Home » A Chilly Bucketlist Cross-Off At “America’s Game”

A Chilly Bucketlist Cross-Off At “America’s Game”

Attending the Army-Navy football game has long been a bucketlist goal of mine. Considering this season’s NFL kneeling controversy, I felt that this year was the perfect time to go and show my support for America’s best and brightest at “America’s Game.”

Our family decided to make an extended weekend out of it, so we flew to Philadelphia with enough time to see a few sights and eat a few cheesesteaks.

On Friday and Saturday the City of Brotherly Love, equidistant between the service academy’s two campuses, was overrun with Army and Navy supporters. Navy fans walked the historic streets wearing pins that read, “Go Navy, Helm Yeah!”

An Army fan who ate dinner at a table near us had his barber skillfully trim the hair on the side of his head to read, “Go Army, Beat Navy.”

Even though I come from a Navy family, I have a hard time rooting against Army. When people asked me who I was rooting for I’d just say, “I want a close game.”

We awoke on Game Day to find snow flurries and the temperature in the high twenties. It was Philadelphia’s first snow storm of the season, and before it was all over, the snow levels would set a new record for December 9th.

To prepare for the cold, I wore a t-shirt, two thin sweatshirts, a fleece pullover, a scarf, a knit cap, and jacket. I had more layers than a baklava wedding cake.

Despite the inclement weather, Army & Navy fans tailgated enthusiastically in the snow. Our seats were in the southwest corner of the mezzanine level and covered in snow when we arrived. I dusted them off with a napkin, and we sat down to experience the 118th meeting of this historic rivalry.

Our section was mostly filled with Navy supporters, with one guy dressed in a Santa Claus suit. I couldn’t figure out his rooting affiliation, but at least the Philly fans weren’t throwing snowballs at him as they have on prior occasions.

Just after 3:00 local time, the invocation was given by Navy’s Command Chaplain, Captain Francis Foley.
“Let us pray. 

Loving Father, bestow your blessing on all who gather here, on the cadets and midshipmen.  Renew them with strength for service to their nation. Grant our world the blessings of peace and mutual forgiveness. May all who watch this game be inspired.

The teams fight ferociously, in mutual respect.  Their uniforms differ, but in their love of country, they are one team, for one fight. 

Finally, dear Lord, bless all who serve our nation in uniform. They are the shield of freedom and the sword of justice.  Keep them sharp of mind and skilled in combat.   Feared by their foes, loved by their friends, and treasured in the hearts of their countrymen.

In Your holy name we pray, Amen!”

The national anthem was sung by a combination of the Armed Forces men’s and women’s glee clubs and gospel choirs, and the colors were presented by a combination Color Guard.

Army’s Black Knights were dressed in all white uniforms to honor the 10th Mountain Division of World War II. Navy dressed in blue and yellow to honor the Blue Angels flight demonstration team.

The frozen tundra of Lincoln Financial Field was covered in snow and the guys doing yeoman’s work were members of the grounds crew. Using their leaf blowers to expose the gridiron’s hashtags and yardage lines, they vigorously and continually fought a losing battle with Mother Nature.

Army scored on their first possession. Navy answered twice in the second quarter with a field goal and a 68-yard touchdown run by quarterback Malcolm Perry to lead at halftime 10-7.

My wife and boys were good sports, but decided that one half was enough for them. They wisely retreated to our warm AirBnB apartment just a snowball’s throw from Philadelphia’s landmark Ben Franklin Bridge. Plenty of the other 68,625 in attendance made the same choice.

I spent halftime lingering in the corner of the men’s public restroom warming up my frostbitten toes. Avoiding the elements, even for just 15 minutes, was a welcome reprieve.

Lee Greenwood was the halftime performer, and although I didn’t see him, I could hear him sing his iconic song, “God Bless the USA,” from my cozy corner near the paper towel dispenser.

On a day that most people would have given their right arm for something warm, the hot chocolate machine at the concession stand near my gate broke down. So, I ordered two Miller High Life tallboys and hunkered down all by myself for the second half.

There was no problem keeping my beer cold on this day. Frequently, a falling snowflake would land right in my cup.

During one of the timeouts, a couple of dozen young people were sworn-in to the Navy in a south endzone ceremony. I also loved watching the energy and competitive spirit of both the Brigade of Midshipmen and the Corps of Cadets who stood for the entire game, often bouncing up and down in support of their team, but mainly to keep warm!

It was a surprisingly clean game for such a messy field. There were no turnovers in the game, and only three passes were attempted all day. The ground game was won by Navy’s Quarterback Malcolm Perry who rushed for 250 yards on 30 attempts.

The game came down to the last play. Either team could have won, so I definitely got that “close game” that I had asked for.

With Navy down 14-13 with three seconds to play, Navy kicker Bennett Moehring attempted a 48-yard field goal. I thought that there’s no way he could get enough leg on that ball in these conditions, but he did.

Unfortunately for the “Middies” the ball sailed wide left, and the Corps of Cadets went wild! The Black Knights covered the white field with their seemingly endless block of gray coats to celebrate their school’s first Commander-in-Chief Trophy since 1996.

Another exciting chapter to add to this storied rivalry, and a great, but chilly, bucketlist check-off for me.

On Sunday, we flew home to Orange County where record-setting temperatures were also taking place. The balmy 80+ degree weather was the welcome home hug that our still thawing-out family needed.