College football is clearly the greatest sport in the world. Don’t waste your breath trying to persuade me otherwise because this is an established fact! Among the many reasons for its greatness is the variety it presents to its fans. Stadium sizes range anywhere from a couple of thousand seats to upwards of 100,000. Multiple levels of fierce competition. And all types of offensive and defensive systems varying from ultra-conservative to ultra-aggressive.
One of the most unique facets of college football is that our great military service academies have football programs as well. FBS football features 3: Air Force, Army and Navy. We all know about the annual Army-Navy game. It’s the only FBS game in the country that Saturday and is the sole focus of the nation. And all 3 compete for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy each season.
If you’ve ever had a chance to interact with the young men and women who attend these schools, you will no doubt come away thoroughly impressed. Special people making a huge commitment and sacrifice on behalf of our country. Very inspiring. So having a chance to attend the opening game at Navy was an opportunity I relished.
Walking around Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium pregame is a different experience than your typical FBS venue. The stadium is filled with plaques honoring specific graduating classes. Each seat has a veteran's name on it. The names of famous battles such as Iwo Jima, Pearl Harbor and Midway are prominently displayed. And those who served our country are in attendance in what felt like a military reunion of sorts.
I overheard a speech an officer was giving inside the stadium to a private party about COVID-19. He talked about how great of a challenge it has been for everyone, both for the military and civilians. It was part congratulations for overcoming some serious adversity, but also a reminder to stay focused on finishing the task at hand. The message was familiar, but the impact resonated a little more because of who delivered it.
On the field hundreds of Midshipmen marched onto the field, covering it in its entirety. Jets did a flyover at the conclusion of the National Anthem. Former Navy Athletic Director and Marshall football coach Jack Lengyel was honored as well. Prior to serving as Navy AD, Lengyel took over the Marshall football program following the tragic plane crash in 1970 that killed all 75 people on board. He was famously played by Matthew McConaughey in the movie “We Are Marshall”. The ceremonial aspects were extremely moving and set the scene incredibly well for the season opener between Navy and Marshall.
As for the game itself, it was not much of a contest. Marshall jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead and extended it even further for a final score of 49-7. Though disappointed with the results on the field, the majority of the crowd remained for the entire game. Fans were appreciative to have football back as an event that marked some sense of a return to normalcy.
This contest also marked my 112th FBS Stadium Game, out of a total of 130. Wish I hadn’t waited so long to attend my first game in Annapolis, but sometimes the schedule dictates more to me than I do to it. If you ever get a chance to take in a Navy game, I highly recommend it. Show up early, talk with everyone you can, and take in a truly unique experience. You’ll be glad that you did.