by Maggie Phillips, Guest Contributor
It’s that time of year again. There’s a chill in the air, festive tunes have hijacked your local soft rock station, and the United States Military Academy and United States Naval Academy are getting ready to face off in the annual Army-Navy football game. This used to be a time of year to which I looked forward. The great-granddaughter, daughter, cousin, sister and wife of West Point graduates, “Go Army! Beat Navy!” was a common refrain I heard growing up. It didn’t matter that there hadn’t been an Army win since 2001, because every year, this year was going to be the year.
Maybe you can chalk it up to the naivete of youth. Now, nearing 30, maybe I just don’t have the exuberance needed to put on for my team anymore. And I’m just talking about watching it on TV. I certainly could not bring myself to get up before dawn, don multiple layers, and brave freezing rain at Lincoln Financial–standing the whole time–just to watch Army’s agonizing defeat unfold over the course of several hours (I did this more than once when my husband and I were dating and he was a cadet. I can only chalk this one up to “young and in love.”)
At this point, I am starting to suspect I may be experiencing the generational disappointment that would have been familiar to any Boston Red Sox fan prior to 2004. That dry spell lasted 86 years, so if you want to look at it from a “glass half full” perspective, I guess Army fans only have to deal with 73 more years of this. To paraphrase Ricky Bobby, with my diet and advances in medical science, it’s not unreasonable to assume I will be around at the impressive age of 110 to witness the blessed event.
So what is a loyal Army fan to do in the meantime? Cope, man. Commiserate. Come together as a community.
That is why I have compiled this list of the different stages of Army fandom. While it is drawn from personal experience, I hope the feelings described therein are universal. Let the healing begin.
9 Stages of Army Fandom
1. Let’s Do This!
You’re probably new to this. You’re either a Plebe at USMA, dating a cadet or gave birth to one. It’s OK. We’ve all done embarrassing things.
2. You don’t realize you’re living in a fool’s paradise.
Army does pretty well in the first quarter. Maybe even the whole first half. Heck, right up until the last few minutes you might be thinking the Black Knights could have this.
3. But you WERE living in a fool’s paradise. You WERE.
Despite all the promise of earlier in the game, Army is– once again– singing their Alma Mater before the Navy Midshipmen “sing second,” the honor reserved for the victors.
4. You briefly consider rooting for Notre Dame…
…just so you can know what it feels like to back a team that actually beats Navy.
5. This pattern recurs year after year.
Cronus, with his relentless scythe, chips away at your enthusiasm over time. You pretend not to care (but deep down inside what remains of your innocence whispers, “Maybe this year!”).
6. You resume daily life.
Children are born, people marry and are given in marriage. Army-Navy is just a distant memory. Until the next time you see or hear “Beat Army!”
7. Just kidding, that’s probably how you fantasize about reacting in your head.
We’re all still on the same side IRL. And given the Army team’s track record, a more measured response is appropriate anyway.
8. Finally, it happens. The straw that breaks the camel’s back.
One Army-Navy loss too many, and your poor, aging heart just can’t take it anymore.
9. But you know that some day, eventually, Army has to win.
All these years of waiting will be worth it when the Black Knights finally sing second.
E. Margaret Phillips who goes by Maggie has worked for the Army in different capacities for over 3 years, for both U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and for U.S. Army Public Health Command. She has been published in the United States Foreign Service Association’s Foreign Service Journal, and in the U.S. Army professional publication, Military Review. She is a mother of 1 year and counting, an Army spouse of 5 years and counting, and an Army brat of 27 years and counting.