Army-Navy Brilliance: Feinstein’s Civil War prose

I’ve read some more from John Feinstein’s book on Army and Navy football. His writing doesn’t cease to amaze me, in terms of seamless introduction of people and integration of trivia. I really think this technique (applicable to the majority of engaging creative nonfiction writers) works better with prose than with moving image. In film, a fade-to-black (followed by a title card) or a dissolve could be employed to join otherwise disparate or loosely related content, but it’s not as exciting or fulfilling as reading a piece of text and literally seeing the incorporation of transitions that don’t involve an inch of space between two paragraphs.

For example, after talking about Navy football player Shaun Stephenson, Feinstein notes that head coach George Chaump has been replaced by Charlie Weatherbie; Stephenson suffers an ACL injury; Navy goes to Dallas to play SMU at the Cotton Bowl. Feinstein remarks:

“The Cotton Bowl is located in the middle of the Texas state fairgrounds and, as the Navy buses inched through Friday afternoon traffic, Clint Bruce, who had grown up…nearby…, sat in the back of the bus carrying the defense and pointed out landmarks to his teammates” (124).

A few comments about Bruce concludes that paragraph. A few paces later, Feinstein mentions one way in which Navy and Army football players are more intellectually stimulated than they would be in other football programs. Observe:

“Traveling with a military academy football team wasn’t quite the same as traveling with other football teams. Not only did tutors routinely make the trips, but players brought books with them. They also read newspapers. At dinner that night, Garrett Smith, Bryce Minamer, and center Brian Dreschler got into a lengthy conversation about AIDS research” (125).

Shortly thereafter, he adds:

“More often than not, players at Navy either root for Army or don’t care very much whether the Cadets win or lose. The same is true at Army when it comes to Navy. But both Army and Navy always root for Air Force to lose” (126-127).


“Playing defense is much more about getting whipped into an emotional frenzy than playing offense is. Offense is almost scientific; the linemen must know their blocking techniques and remember their schemes. The so-called ‘skill’ position players need finesse and quickness at least as much, usually more, than they need power”(127).

I love it. I just love it.

Great writing makes me happy in a way that great filmmaking can’t or doesn’t–or hasn’t done yet.

6 thoughts on “Army-Navy Brilliance: Feinstein’s Civil War prose

  1. Todd

    I enjoyed and appreciate the last post. I was an offensive lineman and it was almost scientific. You stay cool, calculating, and decisive. Defense, you are in a frenzy, swarming in on the play.

  2. Pingback: Reveling in Rivalry: More on Army-Navy « Sitting Pugs: Sports Movies

  3. Pingback: Army-Navy 1995: Wonder through the Stars « Sitting Pugs: Sports Movies

  4. Christopher

    “……..players brought books with them. They also read newspapers. At dinner that night, Garrett Smith, Bryce Minamer, and center Brian Dreschler got into a lengthy conversation about AIDS research……..”

    Not having heard of Garrett Smith, Bryce Minamer, or Brian Dreschler, I tried looking them up in Google, but could find next to nothing.

    Given that they read books and newspapers, and liked to discuss the issues of the day, they must have lived long ago. It’s difficult to imagine any major sports figure today doing anything intellectually stimulating off the field (or arena) other than playing video games or texting. Reading a book would be for them as alien as skiing in the Alps might be for a zebra.

    But, maybe today’s sports figures might, in some recondite way, be somehow better in their chosen sport if they would, at least occasionally, read a book or two – the better to see their sport in the perspective of life generally. .

    In the milieu of cricket (sort of like baseball), the late C.L.R James – an erstwhile historian, journalist, and sociologist, as well as an ardent cricket-lover – famously said, “what do they know of cricket who only cricket know.”.


    1. sittingpugs Post author

      The book is about the 1995 game, so the players weren’t from that long ago. I couldn’t find anything on Bryce Minamer. I don’t have the book with me, so I can’t be sure if Garrett Smith and Brian Dreschler were Army or Navy.


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