A friend of mine — OK, one of my lawyers — said he’d like to attend Army-Navy one of these days. (It won’t be here again, where it belongs, until 2027.)
The iconic game brings million$ to the city but, more importantly, it brings patriotic spirit to Philadelphia.
I had to tell my friend the game always sells out (but scalpers and resale websites usually have tickets).
Until COVID struck, I had attended Army-Navy for about 25 years courtesy of one of my oldest friends, my mentor, and the guy who gave me my first two jobs in journalism, and then another job later on that provided me with the key to world travel.
I’ll get back to that in a minute.
When I first started going, I was Army, because that was the branch that drafted all my uncles and friends.
My friend, Gordon, was lifelong Navy, and since he had the tickets, I sat with Navy. Over the years, especially influenced by Navy’s 14-game win streak from 2002 through 2015, I slowly, um, transitioned to Navy.
That was sealed when the son of a dear friend was accepted to Annapolis. And since he calls me Uncle Stu, and he is now assigned to a destroyer, I am true Navy Blue and wear his ship’s cap, among the half dozen Navy caps I own.
There is a lot of local hoopla prior to the game, with Cadets and Midshipmen engaged in various competitions around town.
When Gordon first started going to Army-Navy, when we were in college, it was played at the massive JFK Stadium.
When I started going, it was at the Vet, and we witnessed the 1998 railing collapse that spilled Cadets and some prep school students 15 feet to the field.
Gordon and his wife Michele always got to the game early, to watch the match onto the field, and to party with other long-time ticket-holders. Since Gordon was buying tickets since the ‘60s, he had really good seats.
I didn’t show up early all the time, but in time for the jet flyovers and the Navy and Army jump teams parachuting into the stadium.
JFK seated 102,000, the Linc only 67,000, but every seat is filled.
I wrote one year that, for me, the best thing about the game was being surrounded by 67,000 patriots.
“How do you know they’re patriots?” asked an
asshole friend of mine on Facebook. That was a few years ago. Today, I am sure he gives his gender preference on his profile.
I answered him.
Just about every person in the stadium has served in the military, protecting his sorry ass, or were family members or friends of service people. Serving your country makes you a patriot, in my book.
Can other people be patriots? Of course. I consider myself a patriot although I was never called to serve. I love and respect the ideals of America, what we stand for, even though we have often fallen short of those ideals. But when we make mistakes, we correct them.
To get back to Gordon, he was the editor of the Brooklyn College night school newspaper and when I walked in one night, with a vague idea about being a reporter, he gave me a shot. He gave me an assignment, and with absolutely no training, I passed that test. Writing is my gift.
A few months later, at 18, he got me a copyboy job at New York’s World Telegram & The Sun, one of New York’s seven daily papers. My career as a paid journalist was launched in 1959, and continued to 2019 — 60 years — when I accepted a buyout from the Inquirer and started this blog three days later.
After I moved to Philly in 1966, about 5 years after I left the Telegram, Gordon called from New York. He had left the Telegram and worked for a trade publisher.
I accepted his offer to be the Philadelphia bureau chief for TravelAge East, a magazine for travel agents.
The job was free-lance, part-time and consisted mostly of covering cocktail parties for travel agents. Not exactly a back breaker, but the best benefit of the job was this: When I had vacation time, I could pick from a list of destinations around the world. The only thing I to “pay” was writing a story about the destination.
Which I would have done anyway.
My first assignment: A first-class passage on the SS France and a weekend in Paris being squired around by a government travel official, which meant no waiting in lines, best seats in the house and no charge.
That could spoil a fellow, and it did spoil me.