From the department of caring a bit too much about borderline unwatchable football games (GC, can we get a tag for that?) comes John Feinstein (above) in this morning’s Washington Post, who apparently watched all of Saturday’s Notre Dame/Navy game with a tear in his eye, a bump in his sweats and his Navy press guide open. Frankly, I’m impressed he watched the whole thing, period, but…
It may be difficult for an outsider to understand, but the Navy football team’s 46-44 triple-overtime victory over Notre Dame on Saturday may rank, at the very least, a close second to (the 1980 Olympic hockey team’s) storied miracle on ice. This was a miracle on turf. Notre Dame had beaten Navy 43 straight times, dating back to 1963 when Roger Staubach
was Navy’s quarterback and officers in the military made salaries comparable to those of players in the National Football League.
It was before Vietnam, before Iraq, before any high school athlete who had any notion that he could play in the NFL someday ran screaming from the room at the thought of attending a college with a five-year post-graduate military commitment. It was, in short, a very different world.
Skeptics will point out that this is a bad (now 1-8) Notre Dame team. It doesn’t matter. Every Notre Dame team should dominate Navy on the football field. At one point during the game, NBC — also known as the Notre Dame Broadcasting Co. because it pays the school millions of dollars a year to televise all its home games — did a promo for a high school All-Star game it televises in January. Only the country’s top-rated high school seniors are invited to play.
“Twenty-one of the current Irish players have played in that game in past years,” NBC play-by-play announcer Tom Hammond said.
That would be exactly 21 more than are currently playing at Navy. Or, as Hammond’s partner Pat Haden pointed out: “With all due respect, Navy doesn’t get to recruit blue-chip football players.”
Just blue-chip people.
Later in the piece, Feinstein finds time to mention that one of the hindrances to Navy football recruiting is “the chance to get shot at when you graduate.” Which is good, because otherwise it’d be easy to look at Feinstein’s wild sentimentality and and see a guy spinning his wheels and plumping up his adjectives in order to get around the complicated contextual issues involved in talking about armed services football in a time of war.
That doesn’t mean that a sports-related editorial (or sports-related blog post, if you want) necessarily needs to address the foreign policy issues of the day or make explicit the less-metaphorical combat into which these tough and admittedly admirable Navy athletes will soon find themselves tossed. But that context does make the over-ripeness of the whole thing a bit worse-smelling, at least to my nose. Also, is it really a miracle when any D1 team beats the program that entered the game 119th out of 119 D1 teams in offense?