Their most famous rival is Army, but not even the Cadets can get the goat of the Naval Academy football players like Air Force.
The Army-Navy series -- 100 years old this season -- is a worldwide phenomenon that has stirred interest and emotions wherever American military men have been stationed, but it is the Falcons, the most successful service academy team, who evoke the bitterest vibrations from Navy's athletes.
"They're so arrogant. That's probably the thing that bothers you the most," said Navy's All-America center candidate Terrence Anderson. "We have a lot of respect for Army, but it's just not the same with these guys. They're just a little bit too arrogant for a service academy."
Anderson was asked which team, Army or Air Force, he would rather beat if he could only beat one.
"This year, Air Force," he said without hesitation. "That's probably not what the administration here wants to hear, but last year was just downright embarrassing."
The Midshipmen get their opportunity to avenge the 49-7 trouncing of 1998 at Redskins Stadium at noon today. The seniors were seldom-used plebes when Navy last beat the Falcons (20-17 in 1996), so they have never really tasted the glory of defeating the team they love to hate.
Anderson's fellow senior, Jamie Doffermyre (Arundel), sidestepped a direct answer to the question about which rival he would rather beat first, and put it a little more subtly: "I want to beat them both, but I hate Air Force a lot more than Army, which is a lot different team. I hate everything about Air Force."
What, specifically, upsets Navy about the Falcons, who have a 21-10 edge in this series and have lost to the Midshipmen just twice since 1981?
They believe Air Force has a tendency to run up scores and rub in its superiority when games have already been decided.
"One play I'll never forget from last year," Doffermyre said. "They were up big and with five minutes left, they threw a play-action pass over our heads. The only way to help forget that is to beat them Saturday."
"Emotions are a lot higher than for other games," said sophomore fullback Marlon Terrell. "We try not to think about it, but you can't help it. We've got newspapers all over the locker room about the things they did to Navy. I know everybody has looked forward to practice this week."
They believe the Falcons talk too much and have a snobbish air, so to speak.
"What sets them apart is their demeanor. They're cocky," said senior slotback John Vereen (Severn). "They've got a 'What have I got to worry about Navy for?' attitude. We've got a go-out-and-win philosophy and try to use our skills and know how the best we can. Nothing like them. They think 'we're No. 1, you gotta come get us.' "
"I know it's been real tough on the older players," said sophomore cornerback Bas Williams. "There was a lot of talk that wasn't needed. Guys making remarks about we're supposed to win."
"Even the year we beat them, they still didn't feel like we were the better team," said senior wide receiver Travis Williams. "They just don't give us any respect."
"I guess it's easy to act that way when you're winning 10 or 11 games every year," Anderson said.
"It's something you understand when you step out on the field against them," Doffermyre said. "It's an attitude you soon despise."
The perception that Air Force cadets have it cushier than those at Navy or Army.
"I haven't had a chance to experience it firsthand, but everybody says their way of life is a little better than ours," Bas Williams said. "It's like their treatment is Grade A compared to ours."
"It seems athletes at Air Force are treated a lot better," Doffermyre said. "Here and at Army you have to do a lot of things, especially on the military side, that they don't."
Terrell summed it up best.
"We remember what they did last year, so we'll be ready," he said. "I'd like to win this game a lot. Throughout the team, this one is a lot more personal than the others."