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A Civil War: Army vs. Navy - A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry

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A Civil War portrays American college football in what the author believes is its purest form: two teams who play for love of the game and the honor of their schools, rather than for money or fame. Bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein follows the Army and Navy teams for a single season.


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A Civil War portrays American college football in what the author believes is its purest form: two teams who play for love of the game and the honor of their schools, rather than for money or fame. Bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein follows the Army and Navy teams for a single season.

30 review for A Civil War: Army vs. Navy - A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Agatha Lund

    I have a life goal, dear readers. It's not a very realistic life goal, but it's a life goal all the same: some day I'd love to read a book by John Feinstein -- on any subject! I will read the fucking golf books if I have to! -- in which he does not suck Coach K's dick in print. I thought A Civil War was it; I was in the 90s, page number wise, and I hadn't seen a single mention of Ol' Rat Face, and I was starting to relax, and then boom! I turned the page, and there, right on page 98, was three w I have a life goal, dear readers. It's not a very realistic life goal, but it's a life goal all the same: some day I'd love to read a book by John Feinstein -- on any subject! I will read the fucking golf books if I have to! -- in which he does not suck Coach K's dick in print. I thought A Civil War was it; I was in the 90s, page number wise, and I hadn't seen a single mention of Ol' Rat Face, and I was starting to relax, and then boom! I turned the page, and there, right on page 98, was three whole paragraphs about The Man Himself. Way to not show your bias, John Feinstein. Two thumbs up. Despite that, and despite the fact that it took me six weeks to read this book, it was an enjoyable book. Feinstein has a knack for finding the most interesting people stories and building his books around them, and he didn't fail in this one -- the cadets and mids he chose to follow were real people to me by the end of the first chapter, and I followed the exploits of both teams with great interest. Particularly interesting to me was the time Feinstein spends talking about how different it is for athletes at the military academies, than at normal straight-up Division 1 schools. A fact little known by the internet is that I worked in collegiate recruiting for three years, on the private sector end of things, and that job left me with a real clear picture of both the recruiting process and the realities of student athletes on all levels, not just Division 1, and Feinstein just corroborates what I was pretty sure I already knew: recruiting a good team to compete at D1 at a military academy is one of the hardest jobs in the country. Harder than recruiting D2, even, because if you're a D2 coach and you're lucky, you're working with a private firm to connect with athletes, and the athletes are educated and they know point-blank they're not good enough to even play at a minor D1 school. D2 gets you an education that's paid for, and you might not get to play on TV but you get to keep playing for another four years, and that's all that matters to a lot of kids. But the military academies -- you might be on TV, you get to play big-name schools, but you're still at a military academy and that's still harder than anything that goes on at a low D1 or D2 or D3 school. Feinstein doesn't sugar coat it, and the thread of difficulty running through the book really made it work for me at an even higher level. I felt for these kids, I felt for these coaches, and by the time that Feinstein got to the actual Army/Navy (listed alphabetically, though apparently Navy always says Navy/Army) game, I was genuinely heartbroken that both teams couldn't manage to win it. Feinstein pulls out all the stops in telling the story of that game, and combined with all the struggles earlier in the book and the genuine difficulty that comes with recruiting and/or playing for a military academy, I will freely admit it: I cried at the end of this book. It's a good read; it might very well be Feinstein's best book, though I will admit bias because his backhanded portrayal of Dean Smith in A March To Madness always pisses me off, and it's been years since I read A Season On The Brink. I certainly enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I liked The Last Amateurs. Worth a read, especially if you're interested in the technical side of collegiate recruiting. And if you're a big girl, like me, pack tissues. It's a weeper.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cristen

    I was interested in this book because I am a proud NAVY brat. I learned a lot about the rivalry and about football!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Reading this book was a reminder of why I love to read, and why I love sport so much. This book was perfect for me, as is usual whenever I read something by Feinstein. Despite the fact that literally on the first page of the book, Feinstein tells you how the 1995 Army-Navy Football game ends, there was never a point during the book that I thought that it changed how I perceived the story, players, coaches or events. This book is a wonderful balance of detailing the Army-Navy Football rivalry, a Reading this book was a reminder of why I love to read, and why I love sport so much. This book was perfect for me, as is usual whenever I read something by Feinstein. Despite the fact that literally on the first page of the book, Feinstein tells you how the 1995 Army-Navy Football game ends, there was never a point during the book that I thought that it changed how I perceived the story, players, coaches or events. This book is a wonderful balance of detailing the Army-Navy Football rivalry, a recount of the 1995 season, the history of the Academies, football programs and rivalries, as well as the personal stories of key players, coaches and people. I couldn't get enough of this book, and the best thing was that despite knowing lots about football in general, I felt that I learned something anyway - not just about football, but also of rivalries, the histories and life at the academies. What really stood out for me, largely thanks to Feinstein's in-depth reporting style was life at the academy, and how differently it really is from a civilian college. These really are people of a different calibre, which makes the powerful. The stories that are recounted of the players and coaches, who overcome and give up a lot to choose to be a part of academy football. I would recommend this to anyone - you certainly don't have to be a football fan to appreciate the stories told in this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Deane

    I absolutely loved this book. I've always been interested in the life of a student-athlete at an academy school. The things the students endure alone is insane let alone the people who are also playing division one football. Author, John Feinstein spends a year with both the Army and navy programs and shares what he learned. He talks about the programs past history, the coaches, and the backgrounds of a few players. He shares the triumphs and downfalls of both the programs. I give Feinstein a lo I absolutely loved this book. I've always been interested in the life of a student-athlete at an academy school. The things the students endure alone is insane let alone the people who are also playing division one football. Author, John Feinstein spends a year with both the Army and navy programs and shares what he learned. He talks about the programs past history, the coaches, and the backgrounds of a few players. He shares the triumphs and downfalls of both the programs. I give Feinstein a lot of credit for presenting all of this information in a very interesting way. I would of never thought a non fiction book would be able to make me want to keep reading as much as this one did. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in college football or learning more about the academies as a whole. This is one of my favorite non-fiction books that I have ever read. Feinstein wrote a masterpiece!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nolan Collins

    As I first started reading this book I thought it wasn't going to be good but it got interesting as it went on. One of my favorite sports is football so that's one reason why I chose to read this. The first thing I liked about this book was that it told all the games they played in and described how intense the rivalry between the schools were. Another thing that I liked was it was very detailed. An example would be when two players on the army team did not have their dorm rooms tidied and clean As I first started reading this book I thought it wasn't going to be good but it got interesting as it went on. One of my favorite sports is football so that's one reason why I chose to read this. The first thing I liked about this book was that it told all the games they played in and described how intense the rivalry between the schools were. Another thing that I liked was it was very detailed. An example would be when two players on the army team did not have their dorm rooms tidied and cleaned up; their coach benched them for the next game. And the last thing I liked was another detailed event that happened throughout the book. The kicked for Navy Ryan Bucchianeri was getting poorly treated by his teammates and the coaches, and surprisingly no one would step up for him. One thing I did not like about this book was that they never described any other intense games they had. I was looking forward to them showing or telling us hat they had more rivals and it was more than just one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    Extremely high hopes perhaps worked against it. Inside a rivalry loaded with such meaning and with a writer who handled Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina so well at the other end of their careers, I expected more. It was hard to keep track of all the personalities going back-and-forth between the two teams.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Loren

    One of the best sports books I've ever red. A real pleasure to dive into the Army-Navy rivalry, the finest in college football. If you at all like college football, I strongly suggest you read it One of the best sports books I've ever red. A real pleasure to dive into the Army-Navy rivalry, the finest in college football. If you at all like college football, I strongly suggest you read it

  8. 5 out of 5

    Klobetime

    I'm an unapologetic Longhorn football fan, but I've always been fascinated by the Army-Navy rivalry. It is the only game attended by the entire student body of both schools, and even when the teams are awful (which sadly is pretty normal these days) the game is exciting and the spectacle captivating. I love watching this game each year, the only non-Texas game that is appointment viewing for me. So when I spotted this book in a discount bin about the 1995 Army and Navy seasons, culminating in I'm an unapologetic Longhorn football fan, but I've always been fascinated by the Army-Navy rivalry. It is the only game attended by the entire student body of both schools, and even when the teams are awful (which sadly is pretty normal these days) the game is exciting and the spectacle captivating. I love watching this game each year, the only non-Texas game that is appointment viewing for me. So when I spotted this book in a discount bin about the 1995 Army and Navy seasons, culminating in their clash at the end, I snatched it up and saved it to read just before this year's bout. Unlike what many of the refs did during their respective seasons, that was a good call. Feinstein is known more for his books on basketball and golf, and it shows a bit here: his college football knowledge seems a bit lacking in places. For instance, he claims the Army-Navy game is the best rivalry in the country; it is certainly in the top echelon, but what about Harvard-Yale? The World's Largest Cocktail Party? The Battle for the Axe? Michigan-Ohio State? The Iron Bowl? Or the greatest of them all, the Red River Showdown? Similarly with stadiums, he calls Notre Dame Stadium "college football's most famous stadium." Um... how about the Rose Bowl, or Michigan Stadium, or Tiger Stadium? Even the name of the book is a bit odd; the Civil War is what the annual Oregon-Oregon State game is called; nothing to do at all with Army-Navy. That said, this is a wonderful book and the Army-Navy game is one of the treasures of college football. Feinstein does a great job of ping-ponging between the Army and Navy squads as their year progresses, becoming a biographer of sorts for a handful of players and coaches on each team. Along the way a lot of the traditions and history of the schools and squads are told giving more than a glimpse into what life at a service academy must be like. Even with Feinstein's hyperbole and occasional pretentiousness this was a fantastic book and I look forward to watching the game on Saturday! First Sentence: Almost thirty minutes after the last play of his college football career, Jim Cantelupe, still dressed in the black uniform with the gold number 22 on the back and front, walked down a dank, winding hallway in the bowels of Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jbradley

    I absolutely love this book! It talks about the two teams army and navy and their never ending rivalry game every year. The book goes through each team and their strategy and highlighted some particular players and who they were as a person. It also gave some glimpses of my favorite college. Notre Dame. One of my favorite quotes was “If you weren’t accepted into Notre Dame, you went to army.” I gave it a 5 star because I personally love football. It kinda looked like a boring book at first but a I absolutely love this book! It talks about the two teams army and navy and their never ending rivalry game every year. The book goes through each team and their strategy and highlighted some particular players and who they were as a person. It also gave some glimpses of my favorite college. Notre Dame. One of my favorite quotes was “If you weren’t accepted into Notre Dame, you went to army.” I gave it a 5 star because I personally love football. It kinda looked like a boring book at first but as I started to read it, it got more interesting and in depth. I just found it cool how the game between Navy and Army was such an important game to them to win.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Gehrke

    Riveting portrayal of a year inside the last, purest rivalry in college football. You don't have to like football to love this book though--at it's heart, this the story of the young men and women who attend our nation's service academies, and what they go through at West Point and Annapolis to prepare for their time serving our country.By the end of the book, you fall in love with these kids. That's the magic of this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone, whether you love football or not. Riveting portrayal of a year inside the last, purest rivalry in college football. You don't have to like football to love this book though--at it's heart, this the story of the young men and women who attend our nation's service academies, and what they go through at West Point and Annapolis to prepare for their time serving our country.By the end of the book, you fall in love with these kids. That's the magic of this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone, whether you love football or not.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Very detailed coverage of the 1995 seasons for the football teams of the US Naval Academy and the US Military Academy, culminating with their clash in the annual Army-Navy game. As a Navy veteran and fan of Navy football I enjoyed this book immensely. Feinstein’s chapters on the actual game itself were so riveting, my heart was pounding even though I knew the outcome of the game! I just wish I’d have read this when it was published.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    I think this book is good because it provides a year of foot ball for both teams and what it is like it also shows the football players true feeling. A reson I didn’t give it 5 stars is because i don’t like the part where he switches views from army to navy

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ph. D.

    I purchased the book to give to a friend but couldn't let go till I finished reading it myself. Feinstein's inside account of the greatest rivalry in college football -- if not all of sports -- cemented my desire to attend an Army-Navy game. This is what all athletics should be like. I purchased the book to give to a friend but couldn't let go till I finished reading it myself. Feinstein's inside account of the greatest rivalry in college football -- if not all of sports -- cemented my desire to attend an Army-Navy game. This is what all athletics should be like.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Liam Power

    Deep dive on a sporting rivalry I knew nothing about. The author does an excellent job of showcasing why it's unique and telling the stories behind the machine. It's aged well, would highly recommend to a sports fan outside the US or college sports bubble. Deep dive on a sporting rivalry I knew nothing about. The author does an excellent job of showcasing why it's unique and telling the stories behind the machine. It's aged well, would highly recommend to a sports fan outside the US or college sports bubble.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robert Devine

    Excellent sports nonfiction; following teams for an entire year, author captures culture at West Point and Annapolis, and importance of the game

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lester Coleman

    I enjoyed the history and learning about the lives of the Army-Navy football players. I was bored with the play-by-play action of every regular season game of Army and Navy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    A wonderful and detailed look inside this long running rivalry.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Sperrazza

    Good read for a college football fan. GO NAVY!

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    A look inside Academy football for the year leading up to the 1995 Army-Navy game. Very entertaining. A good read overall.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    A great tribute to this rivalry.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Really great book. Very moving and an incredible story that ties into global events, too.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    One of my favorite John Feinstein books, along with a book about basketball in the Patriot League (The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball) and two golfing books (A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour and The Majors). In all of these books, he takes the reader through a season with the athletes, giving fascinating insights into "their world". Feinsten seems to have empathy for athletes who are not in big-time programs, and it shows in his wr One of my favorite John Feinstein books, along with a book about basketball in the Patriot League (The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball) and two golfing books (A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour and The Majors). In all of these books, he takes the reader through a season with the athletes, giving fascinating insights into "their world". Feinsten seems to have empathy for athletes who are not in big-time programs, and it shows in his writing. I found the descriptions of life and academics in the service academies to be fascinating. It is amazing how the regular students and the players live and practice, compared to students and athletes at most other colleges. And when they're done, they serve in the military for 4 or 5 more years. Amazing what these players go through for the chance to play I-A football.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I am a fan of John Feinstein's writing and this book is a pure example of how an author inundates himself into the topic to get a true, touching, emotional depiction of one of the best sports rivalries this country can see. You've heard the story -- this game is for pride; that with only a few exceptions, no one from this match up ever gets to the NFL. They don't care about national ratings, professional contracts and future endorsements...this is about playing for pride, honor and the way of li I am a fan of John Feinstein's writing and this book is a pure example of how an author inundates himself into the topic to get a true, touching, emotional depiction of one of the best sports rivalries this country can see. You've heard the story -- this game is for pride; that with only a few exceptions, no one from this match up ever gets to the NFL. They don't care about national ratings, professional contracts and future endorsements...this is about playing for pride, honor and the way of life that depicts West Point and Annapolis. Feinstein got to know players, coaches, leadership and how their times at the academies made football and academics a challenging and life changing experience for the corps and brigade. The individual stories were touching and it shows readers the thoughts that students have when thinking "academy" and the hardships they face in maintaining the honor and traditions of the schools, while moulding themselves into our military leaders of the future. It is a great read...another in the wonderful book Mr. Feinstein has composed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    A Civil War: Army vs. Navy - A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry by John Feinstein (Back Bay Books 1997)(796.33263). If this isn't college football's purest and least-tainted rivalry, I don't know what is. These guys play for the love of the game, for the love of their respective schools, and for each other with no thought of becoming a professional athlete. At the end of the annual game, the players (and fans) from each school stand respectfully at attention while each team's alma m A Civil War: Army vs. Navy - A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry by John Feinstein (Back Bay Books 1997)(796.33263). If this isn't college football's purest and least-tainted rivalry, I don't know what is. These guys play for the love of the game, for the love of their respective schools, and for each other with no thought of becoming a professional athlete. At the end of the annual game, the players (and fans) from each school stand respectfully at attention while each team's alma mater is played. This is the good stuff; the author loves this game, and it shows in his prose. My rating: 8/10, finished 2009.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Richard Lister

    The Army-Navy game, though now diminished in its importance to the college football fabric, is just as powerful an event as it was when one or both teams were national powers. John Feinstein beautifully captures the importance of the event to the two schools and service branches. It is truly more than a game. As he spends a year with each side leading to the season-end contest, he reveals what life is like, not just for the service academy student-athlete, but for the kind of person who attends The Army-Navy game, though now diminished in its importance to the college football fabric, is just as powerful an event as it was when one or both teams were national powers. John Feinstein beautifully captures the importance of the event to the two schools and service branches. It is truly more than a game. As he spends a year with each side leading to the season-end contest, he reveals what life is like, not just for the service academy student-athlete, but for the kind of person who attends the institution to go on to serve the country. For all Feinstein's exceptional work, this one stands out.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    This book comes closer than anything to summing up the importance of the Army/Navy game to the mids and cadets. I like it particularly because the year in question was when I was a midshipman, so I was lucky enough to live through it all. I only wish the book had a happy ending where Navy comes out victorious, but you can't change the past. Anyone who likes football should consider giving this a read. While Army and Navy haven't dominated Div I in a long time, they stil play with their heads hel This book comes closer than anything to summing up the importance of the Army/Navy game to the mids and cadets. I like it particularly because the year in question was when I was a midshipman, so I was lucky enough to live through it all. I only wish the book had a happy ending where Navy comes out victorious, but you can't change the past. Anyone who likes football should consider giving this a read. While Army and Navy haven't dominated Div I in a long time, they stil play with their heads held high against the best the NCAA has to offer.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Fisher

    Man, I was happy to finish this book. It just seemed to drag on to the conclusion, and when you know the final score of the Army-Navy game that year, it takes a little of the anticipation out of it (if you are a Navy fan, anyway). I got pretty tired of the rah-rah sports cliches expounded by both players and coaches over the course of the season, but getting some behind the scenes glimpses into service academy football was insightful. I would have liked to have read a history of the rivalry, which Man, I was happy to finish this book. It just seemed to drag on to the conclusion, and when you know the final score of the Army-Navy game that year, it takes a little of the anticipation out of it (if you are a Navy fan, anyway). I got pretty tired of the rah-rah sports cliches expounded by both players and coaches over the course of the season, but getting some behind the scenes glimpses into service academy football was insightful. I would have liked to have read a history of the rivalry, which players and coaches went on to play in the NFL, distinguished themselves in battle, etc.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelle

    I must confess that I'm not totally done with this book. However, I have loved what I've read. It is an in depth view of both the Army and Navy football teams and the history that leads to the 1996 football season. The author does an amazing job of telling the individual's stories and weaving it all together. I enjoy football, but I've never read a 400 page book about it and this is good enough to keep my attention. I must confess that I'm not totally done with this book. However, I have loved what I've read. It is an in depth view of both the Army and Navy football teams and the history that leads to the 1996 football season. The author does an amazing job of telling the individual's stories and weaving it all together. I enjoy football, but I've never read a 400 page book about it and this is good enough to keep my attention.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Harry Kloss

    John Fienstien's telling of a season of football for the Army and Navy academies, the difficulty these schools have staying in Division I football and the difficulties the students have in playing the game they love. One of the most telling observations is that in other schools football practice is the most difficult part of the players' day; at the service academies it is the easiest. Wonderfully told, if this story doesn't tug at your heart, you don't have one. John Fienstien's telling of a season of football for the Army and Navy academies, the difficulty these schools have staying in Division I football and the difficulties the students have in playing the game they love. One of the most telling observations is that in other schools football practice is the most difficult part of the players' day; at the service academies it is the easiest. Wonderfully told, if this story doesn't tug at your heart, you don't have one.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kris Kindl

    This novel by John Feinstein is yet another where he brings you further into the game rather than just on the surface. This book is about the classic rivalry between the college teams Navy vs. Army. This is THE rivalry, and Feinstein captures this perfectly. The feelings and emotions captured in this book make you feel like you're on the team, like you're standing in the room. If you like great sports books, this is the book for you. This novel by John Feinstein is yet another where he brings you further into the game rather than just on the surface. This book is about the classic rivalry between the college teams Navy vs. Army. This is THE rivalry, and Feinstein captures this perfectly. The feelings and emotions captured in this book make you feel like you're on the team, like you're standing in the room. If you like great sports books, this is the book for you.

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