SPORTS

This is why cadets have shouted "Go Army! Beat Navy!" for over a century

The annual Army-Navy football game is intense. And though the players will be doing their best to out-maneuver and out-muscle the opposition, the competition extends well beyond the field. The fanbase of each service academy, which includes the troops and veterans of their respective branches, rally loudly behind their team with a single, unifying phrase: "Go Army! Beat Navy!" Or, for the sailors and Marines, "Go Navy! Beat Army!"

As creative and ambitious as the smacktalk has become in recent years, the phrase never changes. And that's because these rallying cries are nearly as old as the Army-Navy game itself.


The tradition of military academy fans shouting out, "Go [us]! Beat [them]!" can be traced back to some of the earliest Army-Navy Games. It's unclear which side started the tradition, but both teams were shouting their own versions of the simple phrase as early as second game, long before the sport of football became the mainstream cultural staple it is today.

Over the years, the phrase remained unchanged. The only variations come when a West Point or Naval Academy team faces off against the Air Force Academy or the Royal Military College of Canada. It doesn't even matter if the team is facing off against a university unaffiliated with the Armed Forces — they'll still add the "Beat Navy!" or "Beat Army!" to the end of their fight song.

Which I can only assume would cause confusion (and maybe a bit of jealousy) from the players of Notre Dame.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs)

The plebes (or freshmen) of each academy are also expected to be fiercely loyal to their football team at every possible occasion. At the drop of a hat, a plebe is expected to know how many days are left until the next Army-Navy Game. They're also only allowed to say a handful of accepted phrases: "Yes, sir/ma'am," "No, sir/ma'am," and, of course, "Beat Navy/Army."

Plebes are also expected to finish every sentence or greeting with a "Beat Navy" in the same way that an Army private adds "Hooah" to pretty much everything. It doesn't matter if it's an in-person meeting, e-mail, phone call, or text message. They better add "Beat Navy" to the end of whatever point they're trying to make.

Plebes who don't follow this would presumably do push-ups and add "Beat Navy!" after each one.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs)

In the end, it's still a friendly game between the two academies. They're only truly rivals for the 60 minutes of game time. The phrase is all about mutual respect and should never get twisted. Years down the line, when the cadets become full-fledged officers, they'll meet shoulder-to-shoulder on the battlefield and joke about the games later.

The rivalry is tough — but isn't it always that way between two siblings?

Go team! Beat the other team!

(West Point)