One of the coolest aspects about my last 16 months working at Army West Point has been my exposure to the most fervent rivalry in college sports: Army/Navy. While the rivalry plays itself out across all the sports teams (our 25-point comeback at Navy to win the Alumni Trophy was particularly sweet), the passion and intensity is best displayed on the gridiron. For those that have an interest in learning more about the Army/Navy game, I highly recommend John Feinstein’s A Civil War. A good coaching friend of mine has his team read the first chapter (“Brotherhood”) aloud each year before the first practice. With “America’s Game” set for 3 PM in Philadelphia this Saturday, I wanted to share with you my favorite anecdote from the rivalry. And oh yeah: Go Army! Beat Navy!
Those two words seemed to follow him off the field, up the tunnel, through the locker room and onto the team bus. Those two words would become his legacy, a larger-than-life one, because, when he was called on to explain them during a press conference that lasted less than five minutes, he unwittingly made himself into a hero.
As a plebe, a midshipman is allowed three answers when addressing an upperclassman:
“No excuse, sir.”
The last is a critical part of training at the academy. If someone else spatters mud on your boots, you do not explain that to an upperclassman when he demands to know why they’re muddy. You simply say — you must say — “No excuse, sir.” No one else is responsible for your failures. And so, when the media offered Bucchianeri excuses: the wet field, the angle, the pressure, perhaps even the hold or the snap, he kept shaking his head and saying — in essence — “No excuse, sir.”
“I missed the kick,” he said repeatedly. “I did my best. I tried. I missed the kick.”
In an era when athletes blame everyone and everything for their failures, Bucchianeri’s simple “No excuse, sir” became national news.
For more on the Army/Navy rivalry:
-Jeff Monken has built Army into a winner (LINK)
-John Feinstein’s fantastic book on the rivalry: A Civil War (LINK)
-Andrew King: For our brother (LINK)
-The Streak: Why Army lost 14 straight (LINK)