This week, two of the greatest traditions in college football merge when the weekly NCAA.com Road Trip goes to the Army-Navy game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
The Army-Navy game is a much more storied tradition than this little column, but this being the last road trip of the season, I figured I’d pay tribute to those who have gone on any of these excursions in the past 16 weeks.
As ridiculous as some of these road trips may have seemed, those participating should be thankful that they have wheels under their feet. They have already have the clear advantage over the company from the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, tasked with running the game ball from the Academy all the way to the 50-yard line of M&T Bank Stadium.If you’re doing the math, this is a run ranging more than 238 miles. This is just a regular weekend for the Cadets in the service (and I guess Forrest Gump) but nightmarish for normal folks like us.
The Navy also designates a company to run a game ball to the stadium but this year the Midshipmen are at a clear advantage. The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland sits less than 30 miles from M&T Bank Stadium, so rather than having the three-day run that the Cadets start Thursday morning, the Midshipmen will likely leave for Baltimore early Saturday morning.
Since you’re not headed to the Chesapeake area on foot, take some time to see West Point and try and get a look at all the public is allowed to see at the Academy.
Once you hop in the car and you’re coming from the direction of the USMA in West Point, you’ll hit Philadelphia.
Lincoln Financial Field in Philly has been the site of many Army-Navy showdowns in the past. The Linc has a pretty sweet set-up for the extremely difficult to please Philly sports fans. The field shares a parking lot with the Wells Fargo Center, home of the 76ers and Flyers, as well as the Phillies home ballpark, Citizens Bank Park. This setup provides people in the Northeast something that no other major sports city in the region has to offer, the ability to tailgate for hockey and basketball.
Live shot of Independence Hall - There's light snow falling right now, though its hard to tell in this photo. pic.twitter.com/BPyyvtDxug— INDEPENDENCENPS (@INDEPENDENCENHP) December 11, 2014
But more importantly, Philadelphia is the next stop on the American history tour. Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross house are within a few blocks of each other.
If you’re going to Baltimore from the south, you’ll run into our nation’s capital Washington D.C.
Seeing the White House, Capitol Building and Monuments to Presidents, Wars and Political Figures will remind you just why a game that Navy hasn’t lost since 2002 is still so important. This game has become part of American history as anything that lives within the Smithsonian or the National Museum of American History in D.C.
A little more than 30 miles east of Washington, the U.S. Naval Academy sits in the capital of the state of Maryland, Annapolis.
Some parts of the Academy are open to public tours and it is absolutely something worth seeing. Visitors can see “the yard,” and see all the common areas and most administrative buildings. The campus sits right on the water so it may be too cold or possibly snowy at this time of year to really appreciate, so head off campus and duck into one of the bars or restaurants on West Street.
If you do catch some nice weather, it’ll be worth taking a walk down the city’s cobblestone streets to the end of the West Street strip to, “Eagle’s Alley,” and see dozens of beautiful yachts docked at the port.
Speaker Mike Busch and Ken Ulman, look at signs of sandwiches named for Md. officials at Chick and Ruth's Delly. pic.twitter.com/m4ol7dB8II— Brian Witte (@APBrianWitte) June 18, 2014
Take your time to see Annapolis, maybe stop in Chick & Ruth’s Delly and attempt a Colossal Challenge, because it’s a very short drive to Baltimore.
The first thing people will tell you to do in Baltimore is find a place to eat some steamed crabs. The local is just as good as advertised, but try not to drop the, “Crab cakes and football, that’s what Maryland does,” line on anybody. But seriously, Bo Brooks in Canton, L.P. Steamers on the Riverside, Mr. Bill’s in Essex are the best places for Maryland crabs (Maryland peeps… feel free to challenge me on this, I’m absolutely open to suggestions!) even the chain, Phillip’s, is better in Maryland than anywhere else.
And if you’re wondering, what goes best with steamed crabs and Old Bay seasoning?
Quoth the locals, Natty Boh!
After you’ve eaten all the crabs you can manage to put down, go to the Baltimore Aquarium so you can feel really, really guilty. In all seriousness, the Baltimore Aquarium sits right in my favorite place on earth, the Inner Harbor, and is the first place I remember seeing a fish that wasn’t swimming in a tank at a Chinese restaurant, so I highly recommend you check that out, or just take a walk around the Inner Harbor and up to Camden Yards.
Home of the Baltimore Orioles, Camden Yards is one of the nicest parks in town and a place you’ll definitely want to mark for a return visit in the summer. The Babe Ruth statue outside Oriole Park is not there by accident; the Bambino was born in Baltimore and the Babe is a centerpiece of the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards.
A bit of literary history to see in Baltimore is the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum and just in case I ruined The Raven for you with my Natty Boh joke, you can retain an appreciation for the man’s poetry with a look inside his chamber doors.
Once you leave the Poe House, head to M&T Bank Stadium.
I thought this Johnny Unitas statue was cool as I walked up to the front of the stadium. pic.twitter.com/XRoqQ4yVbJ— Michael Johnson (@mjohnsonphoto) September 22, 2013
Outside of the stadium, a statue stands of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Johnny Unitas. Grab a picture of yourself in front of that statue and make it the focal in your road trip scrapbook.
Once inside the game, you’ll see some things that the Cadets and Mids do that will intrigue you. For instance, right before the game you’ll notice what looks like a trade larger than anything the Los Angeles Dodgers has tried to pull off this week at the Winter Meetings. That’s what’s known as the Prisoner Exchange.
Each academy sends a company to study at the rival campus for an entire semester leading up to the Army-Navy game; then before the game starts, the companies are traded for one another and they go back to their original side.
The traditions are much deeper that seeing cadets do pushups for every point scored, so there will be things like this going on throughout the entire game.
One thing you will notice, is the “I believe that we will win,” chant that was popularized by the U.S. National Soccer team in the 2014 World Cup. This was a cheer invented at the Naval Academy for Midshipmen football games.
That will conclude the final road trip of the college football regular season. If you’re lucky, you will get to see your favorite team go to Dallas for the National Championship game.
But this is where I leave you, weary travelers.