Soldiers, sailors carry on Army-Navy football tradition in Europe
NAPLES, Italy — It may not be as old as its namesake, but Naples’ Army-Navy flag football game has at least some of the tradition and all of the pride of the college version.
While the game is about tradition, it’s also about winning. Navy entered Sunday’s game having won the 2003 game, but Army won the previous two.
“You know we’ve got this one,” said a confident Navy running back Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Coleman before the game.
For Lt. Keith Galloway, a 1996 Naval Academy graduate, the desire to win was especially strong.
“I never beat Army at the academy, so this is personal,” said the former Midshipmen safety.
“It’s always fun to get out and run around and play football and beat Army,” said Galloway’s teammate Alex Murray, who is also an academy graduate.
Lt. Col. Rob Cairns, Army’s lone playing U.S. Military Academy graduate, said that though the Army-Navy game tradition revolves around Cadets and Midshipmen, this game is about all soldiers and sailors.
“We’ve got officers and NCOs here,” he said. “It’s sort of built around the academy game, but this is an [all-ranks] Army team and [all-ranks] Navy team.”
But stripped of history, pride and tradition, the game is still about one thing: “The reason we’re here is to win,” Cairns said early in the first half.
Navy took an early 6-0 lead but Army tied the game just before the half.
“I’m disappointed,” said Navy fan Antonio Hall at the beginning of the second half. “The score should be 28-6 … they’ve had three interceptions in the red zone.”
Hall’s 8-month-old daughter, Aja, slept on his chest.
“She’s for Navy,” Hall said. “They let her down in the first half, so she had to lie down.”
Within minutes Navy jumped to a 14-6 lead on a touchdown and a safety. Despite the Navy lead, Army cheerleader Staff Sgt. LaTorcha Grant wasn’t discouraged.
“I think we’re going to come back and win,” she said.
Grant and the other cheerleaders were clad in black shirts lettered with “Go Army” on the front and “Beat Navy” on the back.
But the cheerleaders and large Army crowd wasn’t enough. Army gave up two more scores, eventually losing 27-12.
“I’m disappointed,” said quarterback Sgt. John Hood. “We didn’t play to our potential.”
But Hood said he was impressed with part of Army contingent’s performance.
“Of course the spirit of our corps was of key importance to our Army family,” he said
“[Even with] 145 Army [personnel in Naples] compared to 6,000 Navy, we had more fans and support.”