Or so they thought.
Judging by the amount of e-mails I got this week from Navy fans regarding my story that appeared in Wednesday’s edition of The Gazette, the Midshipmen have exactly what they need to play the “they-don’t-respect-us” card.
The article explained that while the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is still “a key element” of the Air Force program, according to first-year coach Troy Calhoun, it is no longer the team’s number one goal, as it was when Fisher DeBerry was the coach. Competing within the Mountain West Conference and earning bids to bowl games now rank right with winning the trophy.
Of course, those Navy fans who e-mailed me interpreted the article as: “Air Force doesn’t care about the Navy game.”
Um. … OK.
It’s reminiscent of last year when, after the Falcons' game against the Midshipmen, Navy coach Paul Johnson referred to what he perceived as repeated slights made about the Midshipmen from the Air Force camp.
“You get tired of hearing it every year,” he said after Navy’s 24-17 victory, its fourth straight in the teams’ series. “I thought our guys did a real good job this year of not saying anything. Every day we’d pick up the paper, we’d see something about, it’s embarrassing to lose to us, we’re the luckiest team in America, we’re this, we’re that. It gets old after a while.”
Reporters in the press box searched their notes after the game and came up with only one comment that could be construed as such – then-junior Noah Garguile said the Falcons’ losing streak to Navy was “an embarrassment.” Not losing to Navy, mind you, but losing three in a row. Nonetheless, Navy was insulted. (Side note: In the “Last Year” section of the game notes released this week by Navy’s sports information department, Garguile’s comment was mentioned in the first sentence!)
Frankly, I find the “nobody respects us” routine tired. Remember when the Pittsburgh Steelers tried to use it in the Super Bowl a couple years ago? They were the FAVORITES! But nobody respected them. Sure.
Which brings us to this week’s pick by the BlogDog.
For Navy fans who might be reading this blog for the first time, here’s some background: As a beat writer, I am not allowed, per The Gazette’s policies, to predict the outcomes of games involving the team I cover. But I love prediction columns, so my dog, Norm, is picking the games.
Here’s how he does it: I put a mini-replica Air Force helmet and the mini-replica helmet of the opponent the Falcons are facing that week in front of Norm. Whichever one Norm goes to first (best three out of five times) is the one he thinks is going to win.
If Norm picks the same helmet three times in a row, he’s thinking blowout. If he chooses one team three times and the other team once, he’s thinking the game will be decided by about seven to 10 points. If he chooses one team three times and the other one twice, he’s predicting a close game.
One problem: Because I only have helmets of teams from the Mountain West Conference, I had to improvise this week. So I wrote “Air Force” on one piece of paper and “Navy” on another.
Norm went to the Navy paper first, then Air Force twice in a row. Then Navy. Then, after circling both pieces of paper … went to Air Force.
Now, Norm does not have any sort of allegiance to Air Force (nor do I, contrary to what many of the e-mails I received this week inferred). And if anything, you could make a stronger argument that Norm is biased against Air Force because of the amount of time I have to spend at the academy during the season (time that I can’t spend throwing his tennis ball).
But Norm knows his reputation as a prognosticator prohibits him from holding grudges. So he’s not a fan of Air Force (evidenced by the fact that he’s picked against the Falcons twice this year), and he's not a fan of any of his opponents. He never went to college, so he doesn’t have an alma mater. The only football team he roots for is the Washington Redskins, though he has a bit of a problem with the team’s inherently racist nickname and imagery.
Anyway, all that said, I’m sure word of Norm’s pick will spread across Annapolis and be used by the Midshipmen as motivation. (“Look at this! Even a dog doesn’t believe in you guys!”)
And if Navy wins and proves the BlogDog wrong, I fully expect this type of post-game address from Navy’s Johnson: “Well, that’s five in a row, spin it any way you want to spin it. I guess Air Force will say we got lucky. And so will that BlogDog. Yeah, we saw his pick. We read about it. We know he turned his back on us. And let me tell you something: Nothing gets these guys fired up more than a reporter’s dog picking against them. From the moment he put his paw on that piece of paper that said “Air Force,” well, you can believe these boys were ready to play.”
Norm’s Pick: Air Force 31, Navy 27
Norm’s Record: 3-1