Off the Yard 7: Mail, Road Trip and a Mission

This week marks the first time I had more Army fans than Navy fans respond to my column. I appreciate the feedback, even if it is to tell me that I'm as irrelevant as Paris Hilton in a political debate. The greater majority of fans weighed in on some of the subjects I brought up in Volume 6 including the Notre Dame debate and of course the one topic that won't go away – the Army study group.

Before I get to my latest reflections on all things service academy sports related, let me share some of the comments I received this week.


Gary from Bel Air, MD would vote for George Chaump as the worst coach in Navy history, "He spent 11 years under Woody Hayes and learned nothing…he kept us suffering with that horrible Swiss cheese defense."  Gary, who graduated USNA in 1960, also said that he wants Navy to continue to play Notre Dame.  "I want to beat Notre Dame more than Army."  He predicts the streak will come to a halt in Dublin, Ireland in 2012.


Chris from Stafford, VA played for Navy in the mid 80's and he would never advocate discontinuing the series.  "From a player's perspective you play Notre Dame because they represent what is supposed to be the best about college sports.  They are supposed to be the single candle burning brightly in the hurricane winds of the minor league for the NFL."  Chris also predicts that the day will come when Navy beats the Irish and as a result, a celebration of epic proportions will engulf Annapolis.  


Rich from Anaheim, CA is a 1989 West Point grad who also believes Navy should play Notre Dame every year.  He says that as long as Navy has Paul Johnson, the Mids have a chance to "sneak up on (Notre Dame) and hold on in the 4th quarter."  As far as his cadets go, Rich believes that any coach who brings Army to a bowl game will "get the next version of a tank named after him."


Paul from Huntington, NY is also a 1989 West Point grad who shared some of his opinions about the study group and his overall displeasure as a fan.  Paul's comments were echoed by a few other Army fans in shorter tirades, so I'll try to summarize them.  According to a handful of fans, Michie Stadium may be one of the worst stadiums in Division 1-A football – or as one fan argued, "it's worse than some high school stadiums."  The conditions, according to Paul are deteriorating every year.  For example, one fan said that if it rains on game day and you are waiting for food in the "covered" concession stand area – bring your poncho with you because "covered" does not account for the leaks in the roof.  As for the study group, Paul said the "bunker mentality" shouldn't surprise me.  He referred to West Point as having an impenetrable "inner circle" and if you're out of it, well, you're out of it.


As always, I appreciate the feedback, and since the feedback is increasing, I have decided to open a new email address for all of your comments.  So from now on, if you want to share your thoughts, send an email to  I'm in negotiations with Google about a possible corporate sponsorship – I can't imagine why they wouldn't be interested in advertising that they are the "exclusive" email address of Off the Yard.


A Road Trip to West Point?


As for the comments I received, first let me say that as a boy growing up in New Jersey, I used to go to Army football games with my grandparents and all of their senior citizen cronies.  It was about a 90-minute bus ride and I was usually about 65 years younger than everyone else on the trip – including the driver (scared me to death going up some of those mountain roads).  My grandmother used to always rave about the parade before the Army games – which incidentally, I always found pretty boring.  As a seven-year-old, I thought parades included fire trucks…and each time I went, yep you guessed it, no fire trucks were in the procession. 


I also remember sitting on bleachers that were not very comfortable.  My grandfather used to bring one of those cushion seats with a back for support.  Needless to say, I was pretty amazed to hear from Army fans that the bleachers are still the best seats available at Michie Stadium.  There has got to be a big-time (rich) West Point graduate out there somewhere who can donate some seats with backs on them.  I'm still holding out hope that season ticket holders on the 50-yard-line have seat backs.  Anyone have good, current photos of Michie Stadium?  One Army fan wanted me to post some with my next column.  Heck if an Army fan wants me to send him/her a disposable camera, drop me an email and during the season I'll share your photo journal with others who can't get to West Point for a game.  Maybe I should just go and find out for myself.  How would a three-year-old do at a football game?


Questions for Coach Johnson


Media Day (July 30th) is fast approaching and is planning unprecedented coverage of the event (me and a tape recorder).  And even though I have been filling my brain with possible questions for Coach Johnson for several months, I may have room for a few more.  So if you have a burning and perhaps unique question to ask the coach, send it to  If they are better than mine (long shot), I'll take credit for thinking of it and I'll ask him it.


Summer Training Profiles


Also planned in the coming weeks are some of those feel good stories I had hinted about in Volume 6.  I hear it's true that Midshipmen and Falcon football players don't sell cars during the summer (sorry Sooner fans).  I'll share with you all a glimpse into what it is like these days during summer training for the future leaders of the military.  Personally, I remember spending four weeks trying to throw fellow Mids out of a bear pit at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico - in August – now that was fun.


Looking for a Few Good Army and Air Force Fans


Finally, are you an Army or Air Force service academy football fan and have knowledge of not only your school's team but the other two as well?  Are you looking to weigh-in on the upcoming season?  If so, I may have a special mission that may be of interest.  Send me an email with your service academy resume of football acumen and you might just get picked for this special detail.  The Navy fan has already been identified for the mission and let me tell you, he is pretty psyched about the role he is going to play…especially the part about possibly getting to meet Jessica Biel in person. 


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