Sunday, December 12, 2010

Go Navy, Beat Army!

This is a guest post by Stewart, aka "Papa":

Yesterday, Jacob and I took Max to his first ever sporting event: the 111th Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We went with Max’s Uncle Jon and cousin Ben. Ben is a high-school senior applying to the Naval Academy, so his enthusiasm for all things Navy prompted our trip down and made Midshipmen fans of us all. Ben had on his Navy sweatshirt, and even Max got into the act, wearing a special bib emblazoned with Navy’s rally cry: “Go Navy, Beat Army!” (Army’s slogan is “Go Army, Beat Navy!” – so it seems that these military schools are no nonsense even down to their amazingly literal rallying cries).

The game was a blast. Navy beat Army 31-17, the 9th straight victory for the Midshipmen over their rivals from West Point. The game featured the longest touchdown pass by Navy in the history of the rivalry – 77 yards – and Navy’s longest fumble return for a touchdown in their school’s history – 99 yards. During this incredibly exciting latter score, which occurred near the end of the first half, Jacob and I were locked in the “family” bathroom at Lincoln Financial Field, doing what else -- changing Max’s poopy diaper. Ah, the glories of parenting a baby! (And by the way, ladies, the “family” bathroom is for parents in need of the changing table, not for you all to hang out in to fix your makeup together. We waited 10 minutes for the bathroom to open up, and finally out came five grown women smacking their lips and popping lipstick tops back on. And for this we missed the 99 yard fumble return for a score?! For shame!)

When I told my hairdresser last week that Jacob and I were taking Max to the game, she told me that “you don’t want to do that” because the game will be “too crowded, too cold and too noisy” for a seven month old. Don’t get me wrong, those are legitimate concerns, but I was somewhat perturbed that my hairdresser (who I adore and who adores Max), while not being a parent herself, was instructing me not to bring Max to the game for reasons that she amazingly must have thought I hadn’t considered. Not wishing to get into it with her, I simply stated: “oh well, that is one of the perks Max will discover from having two dads; he gets to do things that no other self-respecting family would do, like lounging around the apartment all day in his underwear, eating last night’s leftover pizza for breakfast . . . or going to a football game in the northeast in December at 7 months old.” This got an approving nod from my hairdresser, who I had given a new way to look at the decision – one born not out of parental irresponsibility, but out of a boyish sense of adventure.

And I am so thrilled that we went, because we had the time of our lives. Max loves crowds, so we weren’t worried in the slightest about the capacity crowd of 69,223 in attendance at the game. Jacob and I often laugh that Max seems to have a reputation among those that spend time with him as a serene baby. But that’s because for some reason he decides to be on his best behavior in front of others. When he’s alone with us, it can often be a very different story! I like to think that’s because he knows we love him unconditionally, so when just with us he feels secure enough to be as grumpy as he wants. True to form, Max was amazingly content at the game, and even managed to win over the Army fans sitting behind us, despite his “Go Navy” bib – now that takes charm given this fierce rivalry! 

Regarding the weather, I’d been tracking it on for weeks. If it was bitter cold, or rainy, Jacob was going to go to half the game with his brother and nephew while I watched Max at our hotel, and vice-versa for the other half. Fortunately, it was 45 degrees with not a wisp of wind, which made the decision to bring Max to the stadium a no-brainer. He loves being outside, so much so that, as Jacob has mentioned in other posts, sometimes we’ll take him outside just because we know it has a calming effect on him. He was born in Georgia, so I think he’s a southern country boy at heart (just don’t expect to hear any country music in our household – I have my limits!).

Regarding the noise, I am no stranger to football games and know how loud they can get. I must admit when Jacob first mentioned the possibility of going to the game, the first thing that flashed through my mind was the celebration at the end of last year’s Super Bowl. The New Orleans Saints had just won the NFL championship and their quarterback, Drew Brees, was named MVP. He was seen down on the field while his one year old son sat calmly in his arms through who knows how much celebratory fanfare clamoring around him. The reason? His son was wearing black junior Peltor headphones that blocked out most of the noise. But just as importantly to me, natch, the boy looked absolutely adorable wearing them.

I knew that taking Max to the big Army/Navy game would give me the perfect excuse to buy the headphones for him for Hanukkah. It was pretty hysterical when I sat him on the bed in the hotel room to size them on his head before heading to the game. I slipped them over Max’s ears, but his head was turned away from me, so I couldn’t get a good sense of the fit. I called Max’s name to get his attention so that he’d look at me to make it easier . . . and nothing. I called again, louder . . . and nothing. He was still looking away, and I was getting pretty exasperated. Jacob stood behind me just cracking up. “I guess they work” was what he finally said, through a smile.

And it’s a good thing they did. Before the game started there was a lot of pomp and circumstance, as is befitting for an event nicknamed “America’s Game.” After literally a dozen parachuters descended from the heavens onto the field, four Apache attack helicopters chopped their way low over the stadium crowd, followed by the scream of three Hornet fighter jets. Then, after either team scored a touchdown or a field goal, a cannon would blast, including for extra points, as well as at the end of each quarter of play. It being a high-scoring game, that made for 18 cannon blasts in all! Oh, and they have fireworks at the game’s conclusion too!

If it isn’t obvious from this description, the Army/Navy game is a fantastic event for kids, and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a family outing for those who have them. Seeing the stands full of wildly enthusiastic West Point cadets in full regalia in one corner, and Annapolis midshipmen in full regalia in the other, is simply an awesome site. While the rivalry is intense, the common military purpose of both sides means that it remains a friendly one, both between the schools themselves and fans like us in the stands. We had multiple military academy students help us find our way through the maze of the Philly subway system and stadium complex, and they all could not have been nicer. Add to that the parachuters, helicopters, airplanes, humvees out front, fireworks, and – oh yeah – a heck of an entertaining and competitive college football game, and it would be impossible not to have a great time. Teaching your kids about the honor and sacrifice our of nation’s troops – and serving as a sobering reminder for us adults as well – is an extra bonus that simply can’t be quantified.  

The games are mostly held in the upcoming years either in Philly or Baltimore and either city, with tons of other things to do there, would make for an excellent December weekend getaway for the whole family. Hopefully we’ll be back very soon, not only for the game, but to scan the corner stands for our handsomely uniformed nephew going crazy amongst his fellow midshipmen after every Navy score – fingers crossed!


  1. Sounds like a great time. Eli has those headphones but we haven't used them yet. Good to know they work.

  2. Stew, you made me briefly regret my lifelong lack of interest in football. Love the picture of Max with the huge crowd behind him. I can already imagine him, years from now, marveling over it in a photo album. He's a lucky kid, to have two dads taking him out to things like this.

  3. Thanks Doug. I really appreciate your kind words and I hope we can hang soon -- it's been too long! --Stewart