Will the Real Navy Fans Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Navy Fans Please Stand Up?

I get it. You're upset. You're disappointed. One might even say you're heartbroken. And you've got every right to feel that way. Your team has lost four straight – and after 8 seasons of winning, going to bowl games, and dominating their rivals, Navy's players and coaches now face the real possibility of sitting on their butts this December. So what are you going to do about it?

"No excuses. Nobody cares." It has been the basis of Ken Niumatalolo's philosophy in Annapolis for each of his three seasons at the helm. Only now though are we as followers of the program feeling the true implications of that hallmark. And as this year's team continues to search for its identity amidst the program's first four-game slide since a rebuilding 2-10 year, Navy fans have every reason to scratch their heads and wonder if the team's inconsistencies aren't a prelude to something worse.

Stop right now, because I'll be the first to tell you a four game skid – with three of those games being decided by a combined five points, and all four coming against teams with winning records – doesn't need to be an ominous indicator of future struggles. Once more, I'll be the first to tell you that you, the fan, can have something to say about it.

All you have to do is stand up.

Bear with me here, because while I might be borrowing a line from the kind of cheerleader you'd expect to find on The Little Giants, I do bring with me some perspective from the camp of a perennial loser.

Most football crazed young adults don't look to bottom-feeder Western Athletic Conference schools to attend, but that's exactly what I did in the spring of 2009 when I chose to call Logan, Utah my home. Coming off a 3-9 year and having not been to a bowl game since 1997, football wasn't exactly the thought on everyone's mind that fall. Gary Andersen's first team went 4-8 that fall, and the next season, the Aggies did it again. So far this year, Utah State has invented new ways to torture its humble college town, with no game standing out more than a Brigham Young comeback win engineered by Logan's former favorite son, Reilly Nelson.

And still, life goes on in Logan. Students and fans go about their business, and an air of acceptance – however reluctant and however tough to swallow – lingers over Cache Valley like the inversion that blocks out the sun. For the students and fans -- my classmates and friends, peers and teachers – it's just too much the status quo. Losing is all this program knows, and while coaches and players talk of "no excuses," eight seasons of winning don't provide the perspective to understand what that kind of hallmark demands.

At Navy, it's a different story. It wasn't always this way though, and as any Academy grad of the 1980s or 1990s will tell you, winning was a luxury you didn't take for granted. When your team won, you were proud. Damn proud. I may not have been around to see it while covering the program, but as a recent Utah State alum, I understand the feeling. It's the kind of feeling that makes a guy or gal stand up and thank their classmates who break their backs in the grind of school and practice each week, leaving all their emotional and energy on the field Saturday's in and Saturday's out. All just to give us -- the fans and followers with our "we won" and "they lost" mentality – something to feel good about on Saturday's in the fall. And now, as a Navy team goes through perhaps its most trying month in a decade, the questions begs to be asked; are you a real Navy fan?

If the answer to that question isn't enough to make you stand up this coming Saturday when the Mids (2-4) take on East Carolina (2-4, 2-1), consider this. Navy's players are in an unfamiliar place right now. True, they've seen adversity in the past. They've had to battle back in front of hostile crowds, and have had to overcome self-inflicted errors in each of their four seasons. But every year they've found a way to mitigate the damage. This year, as hopes of keeping those weekly slides in momentum contained fade with each missed tackle or dropped pass, a reminder of what this team is used to is needed. It has to come from them. It has to come from the coaches. But it also has to come from you, the fans.

I don't know where this season will head after Saturday's 21-20 loss to Rutgers, but I do know this; losing can be a contagious and corrosive mentality in college athletics. On a team, in a program, and amidst a fanbase. We know Ken Niumatalo, Kriss Proctor, and the rest of the 2011 Midshipmen will be doing everything in their power this week to fight that mindset. I just hope, as a graduate of a school which doesn't know winning like Navy, that the fans in Annapolis can do the same.

AdamNettina – at – gmail.com

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