I’m looking forward to this season for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I think I’ll actually be going to a fair number of games for once. South Carolina is too close for me not to go, so I’ll be there. I try to get to at least one game a year in Annapolis, and this year it’ll probably be ECU or Troy. Even the Army game is in Washington, so there’s no excuse for me not to go (assuming I can get a ticket). And if the Mids keep their bowl streak alive, that’ll be in Washington too.
I know some people aren’t big fans of the Military Bowl, and maybe I’d feel the same way if I was local. I’m not, though, so I love it. I love Washington. I love RFK, but that’s because I’ve been there enough to know the right seats to get (I TOLD YOU PEOPLE NOT TO SIT IN THE LOWER BOWL BUT YOU DIDN’T LISTEN). I love being so close to Annapolis, and with any luck there will be a home basketball game or two around the same time as the bowl game. How awesome would it be to pack Alumni Hall over Christmas leave with a couple thousand Navy fans in town for the bowl game? Someone should make a ticket package out of it. Damn I’m brilliant.
I’ll admit, though, that I’m pretty easy to please. I can’t think of a Navy bowl trip that wasn’t fun. That’s a good thing, since I only take one vacation a year. If you can’t find a way to have fun in San Diego, San Francisco, or Houston, then stop reading this blog because I don’t know if I can catch whatever’s wrong with you through the internet and I don’t want to find out. Even Charlotte was great, with the added bonus of being within driving range, both for me and the majority of Navy’s season ticket holders.
Navy’s bowl destinations for the next few years (provided they’re eligible, obviously) are locked up. The Mids are tied to the Military Bowl in 2011, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2012, the Armed Forces Bowl in 2013, and with any luck we’ll hear soon that the Poinsettia Bowl is officially on for 2014. The current BCS contract ends after 2014, so bowl arrangements will most likely get a shakeup after that. I expect that we’ll still see Navy continue their affiliation with some of their established bowl partners, which is fine with me. We’ll probably also see a new destination or two. If we do, here’s a list of a few realistic games I wouldn’t mind getting to travel to, in no particular order. By “realistic” I mean ones that Navy might actually be able to hammer out an agreement with; while I’m sure you’re about to type in “HEY GUYS HOW ABOUT THE OUTBACK BOWL ROSE BOWL SUPER BOWL GREY CUP AND OLYMPIC 100M FINAL,” none of those are going to happen. With any luck, maybe one of these has a chance:
Liberty Bowl, Memphis: This one might not be as possible as it used to be, with the Conference USA champ facing the #8 pick of SEC teams; the Liberty Bowl loves its SEC affiliation and sits squarely within the CUSA footprint. Still, there was a chance that the Mids could have ended up in Memphis in 2004. Back then, the game matched up the CUSA champ with their counterpart from the Mountain West, but Utah went undefeated and ended up in a BCS game. That left an opening, and Navy was one of the game’s top potential replacements. It fell apart when the Liberty Bowl was able to make an arrangement with the WAC to get Boise State to take on Louisville for a matchup of offenses that was the talk of the bowl season. The game lived up to the hype, too, with the Cardinals holding on to win, 44-40, in a back-and forth classic. With a win over New Mexico in San Francisco, things didn’t turn out so bad for Navy, either.
The Liberty Bowl is one of the older bowl games, first played in 1959. It used to have an automatic berth for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy winner for a few years. Navy played in the 1981 game, a 31-28 loss to Ohio State that was also George Welsh’s last game with the Mids. There’s history there, so there’s nostalgic appeal. Then there’s the opportunity to spend New Year’s Eve in Memphis, the appeal of which requires no explanation. This game is almost too good to wish for.
Music City Bowl, Nashville: My last trip to Nashville was in 2003, when Navy played Vanderbilt. I was only there for two nights, but somehow I managed to find a couple great restaurants and go to a Busta Rhymes concert. I can only imagine what I could do with a whole week, although it’s probably a safe bet that most of the Navy fans making the trip would opt for a different musical selection. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of music options. And with Nashville being a quick flight from Baltimore (or an 11-hour drive if you’re like me), there would be PLENTY of Navy fans there. The stadium is modern, which is sure to make the wine & cheesers happy. While I usually like to get to an NBA game on my bowl trips, the Preds would be a nice change of pace. The game is far enough down the ACC & SEC pecking orders that bowl organizers might be willing to consider the Naval Academy, although attendance has been very good in the five games between representatives of those two conferences.
Sun Bowl, El Paso: Once upon a time I would have put the Alamo Bowl here instead, but that game is too big-time to be considered for this list now. The Sun Bowl probably is too, for that matter, but I hold out hope for a few reasons. While the game is in the middle of the ACC selection order, El Paso isn’t exactly in the middle of ACC territory. Last year the game was able to get Notre Dame since the Pac-10, with two teams in BCS games and USC ineligible for the postseason, wasn’t able to provide a team. The Sun Bowl lucked out, since the ACC representative was Miami; they got one of college football’s best-traveling teams to make up for having to take one of the worst. They won’t always be that lucky, and if the bowl committee has to endure a couple years of Stanford vs. Boston College-type matchups, they might be willing to look for an alternative once their contracts expire in 2013 that would bring in better attendance numbers. Someone like Navy, maybe? The game is broadcast by CBS. A good word on our behalf couldn’t hurt.
When I would go on deployment, I found that my opinion of the port visits depended almost entirely on the food I ate while I was there. Canary Islands? FANTASTIC. Barcelona? UNBELIEVABLE. Istanbul? INCREDIBLE. Alexandria? NOT SO MUCH. In Egypt, I saw wonders of the world that have stood for thousands of years. In Palermo, I saw a few locales from Godfather III. Not exactly in the same league when it comes to life experiences, but when you throw food into the equation, Palermo was a slice of paradise. Cool, gelato-covered paradise. I look at El Paso the same way. The Mexican food alone makes the thought of 5 days in western Texas an appealing one to a hog like me. Those more demanding of their vacations than I am can go hiking, or on a mission tour, or whatever else it is you people do. I’ll be content with the food and one of college football’s oldest and most respected bowl games.
Pinstripe Bowl, New York: While I watched the Army-Notre Dame game last season, I was impressed with how well football worked in Yankee Stadium. The place might be brand new, but everything about the game sure felt old-school. That’s the kind of environment that just begs for teams like Navy. Besides, if Fleet Week taught me anything it’s that New York is a Navy town at heart. Don’t tell me that hogwash about cold weather. It’s friggin’ New York. Three hours in the cold is worth five days in New York.
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas: Do you really need this one explained to you?
So let’s hear your wish lists. Try not to get ridiculous with them.