- Rob Carr/Getty
- Army cadets and Navy midshipmen are faced off for the 119th Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend.
- “America’s game” is one of the most intense rivalries in college sports, and is steeped in tradition.
- Some of these traditions are on full display in the annual game, and include a “prisoner exchange” as well as hilarious taunts from midshipmen and cadets.
Since 1850, midshipmen from the Naval Academy and West Point cadets have faced off on the gridiron in the annual Army-Navy football game.
In the past 118 years, the rivalry that has developed between the two service academies has evolved into an institution of itself, rich with traditions held sacred by cadets and midshipmen as well as soldiers and sailors across the globe.
Read through to find out who the academies’ “prisoners” are, how mids and cadets taunt each other throughout the game and why – for several years – midshipmen carried brooms with them in the stadium.
Midshipmen always find a way to incorporate the sitting president into the game.
In 2005, they carried a life-sized cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush with them into the stadium.
Cadets and midshipmen usually bring signs with them to the game, which they use to taunt their rivals.
- Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
In 2016, cadets used a catchphrase of then president-elect Trump, who was in attendance, to taunt midshipmen.
Trump will attend Saturday’s game for the first time as sitting president, and will officiate the coin toss, according to the Associated Press.
Navy had the perfect response to Army’s taunt.
The taunts are a much-anticipated tradition for cadets and midshipmen.
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The cadets and midshipmen have to march on to the field before the game, so they have to find ways to hide any signs they may be carrying.
- Tim Shaffer/Reuters
They have to make them small enough to carry, make them out of material they can roll up or fold, or tape them together when they get to the stands.
The George W. Bush cutout? Sources say he had a place in formation and marched on the field with the midshipmen.
The brooms are a tradition of their own, but only for classes who can say they’ve seen four victories over their rivals.
Midshipmen held a 14-year winning streak against Army, so classes graduating in 2006 through 2016 can claim they beat Army all four years they attended.
Maybe someday Army can say they’ve had a decade-long streak. Until then, they’ll have to get creative with their taunts
- Rob Carr/Getty Images
In yet another tradition, soldiers and sailors around the globe create “spirit spot” videos supporting their team.
- Petty Officer 1st Class Arthurgwain Marquez/US Navy/Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One
Sailors from Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One recommend “Go Navy, Beat Army” spray to make Army fans go away.
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division fired a salute for Army cadets before the 119th Army-Navy game on December 8, 2018.
- Capt. Ed Robles/US Army/10th Mountain Division
The anticipated “prisoner exchange.”
- Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Every year, juniors at the academies have the opportunity to spend a semester embedded with their rivals.
The midshipmen and cadets reunite with their own at the Army-Navy game, when the schools conduct a “prisoner exchange.”
“Prisoners” are marched to the center of the field behind their “captors” before sprinting to re-join their classmates.
The prisoners traditionally use tape or signs in yet another taunt to their rivals.
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While on exchange, midshipmen and cadets are not actually treated like prisoners, though they do face some teasing.
Cadets call their midshipmen counterparts “squids” or “middies,” which midshipmen hate.
Midshipmen refer to cadets as “whoops,” a reference to the monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. It’s said that the costumes worn by the wicked witch’s flying stooges were designed after the uniforms worn by cadets at West Point.