Yesterday being no exception, I’m used to walking out of Oriole Park at Camden Yards on a given Sunday afternoon thinking that all I had left to do in the weekend was have dinner, watch the Sunday night game, and go to bed. It’s refreshing to know that there’s still another day to go! The Inner Harbor should be a buzz this afternoon, as the Maryland Terrapins will take on the Navy Midshipmen at M & T Bank Stadium. First off, in general I root for all local teams, with only a few exceptions (Virginia Tech being one of the big ones). I like Navy; Annapolis is one of my favorite places, my late grandfather was in the Navy (albeit the Italian Navy), I grew up around boats and on the Chesapeake Bay, and they’re a Maryland school. However I’m not even going to try to be unbiased in this case…Go Terps! My love affair with the University of Maryland began on Saturday afternoons in the 1980’s when as a kid I’d go to Maryland games with my parents at Byrd Stadium (Maryland alumni). Whereas most kids my age at the time were probably more into what Testudo was doing, I would always study the quarterbacks and their mechanics. (This same routine was also repeated on winter afternoons and evenings at Cole Field House.)
When it came time for me to go to college, I didn’t have the grades necessary to get into Maryland, and I ended up going to George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. At the time, I had nothing against their teams, and I rooted for them (still sort of do). However I always said that I grew up a Terp fan, my family’s a Maryland family, and if the Patriots ever played the Terps I’d root for Maryland. That was immediately put to the test when in my freshman year George Mason traveled to Cole Field House to play Maryland. I bought tickets in advance and my Dad and I made plans to go. I made the trek to Cole two nights after Christmas with the flu so as not to miss that game. GMU played a tough game, but the Terps prevailed by four that night. The following season, Maryland drew Mason in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (So let me get this straight; two schools on opposite sides of the Capital Beltway from each other had to travel to Boise, Idaho to play?) Mason again played the Terps tough; you can imagine how much sweating I was doing sitting in the GMU student union watching that game with my Terp gear on! Their fans were thinking that the game was theirs, and they were finally going to get their day in the sun. The Terps took the lead with under a minute left, and it ultimately came down to an out-of-bounds call; the refs gave Maryland the ball and they ran out the clock. The looks on people’s faces as I walked out of that building that day were priceless. Ultimately the Terps got their title while I was still at Mason, but everyone remembers their magical run through the NCAA tournament in 2006 (luckily I was long gone by then).
Nevertheless, I love the idea of Maryland and Navy playing in Baltimore to open the season (on an annual basis). A close friend of mine is a huge Colorado fan, and they open their season every year against Colorado St. in Denver. That’s probably a bigger draw because those are two schools that really don’t like each other. I’m not sure how Navy fans feel towards Maryland, but as I said above I root for most local teams, so I have no problems with the Mids. In fact, I would suspect that a lot of Navy fans probably root for the Terps as well (just not today). However as I said, I think that if this game was to be played every year, a nice local tradition would ensue for coming generations. In college basketball we see this all the time in that the Terps are usually scheduling teams such as UMBC, Towson, Morgan St, etc. Navy is really the only state school that Maryland could schedule in football that would give them consistent competition.
The battle in the stands is always interesting as well. I’ll be interested to see what the fan breakdown is in terms of who’s rooting for whom. Navy has great fans and a large local following, but I would hesitate to say that there’ll probably be a bit more red and black in the stands than navy and gold. Maryland’s expected to have another lackluster year, however a win on opening day against a local rival might set them off on the right track. At the very least, they picked the right venue for this game!