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America’s Game

America's Game Hed

Click To Enlarge – Photo by Bob Grip

By Phil Hecken

The annual Army/Navy game has come and gone, and for the 12th straight year, Navy emerged victorious. But it’s really much more than just the annual end-of-season game for both squads. Aside from the fact that a good number of the players, and those in attendance, will possibly be sent in harm’s way in the not-too-distant-future, the game is a spectacle. Pageantry. And (casting aside whatever one’s feelings may be towards war, the military and fighting in general), it’s always a great end to the regular season.

I’ll just touch on a few of the things that take place before, during and after the game. You can click on any of the photos below to enlarge.

Leading up to the game, there is always the annual “BEAT ARMY” and “BEAT NAVY” shenanigans (and even some in-game ads):


It’s especially fun when Naval vessels spell out BEAT ARMY with signal flags (which are also placed on the back of the Navy helmet).

The game is rife with pagentry, and yes, they do, unabashedly, refer to it as America’s game.


The Middies and Cadets fill the stadium, waiting for the pre-game festivities. Some even make some great pre-game history of their own (she said “YES” btw):


Once all are assembled, the flyovers begin. I’m not sure if there is a particular order, but this year Navy went first, with their fighter jets, followed by Army with the choppers.

The teams then take the field, again, this year Navy was first, followed by Army. Once the teams take the field, the glee clubs of both Academies assemble midfield to sing the Star Spangled Banner.

Middies & Cadets

One part of this game was a slight break from tradition, as the coin for the opening game toss would have been used in 1963 (the year President Kennedy was assassinated only weeks earlier); that coin was saved, and it was used this year. Nice touch.

You’ll notice it was overcast, and it was beginning to snow — something that is a relative rarity for the A/N game. And the snow kept coming and coming throughout the first half (and much of the second). By halftime, it was a virtual blizzard, which made running key and passing next to impossible. Punts were an adventure, and almost impossible to see (yes there is a ball in the middle of that image). Halftime interviews showed a virtual winter wonderland. The field lines and hash marks were impossible to see. Unfortunately, there was a solution at the ready:

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 9.50.29 PM

The teams slogged through, although Navy was never seriously challenged. They won going away, and there were many great “snow game” moments and other assorted shots from the game (you can see more here).

Once the game is over, there is one last tradition. Both sides serenade their mates with their school’s alma mater, with the loser going first. For the 12th straight year, Army had the honor of going first. Then, in a really cool tradition, the winners sprint to the opposite side of the field, where they sing to their own classmates.

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 10.03.47 PM

It’s a time of joy and camaraderie for the victors, for whom many this will be their last trip to the Linc.

So there you have it — America’s Game. Love it or hate it, it’s a great way to end the season.

Next weekend, we go bowling.


colorize this

Colorize This!

Occasionally, I will be featuring wonderful, high-quality black and white photographs that are just begging to be colorized.

Just one colorization today, and it’s from George Chilvers, one of our oustanding colorizers.

Click on image to enlarge.

. . .

Duncan Colquhoun 1954 color - George Chilvers


Just one this week (for reasons read on) – this is the Wigan Athletic team (then non-League) before a 1954 FA Cup tie against First Division Newcastle United. Wigan fans still dislike Newcastle after this – the main stand had burnt down and was being rebuilt, as you can see in the background. Newcastle complained about the standard of the changing facilities being provided by this non-League team in such difficult circumstances.

Of course it is now approaching 60 years since this happened, and the little team of Wigan are unbelievably now the FA Cup holders, and playing in European competition. If this is published on the weekend of 14-15 December then I will still be in Slovenia, where I watched the game on Thursday. Never ever in my wildest dreams did I ever think that would be something I could do or write about! :)

Best wishes

. . .

That’s it for today. Great work, as always, by George. OK colorizers, let’s keep the colorizations coming!


Too Good For the Ticker

Too Good…
…For the Ticker

On Wednesday, I Tweeted about an article written by Cork Gaines, entitled, “In 1995 The NFL Unveiled Some Bizarre Mascots That Were Never Seen Again”. Our Thursday Ticker-er, Mike Chamernik, posted that as a Ticker item, and one of our readers, Hungry Hungry Hipster saw it. Before we go further, take a brief moment to read the article AND look at the photos of the crazy mascots.

HHH followed up with me by E-mail, since he was well aware of the mascots and had more information to share:

In (Thurs)day’s ticker there was a link to an article about short-lived “zany” NFL mascots that appeared at the 1995 Pro Bowl. Since you were the submitter of that ticker item I thought you’d appreciate the info and attached photos … you’d include in a weekend post or weekend ticker. These mascots were actually a series of characters called Team NFL Heroes which were created in 1994.

Here’s a writeup he provided to UW:

Upon seeing these mascots I instantly recognized them as being the same characters featured on some Team NFL branded erasers I have had since the mid 90’s. These characters were officially called Team NFL Heroes and were introduced in 1994 and appeared on various merchandise like school supplies (pencils, markers, rulers, etc.). Stuffed animals were also made of them. (You can actually very clearly see a patch on the sleeve of the Falcons character in the very first photo of the article that says “Team NFL Heroes”.) It is very possible that they were created as a mascot overhaul of the entire league because they certainly DO look like mascots; however K.C. Wolf is among them and has been the Chiefs’ official mascot since 1989. But like it says in the article the Cowboys character DID become the team’s official mascot in 1996. So who knows what the real deal is with these characters.

The article says the dog character pictured represented the Browns but on my erasers he actually represented the Saints. The Browns actually had a different-looking dog character. A picture of him isn’t included in the article but he does appear on one of the erasers I have. Photos of them are attached. I have every NFL division except the NFC East but now thanks to the Business Insider article I now know what those teams’ Heroes looked like, except for the Giants and the Cardinals.

One interesting thing about these erasers is that since they were made in 1994 it was the first year that Jaguars and Panthers merchandise was produced. So not surprisingly, the Jaguars prototype wordmark appears above the Jaguars character. HOWEVER, above the Panthers character it says “PANTHERS” in a generic varsity font. I have never seen this font on any other Panthers merchandise before and it is not shown in the wordmarks section of the Panthers page on

Awesome stuff, HHH. Here’s a slideshow of the images he sent in to me (if you can’t see the slideshow, here is a link to the set):

THEN…he followed up with more of the backstory:

All the packages of erasers have the same info on the back (I took a pic of that as well and is attached). It says the line of Team NFL Heroes pencils, markers, erasers, and rulers were made exclusively by Lanir Trading Company out of Needham Heights, MA. At the bottom of the back of the package it says you can write to the company for more information about the Team NFL Hero Line. I wish I saw that back in the 90’s because I totally would have written to them! Who knows what they would have sent me!

I also attached some pics of “Fins”, the Dolphins hero character, as a stuffed animal. He was made by a company called Stuffins out of Brielle, NJ.

Since the Team NFL Heroes made an appearance at the Pro Bowl as mascot costumes it makes you wonder if there was more planned for them besides just being made into stuffed animals and appearing on school supplies. I’m sure NFL Properties still has info about them in their records. I still say it is entirely possible that they were developed as a league-wide mascot overhaul, since many teams in the mid 90’s still didn’t have mascots. Some interesting and mysterious aspects to this theory are how the Chiefs hero character, K.C. Wolf, first appeared in 1989. He is indeed the official mascot of the Chiefs, so if the Team NFL Heroes weren’t intended to be mascots for the teams, why is he included as one of them? So this makes me lean towards the idea that the Team NFL Heroes were actually prototypical mascots and only a couple of them caught on. For example Rowdy, the Cowboys’ mascot, was officially adopted as the team’s mascot in 1996 but he originally made an appearance at the 1995 Pro Bowl as a Team NFL Hero and appeared in merchandise dated 1994. Another example is how the Broncos hero is named Miles, and then eventually the Broncos introduced an official team mascot named Miles around 2000. (Miles the Hero was an orange horse but Miles the team mascot is white.) The 49ers hero, Niner, looks A LOT like Sourdough Sam, the official team mascot. The design of at least one Hero was altered and the name changed: the Saints hero is a dog named Big Daddy, and today the Saints’ official mascot is a different looking dog named Gumbo. (Gumbo is supposed to be a St. Bernard, which is interesting because Big Daddy looks nothing like a St. Bernard. However it is worth noting that the Saints used to have a live mascot St. Bernard dog at their games.) And I just noticed that the Chargers hero and the Houston Texans mascot (which didn’t appear until 2002) are both bulls named Toro! Looks like NFL Properties likes to reuse their ideas! Why reinvent the wheel, right? Speaking of the Chargers possibly having a bull mascot, it makes me wonder two things: 1) What would the Texans have chosen as a mascot if Toro the bull Hero had been adopted by San Diego first in the mid 90’s, and 2) why the heck did NFL Properties think a bull would make a good mascot for a team named the Chargers that had only used horse and lightning bolt imagery on its uniforms and logos throughout its entire history??? I’ll admit the theory I’m about to tell you is an odd one but it gives credence to an urban legend. You know that story how the Chargers owner picked that nickname for his team because he was in the credit card business? Well, a bull mascot may have been chosen as a tongue-in-check reference to that tale, because “Charging Bull” is the name of that massive bronze bull sculpture on Wall Street!

Also worth noting is how all the Team NFL Heroes wear number 0 on their jerseys, except K.C. Wolf, who has a Chiefs logo on his chest, and Big Daddy, whose beard covers his jersey so we can’t see what number he is wearing. Another thing: the Raiders hero is a child pirate named Darth. Did NFL Properties really think George Lucas would let that slide since it seems like during Raiders games they always show a fan in the Black Hole wearing a Darth Vader costume on TV??? And last but not least, the Oilers hero and the Jets hero are African American. If these characters did become the official mascots of these teams, would they have been the first African American sports team mascots at any level of competition ever??? If mascot costumes were made of those two characters for the 1995 Pro Bowl, let’s hope they didn’t have white guys get inside them!!!

Great stuff, and thanks for the writeup!


ticker 2

Uni Watch News Ticker: Not a lot of submissions from Saturday, so it’s Old School ticker today.

Reader Nik saw these “weird” NBA Jerseys at Just Sports the other day. Um, yeah. Anyone know anything about these? Just fashion jerseys, right? … Three today from TommyTheCPA: Northside High football team keeps green flowing; New devices, practice habits aim to curb concussions in high school football; and from Esquire, The Many Ways You Can Cover Your Head – Best Hats for Men. … Nice find from Jerry Kulig: Get a load of the crazy ass snowflake, maybe it’s their version of the “camo” snowflake uni. “Can you find the Spartan in this picture?” … Here’s a good (but sad) photo of the demolition of Shea. … I think I may have found the perfect birthday present for Paul. No? … The Knicks continue to think their orange alternates are bad luck (thanks to Tom Mulgrew and Paul). … Also from Tom, the Wheelchair icon revamped by guerrilla art project. … Penn State hoops wore these gorgeous throwbacks yesterday (h/t to Brian McQuiston). … “The don’t-give-a-fuck shoe for those who secretly do” (from Douglas Ford), and here is a great hat from those iconic shoes. … We’ve already seen it, but here is a full photo gallery of the Cincinnati Bearcats Red/Chrome helmet they will wear in the Belk Bowl vs North Carolina (nice find by Doug Smith). … New York baseball fans can rejoice at the sights of Carlos Beltran as a Yankee and Bartolo Colon as a Met. … The Bridgeport Sound Tigers had pink rink night yesterday, with *thanks* to Stan Capp. … From Brinke comes this “Make the Logo Bigger” thingy. … Here’s Obie the Orange in Clemson for the Men’s BBall game vs. Furman, who were wearing a blacked out uniform with white lettering and purple stripes on the shirt and shorts (Brian McQuiston again). … From yesterday’s comments: UnderArmour is not going to mess with Auburn’s jerseys for the BCS Championship (posted by Mike). … Mako Mameli came across these photos of the Oakland A’s wearing the Liberty Bell bicentennial patch in 1976. Says Mako, “I know nothing about baseball but I think it’s because they started as the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901.” … Evan Miller found it interesting that the player Mack Brown is embracing shares the first initial and last name of the now former coach. … “Looks like the Mavs were wearing their Stars and Stripes shooting shirts as part of their Seats for Soldiers promotion on Saturday night,” says Brett Crane. … Looks like UK is getting new football gear (for next season, since the won’t be going to a bowl this year). That was likely set up for recruits visiting campus. Similarly, Ark State had their full uni component on display for next year’s class. … The Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) wore wore throwbacks last night (h/t to Chris Creamer). … And finally, it looks like Evansville Aces have new orange sleeved jerseys, which is interesting since they were the originators of sleeved jerseys back in the day (and if they weren’t the first, they were one of the first), and even had a throwback night in 2007 celebrating those sleeves. Now, lots of teams have them. … Tim Thomas with multiple set ups used this year. Bottom left was only used in warm ups one day (good spot by Nick Griffin).


That’s it for today everyone. You guys have a great week and enjoy the league where they play for pay today. Remember, we get the extra special treat of seeing the greatest uniform in the history of the NFL on display today. Have a good week and I’ll catch you next weekend.

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.


.. … ..

“I am anxious to see all the big time recruits Army and Navy get after wearing these unis today. We all hear kids love them and it helps recruiting.”
–Larry Bodnovich

Comments (42)

    Another thing: the Raiders hero is a child pirate named Darth. Did NFL Properties really think George Lucas would let that slide since it seems like during Raiders games they always show a fan in the Black Hole wearing a Darth Vader costume on TV???

    Well, I don’t know what George Lucas thought about it, but the name of “Darth Raider” goes back a bit further than the NFL Hero mascot thing:

    All I know is I was covering the Packers in the 90s, and I never saw that polar bear mascot anywhere. (I remember the other set of kids mascots from a few years earlier – have forgotten the name but the Green Bay one was Packy Packer, and fans in Green Bay thought it was totally ridiculous.)

    Based on googling for Packy Packer, that previous group would be the NFL Huddles, but I never knew they had names. I still have the Raiders version sitting on my desk next to my printer.

    Ugh, the only other time I saw that Steelers mascot was in something for NFL Films where Bill Cowher denounced it. And this was before the team had Steely McBeam.

    We can do without both.

    For some reason, the Chris Creamer tweet about the Griffins’ throwbacks seems to be missing (I can’t find an entry on his timeline). However, I did find the Griffins’ official flickr page for the game in question.

    The throwbacks were for the Grand Rapids Owls, a team that played from 1977-80 in the IHL (the same league the Griffins started in). The Owls identity continued on with subsequent junior teams in the area.

    Pat Sullivan’s Heisman Trophy portrait has orange shoulder numbers, yet when Sullivan played at Auburn those numbers were always white.

    Hey Phil, whenever you have a slideshow of photos to show, can you have a “In case you can’t see the slideshow, click here” link, like what Paul does accordingly? iPad users cannot see the slideshows as embedded, so we need that “in case” link.

    Could we stop referring to the Panthers’ mono-black as “the best uniform in NFL history”? It’s just the opinion of a bunch of ballot-stuffing Redditors.

    Great job colorizing George.

    The Army Navy game with snow was rare. It does seem like more snow games this year than in recent memory.

    Not good, Connie. We lost on Thursday 2-1 with some diabolical refereeing.

    It’s just past 8pm here in UK, Sunday evening and I have just got home having got up at 4:30 UK time this morning, and travelled today on a train, bus, two planes and a taxi from Maribor to home :)

    “It does seem like more snow games this year than in recent memory.”


    Is it luck or global warming climate change at work?

    It’s always a joy to see the colorizations. Thanks, George!

    And, if we’re going to bring up climate change, wouldn’t it be more accurate to note overall trends rather than isolated incidents? Now, if they only had a football game in Cairo yesterday…

    Great job covering the Army/Navy game. But I don’t understand the “love it or hate it” comment. Who “hates” this game?

    Well, I’m sure someone hates it, somewhere. But it was more of a comment on the fact that it’s “America’s Game” more than it’s the A/N game. Just like I’m sure everyone some hate the Cowboys calling themselves “America’s Team”.

    Thanks for the compliment tho!

    I always put the Army Navy game on when I can. I may not watch it closely but it is on. I am old enough to remember the big games of the 60’s.

    I read it as “love or hate the fact that this is how the NCAA ‘regular season’ concludes.” I don’t follow NCAA football at all, so I plead indifference on that. But I will say, calling Army/Navy “America’s Game” is A LOT LESS loathsome than the Dallas Cowboys calling themselves “America’s Team.”
    American citizens’ tax dollars help fund the service academies, and the service academies just happen to have football teams. That’s a pretty direct connection. I don’t think any tax dollars go towards supporting the Dallas Cowboys, let alone at the expense of the other NFL teams. But if one such penny makes it to the Cowboys, it’s definitely a less direct connection than the connection between an objective American citizen and the national defense.

    i remember that grand rapids team from when they were in Columbus, OH

    paul would love the programs

    and oh my goodness check out this poster and artwork from the Columbus Checkers in the 60s

    America’s Team?


    But based on the level of cheering for the Packers in JerryWorld this afternoon, they may not even be Dallas’ team.

    “The Cowboys may be America’s team, but the Packers are God’s.”

    Hall of Famer Dave Robinson

Comments are closed.