Photos: Baltimore Sun, USA Today
I remember as a kid getting fired up for the classic Army Navy match up in December and being locked into the whole game on the old wooden cabinet TV. Over the years, with so many other sporting events to distract me, the excitement faded and I mostly forgot about it. That is until this year, thanks to my brother in law and the law firm of Helmer Conley & Kasselman who invited me to their tailgate for the classic rivalry in Philly. Oh man, what have I been missing all these years? Actually being there is whole different experience. What a fantastic atmosphere! When we first arrived to the area we saw the many cadets preparing for their march into the stadium. You could feel the energy from the masses of military personnel right away. We then arrived at the law firm’s tailgate which was first rate. Nearly a hundred people gathered under a tent with wonderful food and drink and a trailer with three TV’s and a sound system playing great music.
Of course the game sells out every year so it’s a huge, lively crowd. I’m told the march of the cadets is fantastic but so was the tailgate so I missed it this year. Though I’d like to capture the whole experience some day this was my first time and there is a lot to take in. As we walked to our seats at Lincoln Financial Field, we watched the skydivers from both Army and Navy drop into the stadium along with the customary jet and helicopter flyovers. The game was attended by the President for the first time since 2011. Which was good and bad. It’s great that he could make it to the game but despite leaving the tailgate an hour before kick off for our seats we did not get into the stadium until the very end of the 1st quarter. The secret service took over security at the gate and due to airport like security it took an eternity to get into the game. That was the only bummer of the day.
We did finally get in and had club level seating (thanks again HCK) on the Army side. This suited me fine. My Dad served in the Army and I was named after my great uncle who served in the Army and lost his life in WWII. So if I’m picking sides, it’s Army.
The stadium, of course, was packed which always adds to the excitement. It was quite chilly but I heard it was a picnic compared to the previous year where it snowed for much of the game. The game itself was a defensive battle. Army came into the game at 9-2 and was a 7 point favorite but in this rivalry, no matter who is up or down, it is always a tight game. It was an off year for Navy but they managed to stay in the game until the very end. A late touchdown by Navy cut the Army lead to 3 but Army scored on their next possession to seal it for their third victory in a row. Final score, Army 17 Navy 10.
The football was fantastic but it is so much more than a game. You can’t help but feel the patriotism in the company of all the cadets and veterans. It took an invite to get me here and I’m grateful for that. A really amazing experience. If you have not made it to this classic rivalry it is a must so put it on your bucket list. It will not disappoint.