Three dodoes in blue jeans knelt at the 10-yard line. They carried cups full of blood. As if praying, they turned their eyes upward. Then they poured the blood onto the football field and walked away with the cops. This was done, they had announced by leaflet, to denounce the "male will to conquer." This Army-Navy football game, they said, was an evil precursor of nuclear war.
There having been no nuclear war since, the three stooges may be judged to have saved the world. However, no one was instantly appreciative, for as the police led away these members of the "Atlantic Life Community," the paying customers in Veterans Stadium did not shake down thunder from the skies. Perhaps the 50,000 devotees of the male will to conquer did the same thing Terry Huxel did: watch in silence, burning all the while.
"It was pretty poor," said this wide kid from Cincinnati who wants to be a fighter pilot for the U.S. Navy. "What really frosts me, and I thought about this when I saw the three of them on the field, is that I'm willing to sacrifice my life so that people like that can come out and pour blood on a football field."
Huxel is a 230-pound middle guard, practically a cripple with two bad ankles and yet a valuable co-captain of this Navy team. "It really bothers me that anyone would stoop to those ways to get across a point that only a few people believe in."
There was, Huxel said, a unanimity of opinion during the act by the Atlantic Lifers. "Everyone thought, 'Let's go out there and knock 'em around,'" Huxel said.
Happily, no player from either side moved toward the demonstrators.
That much was predictable. For as certainly as football is a war game -- a characterization with as many redeeming virtues as demeaning -- Army-Navy is the best and brightest of the breed. These are real students with real ideas about the real world. No one goes to Army and Navy to get tall and strong so they can demand a million bucks from the Cowboys. They are real athletes, too, asking as much of themselves as the quasi-pros at Southern California and Ohio State, Alabama and Oklahoma.
"Army is an emotional game for us," said Frank McCallister, an offensive guard, who is Navy's other cocaptain. "It always has been and always will be. There was a lot of emotion out there today. What kind of emotion, I'm not sure. Hatred?"
McCallister considered the idea.
"Not hate, not really. Just something strong."
Real students, real athletes and real emotion turn college football's war games into unrivaled pieces of competition that make so many demands in so many ways that every player is the better for having tested his will to conquer. The score today was inconsequential. Navy won, 33-6. What mattered most is that once again the colleges showed that they can, without lying, cheating and dealing with Mephistopholes, put on a truly amateur show worth the price.
As always, Navy came to its little war game fully prepared by George Welsh, its coach. Eight times now, Welsh has taken Navy against Army, and his team has won seven times, the average score being 31-6. With former defensive back Fred Reitzel settling in as quarterback and with tailback Eddie Meyers running resolutely (and eternally, toting the ball 30 times today for 144 yards), Navy was so much Army's superior today that even the Army coach, Ed Cavanaugh, confessed the Cadets have miles to go.
"Navy has a very good football team and they beat the hell out of us," said Cavanaugh, who is the fourth coach Army has tried against Navy's Welsh. "We've got a long way to go to catch up to them."
Twice today, Army failed on desperate fourth-down passes from punt formation. It fumbled a handoff on its own 17-yard line, setting up the first Navy touchdown. It couldn't decide which player ought to catch a Navy kickoff in the third quarter -- and so nobody did.Navy rolled up 440 yards total offense to Army's 144.
Searching for kind words about his opposite numbers in the long gray line, McCallister said he noticed that this time the Cadets were at least trying.
"You could see in their films last year, that they had given up in a lot of games and just quit," McCallister said. "That's because their coach (Lou Saban) wasn't trying, and once your head coach gives up on you, you're in trouble. But today they were trying all the way. They were very competitive. That's why I got up at the team meeting and said what I did this week."
McCallister told his Navy teammates that Army was better than its record (3-6-1) showed, that it had won, 47-23, over an Air Force team that beat Navy 21-20, and that Army would be readier than in a long time to beat Navy if the Midshipment let down the least bit.
Now that Army was vanquished in this harmless, glorious little war game, blood pooled in a crevice on the bridge of McCallister's nose. The crevice is a lineman's mark, dug out by the helmet being shoved down. A knee brace hung at his ankle. He could barely walk because of the tendinitis in both knees.
McCallister and Huxel were in lockers side by side. They both want to fly fighters for the Navy. "I could see those three demonstrators coming onto the field," McCallister said. "Them Nimrods should be locked up. Lucky thing for them they didn't come down to our end of the field. I have an idea a couple guys would have taken a shot at them."
Huxel has the ankles, McCallister the knees. One is 22, the other is 23. "We're the two most old, most broken-down captains Navy ever had," McCallister said to his buddy Huxel, who laughed and said, "The doctors are going to have so much fun putting us back together."
And if the doctors don't fix up Huxel well enough that he can fly?
"I'll go into intelligence," he said.
The dodos in blue jeans wouldn't like that, either.