PHILADELPHIA Some at Guantanamo Bay have talked trash about the game. Others have watched it on tape delay in a tent during the first Gulf War.

The Army-Navy Game evokes such fierce rivalry - and deep pride - that some have placed bets on it in a war zone.

"When I was in Iraq, I bet a guy [in the Army] $20," said Bruce Little, who graduated from the Naval Academy in the 1970s and continued to work for the Navy.

"He paid me all in pennies," Little added. "And it was hard to get pennies in Iraq."

Watching the 114th Army-Navy Game in a snowstorm - and then a freezing rainstorm - fazed few at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday. Many of them have seen this matchup in much more challenging circumstances.

But fans who have only watched this game stateside claimed it to be the purest form of high-stakes college football. Few players will go on to the pros. And many of them know their classmates or have trained with them.

For James M. Ripley, a retired engineer in the Navy, the game is like "the Eagles playing the Giants times 10."

He added: "They're playing for the love of the game and for the love of their school, for the love of service."

For Joe Mitek, who graduated from West Point in 2003, the Army-Navy Game will always represent a sense of unity among the armed services and Americans in general.

He remembers in particular the first Army-Navy Game after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Everyone knew that it was inevitable that we were going to see combat in some shape or form," Mitek said.

"You could feel the sense of unity," he said. "The way I look at the game is the country coming together for a sporting event."

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