Army-Navy spirit spots: The good, the bad and the goats
By Kevin Lilley
What began with a few cadets or midshipmen, or maybe a public affairs officer, and a point-and-shoot camera has turned into the cinematic event of the year for Army and Navy fans, as both teams trade spirit videos across the web in the run-up to Saturday's game in Baltimore.
While we at Military Times haven't seen any 2016 spots that will rise to the level of entrance in a film festival, there are plenty of spotlight-worthy clips to share. check out these more comprehensive lists, and then click below for some senior leaders, standout film-making ... and the occasional puppet.
What: That's Army Secretary Eric Fanning, blowing the whistle on the so-called "Gridiron Directive," which has been in place since the early 2000s and, apparently, forces Army West Point to throw the Army-Navy game each year so sailors don't come down with a fatal case of service envy.
Pro: The vignettes are well-produced, and Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, the U.S. Military Academy's superintendent, is a welcome addition to any spirit video.
Con: Plot is far down the list when it comes to spirit spot priorities, but we're supposed to believe the Gridiron Directive stayed in place for 14 years without anybody letting the cat out of the bag? You'd think former Army head coach Rich Ellerson would've at least mentioned it in passing. Speaking of ...
What: That's not Rich Ellerson, but DoubleBond Production has brought back their doppelganger for another go-round. It's a bit shorter than the 2014 version, but retains the key elements: Outrageous pro-Navy statements from a former Army football coach, and a nod toward Lincoln car commercials.
Pro: The parody is dead-on, to the point where viewers are left waiting for Matthew McConaughey to wander out and start up his inner monologue.
Con: He doesn't. Probably busy with a bigger-budget offering. Speaking of ...
What: A training exercise serves as a platform for a cinematic dig at sailors.
Pro: The cinematography far surpasses a typical spirit spot, and the voice-over makes it stand out as an all-timer.
Con: The "spirit" portion is all but tacked on to the end of the piece. Rivalry fans might want something that features more head-to-head competition. Speaking of ...
What: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus battles a slightly younger competitor in a classic board game. It doesn't go well.
Pro: Brief, straightforward and with a simple message: The streak shows that beating Army has been child's play.
Con: The piece doesn't show the range of Mabus, an established TV and film star. Not all high-ranking military leaders have his on-camera resume. Speaking of ...
What: A rare joint operation featuring Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, poking fun at one another with the help of some mascots.
Pro: The piece shows the value of legacy equipment -- specifically, the modified "kick me" sign on the back.
Con: Past years have included much more sniping at the four-star level. Also, more foam hats, for a more fun-loving atmosphere. And horses and goats. Speaking of ...
What: If Sesame Street has taught us anything, sometimes the best points are made by puppets.
Pro: Minimalist in approach, the film already has made fans over at the Army-Navy game's official spirit spot contest, where it's been named a finalist.
Con: Crafty cinematography offered by other spirit spots may leave low-tech entries like this one in their wake. Speaking of ...
What: They're not exactly Little Rascals, but they're close -- a unique retelling of the traditional mascot-kidnapping, on a smaller scale.
Pro: Even if the kids weren't cute or the action wasn't an admirable throwback to sepia-toned TV hijinks, it's nearly impossible to screw up anything with "Ballad of the Green Berets" as its soundtrack.
Con: Should probably come with an not-safe-for-work warning -- not for any content issues, but because fellow service members and/or office-mates may question your mental state if you laugh, cry and "awww" at the same 193-second video.