My father is a USNA grad, class of ’74. He was a career Naval officer. Not surprisingly, part of that career was a tour spent in the Pentagon. Two tours, actually. The first came when I was in 4th & 5th grade, and the second when I was in high school. We lived in a cool little neighborhood in Arlington, in the same house both times. This was during the heyday of Joe Gibbs and the Redskins, with Art Monk, Gary Clark, the Hogs, Ernest Byner, and Super Bowls. The Skins were still playing in RFK Stadium back then. RFK was one of the smallest stadiums in the league at the time, and coupled with such a good team it made for one tough ticket. Those rare occasions where my father was able to snag some tickets– usually through a season ticket holder at work who couldn’t make the game that weekend– were a real treat. We’d park at the Virginia Square Metro station and hop on the Orange Line, joined by thousands of other fans packing the train. After a ride that felt a lot longer than it probably was, we’d get off the train, take the escalator up to the street, and start walking towards the Armory. Turn right once you got past the Armory, and there it was– RFK in all its glory. It probably isn’t the same sight that it used to be, much in the same way that old houses you lived in as a kid seem a lot smaller when you visit them as an adult. But as a kid at the time, everything about a trip to RFK said “big-time.”
The feeling didn’t end when you got inside, either. It only sat 55,000 or so, but it sounded a whole lot louder thanks to the overhang circling the stadium that reflected sound back onto the field. You could feel the seats move. Then you started pointing out all the things you’d notice when you watched a game on TV; the iconic end zone paint, the names on the Hall of Stars, the players warming up, the “BASEBALL IN D.C.” sign. Our seats were always in the corner of the end zone, but we didn’t care. Being there was enough, and the place was small enough that you never felt too far removed from the action anyway. It was paradise.
There probably won’t be quite the same atmosphere for the inaugural EagleBank Bowl on Saturday. The stadium won’t be as full, and the wide-eyed exuberance of childhood has left me… sort of. But man, I can’t wait to walk into RFK for a football game one more time. I’ve been back for baseball exhibition games and DC United, but football– Navy football– is just a whole different experience.
Anyway, if familiarity breeds contempt, then Navy and Wake Forest are going to pretty much hate each other by the end of the weekend. I have no idea what to say about Wake Forest that I haven’t said already. I did take another look at the last time we played Wake before I left, to see if they did anything different in the second half of last year’s game to shut down Navy’s offense. The answer is… not really. One thing that Wake does really well is vary how they line up. More than any other team on the schedule, Wake will show 4, 5, and sometimes 6-man fronts all within a few plays of each other. With Kaipo in the game, it was no big deal. With Jarod in the game, it was a little more significant. Actually, Jarod played OK for the majority of plays in the second half. But it only takes one mistake to put the offense in a 3rd & long. That, plus an incomplete pass and a well-timed corner blitz.
(Sorry for the lack of visual evidence to back this up. Maybe if I was typing this at home instead of at a Starbucks in Falls Church…)
Anyway, I’m optimistic about the game. I don’t want to say that Navy matches up well with an ACC team that features award-winning defensive talent… But beating Wake this season wasn’t a fluke. A lot has been made about Riley Skinner’s bad day the first time around, but Coach Green’s scheme had a lot to do with it.
Not much of a post, I know, but I’m hungry and off to grab some pizza at Joe’s on Lee Highway. Best pizza in Arlington, n00bs! After that, I’ll head out to Annapolis for the afternoon. Any of you Birddogs at the game can find me in the crusty Uzelac-era Starter jacket in section 522. Beat Wake.