The 1944 gridiron contest between an unbeaten Army team and their arch rival Navy was an iconic moment in college sports.
It was a violent game played by cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and midshipmen from the Naval Academy at Annapolis ... young men who would themselves soon be going off to fight in World War II. It was a rallying point for Americans in harm's way far from home. It was a reaffirmation of the best in the American character.
This inspiring story is discussed by Randy Roberts, distinguished professor of history at Purdue University and author of A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game that Rallied a Nation on Thursday, February 2, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
Played in frigid weather on December 2, 1944, in Baltimore's Municipal Stadium, the game pitted the nation's two top-rated teams in a Herculean contest.
Sports reporter Al Laney wrote:
"There has never been a sports event, perhaps never an event of any kind, that received the attention of so many Americans in so many places around the world."
Indeed, the game was broadcast via radio not only to eager fans in the U.S. but to hundreds of thousands of fighting men in jungles, on ships and in the fields of Europe who hunkered down around shortwave radios to get a taste of home.
Roberts also writes about the changing nature of college sports, from a "pure" game played by true amateurs to today's billion-dollar industry fueled by money and television. And he reflects on how the public's attitudes toward college sports have evolved over the last half century.
Nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize in history, Roberts has written about fighters Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, and Joe Louis (Roberts discussed "the Brown Bomber" in a memorable Library appearance in 2011). He has produced books on the history of American sports since 1945, a biography of John Wayne, and volumes about the Mike Tyson trial, Charles Lindbergh, and the Vietnam War.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.
Major funding for programs at the Kansas City Public Library is provided by a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.