Thirteen years. The current magic number for Navy; the nails-on-a-blackboard number for their academy brothers to the north.
Given the choice, most coaches would rather win than lose. If there’s one who espouses otherwise, he’d be forcibly removed from campus. His next job would likely include cleaning out the gorilla cages in the Bronx Zoo.
But if there is one benefit to losing – preferably a lengthy losing streak – it could be a tendency (maybe just subconsciously) on the part of the perennial winners that losing is not just unlikely, but damn-near impossible. If any team has earned the right to exercise that form of aloofness, it’s Navy. Thirteen straight victories over Army could produce such a mentality.
“There’s a different mindset, but it doesn’t always make it easier,” said, Monken said, whose team will plays its play its 116th game against the Midshipmen Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. “The team that hasn’t been winning can certainly have a real chip on their shoulder with something to prove. I hope we play that way, with something to prove. There’s also a sense of confidence that a team has when they’ve been winning just as they have and in any rival. When I was a part of the other program [Navy], we had lost to Notre Dame 44 years in a row and we went there and beat them finally, but it took 44 years to get that first one.”
Thirteen years doesn’t qualify as a curse, of course. You have to be in the multi-decade region to have it so classified, as was the case with the New York Rangers and the Red Sox, as the Cubs still remain. But it can begin to qualify as a self-fulfilling prophesy. Army vs. Navy. Navy always wins, right? Why – how – should we be the team to snap that streak?
“The team that is favored doesn’t always win and hopefully that will be the case this Saturday,” Monken said. “I know that nobody is giving us a chance besides us, but we are the only ones that matter. We are the ones playing the game. Our guys believe and they believe in each other and I believe in this team. We have come close enough in enough ball games this year for me to feel like I’m not absolutely crazy in thinking we are a much better football team than 2-9. But I don’t think that matters for this football game. They are physically talented, they are a good football team and a well-coached football team. I have great respect for them, but I don’t think we have a football team with a bunch of zeros. Guys who can’t play, can’t tackle, block or run the ball. We have guys who will play really hard and give us a chance on Saturday.”
From year to year, each team has different players, sometimes different coaches, but so have the Cubs, and look at them. They’ve gone 107 years. It seems unlikely Army’s losing streak will reach that level into the next century, but…. So what happens first – an Army victory over Navy or condos on Mars?
“It’s been 13 years, and it’s kind of getting out of hand,” Army linebacker Jeremy Timpf said. “I think we owe it to a lot of people too win this game.”