Good news for local football and sports fans last week, the game is on! It was announced that Maryland and Navy will play in 2010 at M & T Bank Stadium and possibly 2014. Schedule conflicts prevent the two teams playing in 2011,12 and 13. Congratulations to Debbie Yow (Maryland AD) and Chet Gladchuk (Navy AD) for putting aside any differences and realizing that this the right thing to do for both schools and the fans.
I sat in the cheap seats (where else would I sit) section 516 for the game in 2005, and it was one of the best athletic events I have ever attended. The game was terrific with the Terps rallying to win the game 23-20 on a strike from Sam Hollenbach to Drew Weatherly in the fourth with 1:01 left in the game. This followed a key fourth down conversion earlier in the drive that saw a great second effort from Lance Ball. Navy kept Maryland off balance all day long with their triple option game. The game was remarkabley well played and physical.
The atmosphere off the field was just as terrific with the "March on of the Midshipmen," the flyover, the rowdy Terps student body and the plebes doing push ups. Plus the bands, cheerleaders and tailgate made it a memorable day. This game gave Baltimore a big time college football feel. The game matched two excellent bench bosses in Navy’s Paul Johnson (the most underrated coach in America) and Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen (remember what the Terps were before him).
I will also never forget the sportsmanship both teams showed after the game, especially, Friedgen who made his players stand and observe as Navy players sang to their alma mater, a move which the Navy players had just done in respect for their opponent’s victory. It was a class move by two classy coaches.
Besides my enjoyment, the game was great for the state, as it gave a boost for both high school and youth football.
While 2010 is a proper first step, this game needs to be made permanent. I think it should be an annual event played every Labor Day weekend on Saturday or Sunday night. After all the NFL is off and not everyone is at the beach.
Baltimore City and the region could really take hold of this with a parade’s, pep rallies, musical acts, and Labor Day fireworks. Heck get Mike Gibbons and his crew from Sports Legends involved with a big display. Make it what the Georgia-Florida’s game is in Jacksonville. It could be a nicknamed the "Crab Bowl" and serve as Maryland’s Official Bowl Game. The game would also be a great boost for the hotels and downtown restaurants, who usually need a boost by this time.
Events like this game, Preakness, Army-Navy, NCAA Lacrosse Final Fours, and possible high-level international soccer matches are the types of event this city should try to secure and acquire, not some of the events that the blue-hairs have pushed on us as being world class sports. If a third-rate cities like Indianapolis or Jacksonville can do it, why not us?
Have Boomer Esiason on the Maryland sideline and Roger Staubach on the Navy side. In time, this could grow to be a great in-state rivalry like Louisville and Kentucky or Florida vs. Florida State. So Ms. Yow and Mr. Gladchuk, please let’s play more than two. Play it every year and let’s have some fun. I will be in the cheap seats ready to watch.
MORE IMPORTANT THAN SPORTS: My thoughts and prayers are with all those who are currently suffering from the wildfires in Southern California. Especially to all the men and women with the various firefighting crews who are risking their own lives to help fight these fires. Against severe wind, heat and twenty-hour work days, these hero’s are valiantly pushing back the flames. Your determination and sacrifice deserve a standing ovation.