Football is just a sport, right? Surely it would not be the result of tensions shared because of armed warfare. Right?
It would? Well, okay. Let’s see how that happened.
Everyone growing up in the Midwest region of the United States that follows the sport has heard the stories surrounding this game.
Take, for example, legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes. Hayes would commonly make a stop just south of the border between Michigan and Ohio, usually within the Toledo region, to make the necessary gas stop needed to reach Ann Arbor, Michigan.
When Hayes was asked why he always made the stop just south of the border, and never across it, Hayes shared his thought process behind the decision.
“We do not pull in and fill up. And I’ll tell you why we don’t. It’s because I don’t buy one drop of gas in the state of Michigan. We’ll coast and push this car to the Ohio line before I give this state a nickel of my money.”
Where did this hostility come from?
It stems back to 1836 before American football had even been invented. The state of Ohio and the state of Michigan were locked in a contentious dispute over the economically significant Toledo Strip.
After neither side conceded the strip, the two states turned guns toward each other. The scuffle is now known as the Great Toledo War, and although only one person was wounded in the official battle, the bitterness remained between the bordering states.
Fast-forward to 1897, when the powerhouse University of Michigan took on the flagship Ohio State University. While Michigan went 13-0-2 in the first 15 matchups between the two schools, Ohio State went on to win three straight from 1919-1921.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the two schools did not meet during the 2020 season, which broke the 102-year streak of the annual series being played.
The annual tradition of Army-Navy is so strong, a full Saturday is reserved on the college football calendar for the matchup.
One of the few sporting events around the world where the pre-game and post-game emotions are as powerful as they are during the game.
The game is played annually in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, except the 2020 season, in which the game was played at Army.
With too many traditions to account for, it can be simply said that even non-football fans should tune in at least once to view the pride and passion present on an Army-Navy game day.