Photos show why Army-Navy is the greatest college football rivalry on Earth

On December 9, the US Naval Academy and US Military Academy football teams will meet on the gridiron for the 118th time. It is an annual game — and rivalry — steeped in tradition.

Amy Cadets and Navy Midshipmenplayed the first Army-Navy football game in 1890 at West Point, launching one of the most unique rivalries in college sports. Though fiercely competitive, the players participate in rituals, like singing the alma maters of both schools and swapping "prisoners" (students who spend a semester at the other school), as a sign of solidarity.

These photos, including some taken by a former student of the Naval Academy (Midshipman Second Class Jeffrey Martino), show why Army-Navy is the greatest football rivalry on Earth.

26 PHOTOS
A look inside the Army-Navy college football rivalry
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A look inside the Army-Navy college football rivalry

The Army-Navy game is the hallmark of one of the longest rivalries in college football.

(Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

The US Naval Academy and US Military Academy teams have played each other since 1890. The annual game was skipped twice during World War I (and several other times).

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

Both schools make travel arrangements to get each of their 4,000-plus students to the game. Most games are held at large stadiums far outside the schools' campuses.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

Attendance at the Army-Navy game is required of all students at the Naval Academy.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

Game Day starts with a tradition known as the "march on." Hours before the game, Army's Corps of Cadets and Navy's Brigade of Midshipmen file into formation outside the stadium.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

They take turns marching onto the field. Here come the Army cadets.

(Photo by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

The Navy midshipmen look equally impressive.

(Photo by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

The view from the stands is spectacular.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

After the marches, the students settle into the bleachers as the other spectators follow suit.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Cadets and midshipmen must wear their dress blues — considered the "black tie" of the uniforms worn by the Armed Forces — the entire day.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

Students are not allowed to bring any paraphernalia into the stands, although signs and sunglasses usually sneak in.

(Photo by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

The signs are not what you'd expect to see at a college football game.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The schools have an exchange program that allows students to spend a semester at an alternative service academy. Prior to kick-off, the schools hold a "prisoner exchange.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

Participating students meet on the field and then rush to sit with their respective academies for the duration of the game.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

A formation of US Army helicopters flies overhead, and service members from the Navy Leapfrogs and the Army Golden Knights parachute teams make a grand entrance.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

A glee club made up of cadets and midshipmen perform the National Anthem together before the game. It's a way of showing that they play for the same team: Team USA.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

Both student sections say the cheer, "U-S-A!"

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

When the game is about to start, members of the Navy's Brigade of Midshipmen shake their covers, or caps. Navy won 14 Army-Navy games in a row from 2002 to 2015.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

In 2016, Army snapped its 14-game losing streak against Navy with a 21–17 victory.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Members of the student section known as "The Pit" cheer on the midshipmen.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

The commander-in-chief has made an appearance at the Army-Navy game every year since President Theodore Roosevelt made it a tradition in 1901.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The game ends with a tradition called "honoring the fallen." Both teams turn to the stands containing the fans of the defeated team, and they sing that team's alma mater.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Then they turn to the other side and serenade the winning team's fans with its alma mater.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The players of the winning team rush to their school's student section and climb into the stands, with help from their biggest fans.

(Photo by Jeffrey Martino)

The Army-Navy game is a spectacle worth seeing no matter whose side you're on.

(Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
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