A few random thoughts to get you through your Bye Week.
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Tag someone who needs Tickets ?☠️#ArmyNavyGame #SinkNavy #Giveaway #ArmyFootball
? EJ Hersom pic.twitter.com/zPkMg2l0GI
— As For Football (@asforfootball) September 24, 2019
1. Rat Poison!
Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts called a post from his own school’s Instagram account “rat poison” when it referenced the Sooners’ 3-0 start heading into their bye week. Hurts inspired a slew of Alabama-based jokes, but the truth is that it’s damned hard to maintain the kind of burning passion that creates greatness when the people around you can’t stop telling you how great you are.
The desire to stand on the bodies of one’s broken opponents, to prove to the doubters that they weren’t just wrong, they were stupid, to face all comers and scream, “Come and get some!”
That kind of drive doesn’t come from a place of sweetness and light.
Jalen Hurts tells @AschoffESPN he isn’t listening to that “rat poison” talk of Oklahoma being 3-0. pic.twitter.com/hWhG0GY8Xl
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 15, 2019
There is no amount of outside discipline that can create the drive to greatness. There’s no amount of gassers or suicide sprints that will ignite passion from complacency. In the end, greatness is self-determined. It’s tough because the better you get, the more folks want to chip away at your focus. Being great is as much about dealing with success and driving on as it is about achieving on the field.
Folks mean well enough. Americans love sport, and they want to be a part of big moments. They don’t just want to watch, they want to participate. They want to relive the triumphs. This is part of what makes sustained success so difficult.
Army Football is dealing with sustained success for the first time since the 1980s, and it’s natural that there will be some growing pains. How they deal with those growing pains will determine whether or not they achieve actual greatness or just glimpse its potential away in the distance.
2. Exploiting Mismatches
A basic tenet of tactical thinking says that we want to match our strengths against our opponent’s weaknesses. We see this in football all the time. Coaches scheme to get their biggest tight end matched up on an opponent’s smallest cornerback or to get their fastest running back matched up in space on an opponent’s heaviest linebacker. Those one-on-one mismatches create opportunities for big plays.
The issue for Army Football is that they have very few pure athletic mismatches, even against an FCS doormat like Morgan State. Sure, the Black Knights have some good players, but they don’t have very many who can consistently dominate their individual competition, who can create the kind of big-play explosiveness that has become commonplace in the Big XII and the upper tier of the SEC.
Instead, Army has soldiers. As it turns out, soldiers make for smart, disciplined players who can be counted on to be in the right place doing the right things correctly, even in complicated situations.
That is this team’s strength. Amazing consistency of execution is the one mismatch that this Army team can bring to bear on almost anyone.
That’s why it’s so maddening to watch this team make mistakes. Because we all understand that they’re not, for the most part, going to out-run or out-hit their opponents. They either execute with precision to grind against an opponent’s will and eventually break their spirit, or they struggle.
So far, it feels like we’ve seen a lot of struggle.
3. New York’s Team?
Army Football ran a slogan a few years ago that said, “Closer than you think.” Because Michie Stadium is an easy drive or train ride up from New York City. I hated that slogan because it didn’t seem like the Academy was celebrating its strengths in trying to draw new fans to the game day experience, but at least they were trying.
I haven’t seen any ads on the train this year at all, and despite three years of sustained success, it still doesn’t seem like folks in New York are talking more about their local college team than they were back in the bad old days.
It’s disheartening, honestly. There’s a lot going on in the City, of course, but it’s not like folks are unaware of college football. Somehow, though, it seems like we’re still just reaching out to Boy Scout troops and alumni while leaving the great, uninformed mass of potential fans to maybe find us if they look hard enough.
I honestly don’t know what to do. As For Football has a reasonably strong social media presence, and I talk about it and Army Football endlessly in my daily life. I’ve taken maybe two dozen people to their first Army Football games. But it’s damned hard to reach out to folks who just aren’t looking, even if they would be interested if given half the chance. Meanwhile, I’ve personally been to two games this season, and even with class reunions and whatnot, the stadium has been at most two-thirds full. Some of that is down to the match-ups, maybe, but there’s also an element of outreach.
Americans love a winner, and Army’s been winning. They’re located just north of an urban area with twenty-five million potential local fans. That’s enough to keep two separate pro football teams easily in the black, even when they’re terrible.
I mean, there’s got to be an opportunity here, right?
4. Favorite Plays
Here are a couple of my favorite plays this season. We’ll start with the team captain doing what team captains do.
It’s worth noting, too, that SB Artice Hobbs is having a good season so far.
AFF Play of the Game: @chris___13 connected with @twotwo_iv for this 80-yard pass and catch to the endzone. ?☠️ #BeatTulane #ArmyFootball
This Play decided with help from the AFF Firstie Club! Join by becoming an AFF Patron. Link in BIO. pic.twitter.com/ZZaIr3G343
— As For Football (@asforfootball) September 22, 2019
Finally, where would we be without team captain CB Elijah Riley?
5. No More Style Points
Army Football doesn’t always play its best as a heavy favorite. We’re mad about it this year, but it’s not anything new. The team plays a style that’s apt to keep games close, all other factors aside. A couple of mistakes can have an outsized impact when you’re relying on three yards and a cloud of dust to score all your points. Alas, this has left us grading the team on style points in their last few games.
The good news, then, is that the time for style points is over.
I honestly don’t know if Army can beat Tulane. The Green Wave looked legitimately great in their opener, reasonably good in their loss to an outstanding team from Auburn, great again in their FCS win, and more-than-just-good in their come-from-behind defeat of Houston. Tulane comes into this contest feeling supremely confident. They are not going to beat themselves, and that’s a lot more than we can say for Army’s earlier opponents, Michigan included. To win, the Black Knights will have to play disciplined, hard-hitting football against a team that is itself very disciplined and hard-hitting. What’s more, Tulane matches up very well with Army. Their strength is their D-Line. Army sometimes struggles with that. Nothing stops the Black Knights’ offense faster than an inability to get movement at the point-of-attack.
But friends, at least style points don’t count. Not anymore.
Even if Army wins by just one point in the ugliest game imaginable, we can still party like it’s 1999.
Regarding outreach, even in my units/organizations, most people’s complaints are that Army’s style isn’t interesting and they think it is boring. I think that is the truth with a lot of casual fans of the game who essentially want a tackle variant of basketball. I think there are only three things that can be done about this:
1. Make it super easy to go to a game. There are a couple of ways to do that including the boat cruise/game combo that is already available. An express lane and organized parking. The last is the one I’m not sold on…making games at times other than 1200. This is contentious because this is, and rightfully so, a decision by the leadership on the part of the Corps. Just like Rice was played on the Friday before Labor Day, this is meant to allow those (unmotivated/lame) cadets who aren’t football fans to have the minimum impact on their weekend. I’m a fan of this because 1. We can always be the highlight of the early TV schedule. I don’t think we will EVER compete with Clemsons, Texases, and USCs of the world for the primetime night slot 2. It is better to have the reluctant “fans” only not like Army football rather than (like when I was there) having the cadets actively hate Army football by screwing their entire weekend with a Saturday night game against San Jose State.
As a last point, while it’s been a long time since I’ve last been to Michie, I hear the stadium isn’t in great shape. Sure we have a new scoreboard, but if the gates are still a log jam, the food still sucks, and the place looks shabby old (instead of 14’s Century, granite fortress, badass old) that won’t help our cause either.
2. Player better teams in Michie. BEST THING EVER that Oklahoma decided to do something UCF can’t even do with an IN-STATE team: schedule a home-and-home. Now we don’t need a ton of FBS blue bloods, and maybe even not every year, but I think more folks would come out to see Army play Pitt or BC than for UMASS and VMI.
3. Be a CONSISTENT Top 25 team. Like you said…America loves a winner. I plan to be more vocal in the (facebook) Firstie Club, but it is a very complicated issue getting into the Top 25. If you can be there year after year, you are now more than a novelty and “worth mention.” Reference Boise State and UCF. You can now be a “Group of Five” underdog contender rather than a team having a good year. It tooks navy years (and a couple of wins over Notre Dame) to even get ranked.
Bottom line is that West Point was established as a bastion to keep people out, not a fair ground. This isn’t fair since the other late-comers to the military academy game are in locations that weren’t once in danger of capture by foreign enemies and thus needed to be in an uninviting location. There’s also the romantic vision of the navy/Air Force that we have to contend with. But if we can overcome the obstacles of geography and (ignorant) perception by the GAP, we can finally expand our fan base.
I don’t agree that Michie is “terrible” shape. There are some bottlenecks, but it’s a fun experience overall. I wouldn’t go if I didn’t enjoy it.
As for outreach, I mean, have we tried putting The Jeff Monken Radio Show on SNY or YES rather than KnightVision.TV?
Sorry, meant to add this to point #2, but Army vs. Michigan was one of the first Michigan games to sell out. If you have two good teams play, people are going to want to watch it. There is the ongoing debate between the easy-schedule-good-record camp and the tougher-schedule-worse-record camp, but the numbers don’t lie. People ain’t gonna come out to watch us play UMASS but they would be willing to see us play Syracuse.
First, I really enjoy reading your articles and tweets. I think Matt S. comment above is pretty powerful: “Make it super easy to get to a game.” Somewhere somehow there is a “lack of capacity” issue. Is it a good local hotel, ease of stadium entry, general transportation and parking, or enough seating to play better teams in Michie? On all of those points I think there could be solutions that eliminate a major constraint. I don’t think that trying to get the population of New York City committed to our Rockbound Highland Home’s football following is going to result in increasing the fan base.
I think if you look historically at the Army Athletic Association you see changes over time with each new athletic director. I think many of those initiatives were complete wastes of effort. (Arbitrary and ever changing deadlines for tix, marketing campaigns, name and branding changes) Even now….hearing an announcer say : “Army West Point”- gives me a moment of clenched teeth. My folks bought me a “Lifetime” Membership to the AAA upon graduation which really had no benefit after a few years.
While there may be numerous solutions, I think one that could work would be outreach by AAA to USMA Graduates. We are tiny compared to schools that crank out 10 to 15 times the number of graduates, but a solution to compel more graduates to attend more home games would be a start. What if instead of calls for donations and campaigns for money there was a campaign to get graduates to home games (and not just for a reunion)?. Something like: “We want you here.” I am not a marketing person, so I don’t have good marketing slogan ideas, but having a campaign designed to make it easy for graduates could put a whole bunch of butts in the seats. Ultimately, maybe there is a data solution to the question of why more Grads don’t attend and why more folks don’t “adopt” West Point to be part of what I believe is the best venue and college game day. As an aside, I was at Texas A&M 2 weeks ago and the experience from drive to parking, walk to stadium, security to ticket check, and concessions to seats was seamless, with no line.
That’s really interesting. Thanks for the comment. I gotta think about that.
I’d seriously consider season tickets if I could figure out how to swim across the river from the Garrison Metro North Station.
All joking aside, I am a Manhattanite who already loves Army Football (not a grad, but family of a few), so I have nothing helpful to offer in the advertising conversation. But….
About once a year I rent a car to bring a few friends to a game. And I’d love to get other, bigger groups of friends to go more often…… But renting a car is not cheap here, a car only fits a few people, and quite frankly none of us wants to drive. This year, we’ve opted for the Seastreak (Beat Tulane!) and think that will be a fun experience over the car for a change. But it isn’t really ideal to do ALL of the games that way- it’s expensive, and you get little to no extra time to wander around before or after the game (and no parade). Then there’s the cab to and from the Peekskill train station— this also seems way less than ideal. (Maybe I’m wrong!?) If anyone has any better ideas, I’m all ears.
Ultimately, I just wish there was a ferry the public could use from Garrison. Sigh.
It’s a crime that they don’t run that shuttle boat anymore.
How can we expect them to do outreach for new fans if they can’t even keep current fans/Old Grads informed on stadium experience upgrades? Literally the only reason I knew the video board project was going on was through following coaches on Twitter.
Several years ago our athletic site would run stories about new signage or even new turf at the stadium… what happened?
Love your content!