As the Irish prepare for their 84th meeting with the Naval Academy, I noticed that this game is being billed as “The Rivalry,” by some clever marketers.
Not to discredit what Navy has done over the past three years, but it’s tough to call Notre Dame vs. Navy a rivalry, at least in the definition that’s listed in commonly acceptable places like… dictionaries.
Notre Dame is 71-11-1 in the 83 meetings, winning at an 85 percent clip. That’s a rivalry for the Harlem Globetrotters, but not a college football team. I know we enjoy branding and labeling things these days to make them easier for consumption, but Notre Dame vs. Navy isn’t a rivalry, in that these two teams aren’t rivals. Throw away the last three years, this game isn’t a rivalry, it’s an annual David vs. Goliath, or a free shot for a group of well-coached, undersized service academy athletes taking a shot at the blue-blooded establishment of college football. That’s an underdog story (a great one), but not a rivalry game.
All that being said, there’s more tradition and history in the Notre Dame-Navy “match-up” than just about any in the country, save Navy’s date with Army. The Irish have battled the Midshipmen in 13 different venues across the country, and will soon be taking the game to foreign soil, with Dublin, Ireland on tap for 2012. And while I can’t call this game a true rivalry, this Saturday’s game is one of the most intriguing on the schedule, especially after the post-game reaction from some Navy players.
Brian Kelly has shied away from mentioning last season’s loss as motivation because he doesn’t need to. Just about every guy on the Notre Dame roster remembers what that loss did to their season, and if they don’t, I imagine they’ll be reminded a few hours before game time. That’s just one of the many storylines running through this… well, anything but a rivalry.