Rivalries in any sport are always fun but that especially seems to be true when it comes to college football.

It’s probably because of the passion so many collegiate fans possess. Many fans get downright fanatical about their favorite team. We all know fans like that. Maybe we are one as well.

Some of the storied college football rivalries across the country include Alabama-Auburn, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Ole Miss-Mississippi State, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Florida, USC-UCLA, BYU-Utah, Virginia-Virginia Tech, Georgia-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan and Washington-Washington State to name just a few.

One of the more underrated and underappreciated rivalries in college athletics is probably Harvard vs. Yale. Each year these games are played with passion by the players and cause fans to become even a little more fanatical when it comes to the outcome.

Football rivalries are also special at the high school level as well as the pros. The Falcons-Saints rivalry dates back decades and remains intense today. The Cowboys-Steelers NFL rivalry was huge in the 1970s with some Super Bowl matchups although that rivalry seems to have cooled some.

However, the greatest rivalry in college football, and all of college athletics for that matter, has to be Army-Navy.

Any college football fan with any sense of patriotism has to respect everything this game and this rivalry represents. These student-athletes represent all that is great about competing at this level. Student-athletes do not attend the service academies with dreams of playing professional football although a few do go on to the pros.

For these players, their life calling is much higher and we should all appreciate that.

Words could never truly do this rivalry justice although John Feinstein’s book from several years ago probably does as good of a job as anyone could.

There is no rivalry in college sports which means so much to those who may not even consider themselves diehard football fans. The players for Army and Navy are not only competing for their teammates but for every player who came before them as well as anyone who has ever served in these branches of the military.

There is probably not a football game (other than the Super Bowl) that is followed as closely around the world as this one is each December. On military bases around the globe, our servicemen and servicewomen gather around televisions and watch every play with an unmatched intensity. Even on Naval ships, the game is a big deal as those serving take in the game either on television or radio.

And as heated and passionate as this rivalry is, an almost magical thing takes place once it is over. Players gather together on the field as both fight songs are played. They do everything in their power to emerge victorious in the game, but when it is over they know they are truly part of the same team.

In a time where our country continues to be as divided as ever, fans do take sides in this rivalry contest. However, it is nice to have a rivalry where the petty bantering back and forth does end when the game does.

This is what college athletics should be all about and why it will always be the best rivalry surpassing all others. It’s fitting that this game is held on a day when no other college games at this level are played.

Having a great rivalry is not about who has the most five-star recruits on the playing field. It can be, and should be, about things much more important than that.

Things that are more important to the sport and to our country as a whole are what should dictate the best college football rivalry and that is what we have with Army-Navy. The football games between these two service academies are typically close (even when one has a much better record going into the contest for a particular season.)

In leading up to this year’s clash, Navy rushed through Houston while Army fell on the islands to Hawaii.

The teams for Army and Navy will compete again on Saturday, Dec. 14. We’ve already seen some compelling events in rivalry matchups (that Ole Miss-Mississippi State ending was certainly bizarre) but Army-Navy has my vote for the best regardless of sport or level. As always, it will be fun to watch.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for the Barrow News-Journal.He is a multi-time winner for sports and column writing from the Georgia Press Association, National Newspaper Association and the Georgia Sports Writers Association. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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