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Nobody asked me, but ...

By Drew Markol, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The greatest rivalry in sports has turned into, at least for those folks under the age of 30, a not so good one on the field.

When Army and Navy square off on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, it will be the Black Knights of Army desperate for a win.

Seemingly forever, this game was decided by a point or two with neither side able to dominate for too long, which makes for a great rivalry.

But for the last decade, an eternity in this series, the Midshipmen have been smiling and singing Anchors Aweigh after another rout of the Black Knights.

Navy has won 10-straight games in the series and twelve of the last 13. The Midshipmen have taken a commanding 56-49-7 series edge in the 112-year old matchup and look primed to add another win come Saturday afternoon.

And, since the two academies, and Air Force, all basically recruit the same kind of athlete, the team that keeps winning gets the better of the crop every year.

Add in the fact that a West Point graduate serving his five-year commitment after graduating could end up on the front line in a war makes recruiting that much more difficult.

(Yes, yes, I know Navy and Air Force grads also end up on the front line, but a higher percentage of Army ones do).

So, in a game where any edge is a big one, Navy consistently getting the top players from the same pool shows on the field.

In their 10-straight victories, Navy has dominated in nearly all of them.

Last year, Army gave its fans some hope when it lost by just six points (27-21) but the previous nine have been ugly.

The Midshipmen have won those big with the closest margin being 12 points.

Will things change Saturday? Will Army get its 50th win in the series and rejuvenate the Corps of Cadets and their fans? Like anything, we'll just have to wait.

No matter what the final score is, neither side will be accused of a lack of effort and that helps to make it as wonderful as it is.

Some scoff when this game is referred to as the greatest rivalry in sport, let alone the greatest rivalry in college football.

To those folks, after I'm done chuckling, I just ask one question:

If this game means so little, why, when the opportunity arose four years ago to bid for the game, seven cities threw their hat in to play host?

Your biggest rivalry, against the hated school from across the state or across the state line, would draw interest from two cities looking to host the game.

Now there's nothing wrong with that. Rivalries are what make college football great (although with all of this conference realignment we're losing too many good rivalry games) and give fans something to look forward to at the end of the season.

But Army versus Navy does more than cross state lines, it crisscrosses the entire country.

Whether you watch the game or not, you likely know somebody who was or is in the Army or Navy.

If you live in Texas, the odds are pretty good against you knowing somebody who went to Ohio State or Michigan.

And the best thing about the game, from purely a football sense, is that there are no delusions of grandeur among the players.

Every couple of years an Army or Navy (and Air Force Academy) player makes the NFL, but those birds are rare. The players on both teams play the game for simply the love of the game.

Their time in the 40 is not of life and death significance like it is for the players at the football factories. They only need to be a little faster than the Black Knight or Midshipmen trying to catch them.

And when they're done playing, and then graduating, they go and serve their country. If you can find something more honorable than that, please let me know.

Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia- area newspapers for over 25 years.

12/06 10:22:02 ET

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