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Observer on the Ground: Naval Academy traditions arrive in sunny Baltimore 

By Liam Coolican and Maddie Ladd

As the weather in South Bend turned frigid over the weekend, we were rewarded with a trip to sunny Baltimore. Believe it or not, the weather at kickoff Saturday afternoon was 70 degrees with bright sunshine. We departed South Bend in the early afternoon on Friday and quickly became well-acquainted with the Charlotte airport as we waited out our four-hour layover. Two flight delays and a plate of nachos later, we arrived in Baltimore late Friday night and immediately settled down in our hotel overlooking the waterfront.

We took advantage of the lovely Saturday morning by waking up early (for college students, that is!) and taking a leisurely stroll along the beautiful Inner Harbor and into Federal Hill. Irish fans abounded throughout the city. Although plenty of Navy fans had made the short trip from Annapolis as well.

We stumbled upon Sam’s Bagels, a quintessential East Coast bagel shop, packed with locals and football fans alike. It more than lived up to its reputation. For the curious: yes, they had Old Bay-flavored bagels. No, we were not quite crazy enough to order one. We ate our bagels outside before taking the short walk to the stadium. 

Once we arrived at M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Ravens, we checked out the tailgating scene before heading up to the press box. It was definitely more akin to a professional football tailgating environment, as no tents were allowed. And given the fact that the stadium is right downtown, the lots were much smaller. 

That didn’t prevent Irish and Midshipmen fans alike from enjoying the unseasonably warm November afternoon. The two groups of fans mingled among each other, showing once again why Notre Dame and Navy have one of the friendliest rivalries in college football. 

Once we settled into the pressbox, we took the elevator down to the field to watch warmups. As the teams left the field, the 4,000-plus Midshipmen, composed of 30 companies, marched onto the field in perfect formation.

The student experience at the Naval Academy is so different from that of our own, especially on a game day. Experiencing it firsthand gave us an even greater respect for their service to our country. 

Once each company was in position, the band began to play the The Star-Spangled Banner. Standing on the same field as the Midshipmen as the colors were presented and two fighter jets roared overhead at the conclusion of the national anthem is not an experience we’ll easily forget.

Just before kickoff, three parachutists descended on to the field with perfect landings. And at halftime, we were able to take in the impressive Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. All in all, it was certainly not a typical college gameday experience. But the Naval Academy’s unique traditions make it an incredibly special place.

After the game, as is tradition, the two teams joined together in front of the USNA band for the playing of Notre Dame, Our Mother, and Navy Blue and Gold, Navy’s alma mater. It is clear these two programs have an immense amount of respect for each other.

Upon arrival at the Baltimore airport Sunday morning, we decided to stop by Miss Shirley’s, a Maryland classic. After seeing that the Food Network said Miss Shirley’s has “the best pancakes in Maryland,” we knew we had to try them out for ourselves. We can both confidently say that the title lived up to the test.

After connecting in Charlotte once again, although thankfully with a much shorter layover this time, the plane descended through the permacloud which had invaded South Bend in our short absence. We let out a collective groan as we saw the snow-covered ground. But we were grateful for our short foray into Baltimore.

Contact Madeline Ladd at mladd2@nd.edu.

Contact Liam Coolican at lcoolica@nd.edu.

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