Game, all attending cadets and mids march onto the field, then march off to take their seats.
For fans of the teams, it's an awesome sight to see thousands of future American soldiers, sailors and Marines display their discipline before the game. For alums, it evokes the memories of their time attending the game, because they likely performed "The March On" themselves.
3. The Prisoner Exchange
A handful of West Point cadets and Annapolis midshipmen are chosen every year to spend a semester studying at their rival academy. Seven cadets and seven mids participate in the Service Academy Exchange Program, along with the Air Force and Coast Guard academies.
Before every Army-Navy Game since the program began in 1975, these 14 soon-to-be-officers are marched to midfield for the "Prisoner Exchange," which allows them to sit with their fellow fans during the game before heading home.
4. The Flyovers
A lot of football games, both at the college and professional levels, can get military flyovers. We've seen F-16s, C-17s and helicopters of all kinds fly over arenas during sporting events, so that's nothing new. The Army-Navy Game's annual flyovers are something else; it's an impressive display of military power.
The Army-Navy Game gets flyovers from both branches of service and has included the Navy's Blue Angels, Army Apache helicopters from the Long Gray Line, the Navy "Leap Frogs" parachute team, the Army "Golden Knights" parachute team and more.
5. Honoring the Fallen
This is one tradition viewers are unlikely to see at any other college rivalry football game. When the annual Army-Navy game has a definite winner, the winning team will face the fans of the defeated team and join them in singing their alma mater. After the winning team serenades the losing fans, both teams join to sing the winner's alma mater.
The tradition of the winners singing first to the losers of the game is why you might see some of the signs behind the ESPN College GameDay pregame set that read, "Sing Second."
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