Search This Blog

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Adventures in Tailgating: Game Day the Navy Way

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to check a box on my Bucket List.  I have always wanted to go to a college football game at a Service Academy.  So, we followed our Pitt Panthers down to Annapolis, MD to watch them play the Navy Midshipmen.  We were not disappointed.

First, for a 1 pm game, we arrived at the Germantown Elementary School at around 8 am for our tailgate.  A key piece of knowledge for those on the road.  Get there early.  $20 to park and the proceeds go to the local PTA.  It is a five minute walk from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

We kept things simple for our tailgate since it was a road game.  Subs to order, pasta salad, and munchies.  Oh, and beer.  Our neighbors were grilling up hot sausage and making Primanti style sandwiches with capicola.  For those who don't know, a Primanti's sandwich is one that has cole slaw and fries added to the meat and cheese.  If you care to know more, here is a link to the history of Primanti Brothers.

Everyone was in a festive mood.  Even our four legged friends.

After having our fill of tailgate fare, we cleaned up and made sure to be in the stadium early.  The Midshipmen form up on the academy grounds at Noon and the whole brigade marches into the stadium at 12:30.

One of the great things about being at the academy is all of the history and memorials.  You can't walk 50 feet without running into another memorial.  Ironically, the first memorial I ran into inside the stadium was one commemorating WWII submariners.  My Great-Uncle served on the USS Perch, the fifth sub listed on the left.  A few weeks into the war in the Pacific, his sub was sunk and he became a POW for the rest of the war.  It was nice to see something that honors his crew mates that did not live to come home.

When you first see the main stadium, you notice that the facades list all of the significant engagements in US Naval history.

It is rumored that in the 70's, a Pitt player was taking in the history, turned to Bill Hillgrove (Pitt's play by play announcer) and said, "Damn, they play a tough schedule".  When you read the names, Midway, Leyte Gulf, Philippine Sea, etc..., there could not have been a more accurate statement.  

At 12:30 sharp, the Navy Band marches in, heralding the arrival of the Brigade of Midshipmen.

The Brigade marches in by company and lines up in perfect formation on the field.

The Navy Glee Club sings the National Anthem the way it is supposed to be: respectful and with out craziness.  Then, the whole Brigade does an about face, in perfect unison, to salute the visitors.

How do they all turn perfectly?  There is a Midshipman in the upper deck with two red flags that makes signals telling the Brigade what to do next.

I went for a walk in the third quarter to take in the whole stadium.  In the north end zone is a memorial walk that everyone should take 30 minutes to see.  It covers the whole history of the US Navy and pays tribute to those that have served our country.  

The Brigade in the stands

At the end of the game, the Navy football team comes over to stand in front of the Brigade.  The band then plays the USNA Alma Mater, Blue and Gold.  If this video doesn't give you goose bumps, nothing will.

In the end, the Panthers lost.  But, this was a great day.  The whole day was college football the way is used to be.  Respectful, no entertainment overload, no taunting, etc...  It was the first stadium that I was inside without armed policemen.  Midshipmen in fatigues provided the security.  No need for the security in yellow shirts.  Also, the Midshipmen I talked with were respectful and lots of fun.  It was homecoming weekend, so there were lots of graduates there.  They were very helpful in explaining all that was happening and why.  If you like college football and miss the way it used to be, I highly suggest you plan a weekend at a Service Academy to take in a game.  We will go back.

Thanks for stopping by,