Typically, we’ll have a “report” from the bleachers on Sunday Nights… what was the fan experience at Saturday’s game. This week, though, we’ve got so much more, as you’ll see.
When the 2014 Ohio State football schedule was released, my friend Phil and I both saw the exact same thing. OSU playing Navy in Baltimore may give us an opportunity to have one of the more epic sports weekends we’ve ever had. Little did we know it would become the greatest trip we’ve ever taken. A trip that you would see on Sportscenter or read about in Sports Illustrated
As baseball fans, Phil and I both have the same dream of seeing as many baseball stadiums as humanly possible. Could it be that when the Buckeyes travel to Maryland to play Navy that we could possibly see our top stadium we haven’t seen yet, Camden Yards!?!?!? The answer….YES!!!!!! The Orioles would be home that weekend to take on the Minnesota Twins in a weekend tilt. What was once a “cool trip” just became an “awesome trip”. As time went on and we discussed things we wanted to do while we were in Baltimore. Both of us are huge history buffs and we discussed how we could work a trip to Annapolis, Maryland to see the Naval Academy and quite possibly visiting Fort McHenry, where the Star-Spangled Banner was written. That “awesome trip” now had become an “amazing trip”.
As the weeks crawled closer to the start of college football season, Phil and I were discussing the week 1 matchups and who each B1G team was opening up with and we discovered that the University of Maryland (a mere 20 min’s away from downtown Baltimore) was actually playing at home that day. Could we? Can we? The Maryland/James Madison game would kick off at 3:30, right about the same time the Buckeyes game would be ending. Our “amazing trip” had just become an “unreal trip”. With tickets purchased and in hand, we departed Akron, Ohio on Thursday evening for our Baltimore adventure.
We arrived at our hotel around 11pm Thursday night and quickly checked in and got to sleep to rest up for our first leg of our trip. We got up and began out trip south to Annapolis to visit the Naval Academy. We had planned to visit and look around for roughly an hour or so and then to head back to downtown and “tour” Baltimore. We arrived around 10:30am and found Navy’s football stadium first.
After a quick trip around the outside, we found an open gate. Yes, you know what happened next…..we walked in and took our own tour, including pictures on the 50 yard line.
I was very impressed with the uniqueness of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Inside there are not a million ads for every business in Annapolis or even a corporate sponsor who donated millions to get their name on the stadium. No, on the inside is simply one thing around the stadium…..the name of every war and conflict that the United States has been involved with.
It quickly puts in perspective that this isn’t just a college football field but a college football field that plays host to the bravest of brave men who will go on to fight and quite possibly die for our country. It was a very quite, almost as on purpose, moment as I gazed around at the names such as Pearl Harbor, Bay of Pigs, Inchon-Seole,
Tonkin Gulf, Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Midway, Vietnam, and on and on and on. Millions of men and women gave their lives so that I could go enjoy a weekend of sports with one of my best friend and this stadium quickly showed that. As we left the stadium and headed over to the actual Naval Academy, I quickly found out that you don’t drive your vehicle onto a Naval base with out a military ID. The officer was very stern when he told me that, “that was frowned upon”. There was no smile on his face either! We found a place to park on the street and walked on to the base.
The history that was on and around this place was amazing. The cadets we encountered were both polite and nice. The entire campus was overrun with Buckeyes fans and it couldn’t have been fun for the cadets to dodge all the unexpected visitors. At noon we were able to watch the “Noon Formation” and it was simply moving. When you sit back and think of what these young men and women have chosen to do with their lives, it really makes you sit back and think and put things in perspective.
I took the time, any chance I had, to thank any cadet I came in contact with. (yes, even the officer who informed me I had broken a federal law by driving my car on base) We ended up spending about 4 hours on campus before heading back north to downtown. We arrived downtown and parked our car and started to plot a course to eat at someplace famous. We ended up at the world famous Faidleys Market. Now, I’m not one for seafood so I found a great cheesesteak place and Phil had what he described as “the greatest crab cakes he’s ever had”. We had a few hours before we could get into Camden yards so we headed over to newly opened Horseshoe Casino and played a little blackjack.
We got back to Camden Yards as the gates were opening and we headed directly to Boog’s BBQ. What we encountered quite simply was the best BBQ pork sandwich we’ve ever had. If you ever make it to Camden Yards, make it a point to eat there. We headed to our seats and readied for the game. Now, the O’s are in first place and we expected no only a great crowd on a friday night but it also was a holiday weekend. We were disappointed in both. The fans we encountered were very nice and friendly. Many talked Buckeyes with us and anyone who was previously from Ohio who transplanted themselves to Baltimore found us and made sure to tell us. We started in our seats behind the plate and moved down to another location around the 5th for a different view.
Around the 8th we moved on to the home run porch in right field and quickly found……..BUCKEYENATION!!! The homerun porch had pretty much been taken over by Buckeye fans and there were plenty of I-O’s to go around for an O-H!! We left after an Orioles 9-1 win. As we headed back to our hotel, we readied ourselves for the next day and to take in two football games and then it happened. While sitting at a light I happened to look up at a billboard that was advertising the Towson Tigers football home opener the next day at 6pm. I looked at Phil and said, “do we?”…………we did. We quickly found out where Towson was and how long it would take to get from College Park to Towson and yes, it was doable. We were about to embark on what would become one of the most memorable day of our lives.
We arrived Saturday morning in downtown Baltimore around 10am and after parking walking to M&T Bank Stadium, we encountered the Navy mascot, Bill the goat……and I don’t mean some cheerleader in a suit, I mean, the ACTUAL goat.
After a great photo op, we made it to our seats. The atmosphere at the game was much more that of an NFL game versus a college game. The stadium blared music over both bands playing throughout the game and even drowned out the Buckeyes quick cals.
The pre-game was nothing short of moving. Each company of the Navy cadets were introduced and marched in formation on the field. Once they were all in place, the Navy choir sang the National Anthem.
It was truly a moment in my life that I will never forget and my pride of being an American beamed and truly felt such a feeling of thanks to each and every one of those servicemen and servicewomen. Once the game started it was a first half of pure stress and anxiety. TBDBITL did a double script Ohio at half and we all sat back in our chairs and fretted about what could happen in the 3rd quarter.
The play of the game happened in the 3rd when JT Barrett hit Devin Smith for an 80 yard TD pass and I just happened to be taking pictures by holding down the button to snap a constant string of pictures and captured the whole pass.
The Buckeyes would take a 20-17 lead into the 4th quarter and began to pull away. It was a very quiet Buckeye crowd throughout the game. I’m not sure if that was because M&T Bank Stadium was so big that the sound didn’t resonate well or it was just a quiet crowd. Once the game ended, the Buckeyes joined the Navy team at the Navy end-zone and stood side by side while Navy sang their alma mater. THEN, they sprinted down to the other end-zone to sing Carmen, OH and was also joined by the Midshipmen while they sang.
Was just a great moment to top off a great experience. BUT, we weren’t done yet.. WWee rushed to the car and jumped on 95 south and headed to College Park. We arrived at the Maryland game with about 7 min’s left and Maryland leading 17-0 already.
We walked up to our seats and took in 2 quarters of the Terps first game as a member of the B1G. Byrd Stadium is basically a big horseshoe and rather boring stadium. It was half full at best and a very quiet crowd.
The campus is gorgeous and again, the people were so nice. We didn’t have to pay for parking and got our tickets on StubHub for 4 bucks so those were both positive. We left College Park and began our trek north to Towson.
We arrived at the Towson game with about 8 min’s to go in the first quarter. We quickly bought our tickets and began to take a quick “tour” of Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Towson is a FCS school and was a finalist last season in the FCS playoffs. One of the highlights of the trip then happened at halftime. After the band finished their performance (which wasn’t half bad) they brought out the Towson women’s gymnastic team to honor non other than American Ninja Warrior Kacy Cantanzaro. For those who don’t know, Kacy is the first woman to finish and beat the course with the warped wall, one of the toughest challenges on American Ninja Warrior. Kacy couldn’t have been nicer as were the fans and staff at Towson.
Many stopped us and asked us about the Buckeyes game and were amazed once we told them of our day and games.
I had one last photo op at Towson with a fan and didn’t realize it encompassed my whole day…..a picture in my Buckeyes jersey, with my Maryland foam finger, at Towson University.
The weekend was one of my top 2 or 3 experiences I’ve ever had and can’t believe we were able to accomplish all we did. I’m only glad I have an extra day this weekend to rest before I have to go back to work. We are already planning a return trip to Maryland in a few weeks when the Buckeyes take on the Terps…..the only question is…..can we squeeze in FOUR football games in one day!!!