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December 29, 2013

My Military Bowl Diary

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HerdNation made the trip to Washington, D.C. and Annapolis, MD this week to cheer on the Herd as they battled the Maryland Terrapins in the 2013 Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. It was a great time combining history, culture, eating, drinking and football. This is my diary chronicling HerdNation's trip to the Military Bowl!

Day 1- Thursday, 12/26: BLM4MU, myself and a mutual friend loaded up my Dodge Nitro and hit I-64 East from Beckley at 9:30 AM. After an easy drive with little traffic, we rolled into a public parking lot across 9th Street Northwest from the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel at 2:30 PM. The hotel was located near the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C. and the Verizon Center. There we met the fourth person in our party who had just flown in from Atlanta and had been waiting on us at the hotel lobby bar. We checked in and took our bags up to the room on the 15th floor. The rooms were very nice, very boutiquish. We decided then to try and see as much of D.C. as we could before dinner.

We started out walking south on 9th Street toward the National Mall. We passed the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the National Portrait Gallery and the International Spy Museum. We then made a right on E street to 10th Street Northwest where we went to Ford's Theater- the site where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. We were unable to view the theater and museum due to a matinee performance of A Christmas Carol. We snapped a few pics in the theater lobby and then made our way across the street to the Petersen House where Lincoln was taken after being shot and subsequently died the next morning. The room where Lincoln died was much smaller than I had pictured in my head. I had imagined the enormity of the moment and it taking place in a huge room. In reality, how there were more than three people in there at the same time is a miracle in itself. It was an awe-inspiring experience. The accompanying museum in the building next door was great too. It told the story of the conspirators in Lincoln's assassination and his legacy.

After leaving the Petersen House, we continued walking south on 10th Street passing the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, the IRS and across Constitution Avenue by the National Museum of Natural History. We walked across the National Mall and took pictures of the Capitol and Washington Monument from the center. We then walked pass the Smithsonian Institution on our way to the National Air and Space Museum. We did a quick walk through of the main floor of the museum and then made our way north on 4th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. We walked northwest on Pennsylvania to 7th Street where we stopped and snapped a picture of the Stephenson Grand Army of the Republic Memorial before heading north again on 7th Street back towards our hotel. We passed the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the Verizon Center and the Chinatown Friendship Archway. We stopped at Matchbox on H Street for a couple of beers and dinner. Our bartender was a recent Maryland grad and we exchanged some good natured ribbing about the game. The owner of Matchbox owned Mycroft's in Huntington from 1990 to 1996 before Marshall bought out the building on the corner of 3rd Avenue. I had a pepperoni and meatball roll which was great. My friends had sliders and fries. The fries were outstanding. I also tried the Speakeasy Ale. It was okay but had too much of a bitter aftertaste for my liking.

From there we went back to the hotel to get ready for the night. We went down to the hotel lobby for drinks before heading back up to Room 1226- the Big Green Hospitality Suite. In a room made for probably 20 people there were about 50 crammed in and spilling out to the hallway. It was a great time and I saw plenty of familiar faces. We ran into abbucksandherd and his wife, kzigmond2 and his wife and a few other posters… I'm sorry if I'm leaving anyone else out.

After leaving the Big Green Suite, three members of my party went to the 9:30 Club to catch a Clutch concert. I was wearing a button down and V neck sweater. I figured nothing screams NARC like a V neck sweater so in the interest of self-preservation I decided to sit out the concert and drink it up with Herd fans in the hotel lobby bar. The first night in D.C. finally ended around 3 AM.

Day 2- Game Day: Our day started early at 8:30 AM with a phone call from an old fraternity brother parked out in front of the hotel. He is a Metro Police Officer working in a Joint Anti-Terror Task Force with the FBI. We went for a quick breakfast and got caught up as it's been several years since I've seen him. He was one of the first people in the building at the Washington Navy Yard in pursuit of the shooter back in September. He dropped us back off at the hotel and we went upstairs to wake up the rest of the group and get ready to catch the shuttle to Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

We took the second shuttle from the hotel. It left around 11 AM. We made good time until we merged on to the exit for the stadium. We sat in traffic on the exit ramp for 30 minutes delaying our arrival at the tailgate to about 12:30 PM. On the bus we sat behind Cam Dees' parents from Tampa. We talked to them about all kinds of different things, they were great. The tailgate was nice, they had a stage set up and a couple bands played. They had food vendors and the Budweiser Build-A-Bars set up. The area around the stadium and the stadium itself is beautiful. We then met up with another fraternity brother of mine who had a parking spot and tailgated there before heading into the stadium. The lines to the Port-A-Johns were rough, if I had a complaint at all it was that. While waiting in line one time, I spoke to a pretty Maryland grad and her Mom behind me. They were from Baltimore and asked how our trip up to Annapolis was and where Huntington was located and how close it was to Morgantown. They weren't real enamored with Edsall and were nervous about the move to the Big 10. They didn't know much about Marshall but seemed genuinely interested while we were talking.

Inside the stadium was just as nice as the outside. All chair backs except for a couple of sections of bleachers, two very nice HD video replay boards, the ring of honor displaying all of the important Naval battles fought through the different wars. In my opinion, it was a great venue for a bowl game.

We saw the parachutists come in to the stadium but must have missed the flyover if there were one. We had great seats on the 30 yard line in section 3 behind Hoosgottaherdon and his friends. Herd fans were loud and stood the whole game. The Maryland fans were loud a couple times in the 1st quarter and when they took the lead in the 3rd but other than that didn't hear much out of them. The cannon they fired off was the real deal though, if you were in the concourse when they fired it off it would rattle your bones. They sold beer in the stadium and I never saw the first person be drunk and obnoxious the whole time. The game was great, though I admit I got a little nervous there in the 3rd quarter. The atmosphere inside the stadium was great. There were plenty of "We Are… Marshall" and "Let's Go Herd" chants going on. Our section of Herd fans went nuts when Gator made that big third down catch, running over Terps the whole way. It was right in front of us and was just a great football play. We stayed for the trophy presentations and then walked about a mile after the game to Fado's Irish Pub for the post-game alumni party. The place was about 50/50 Terp and Herd fans when we first got there but over time the Maryland fans thinned out and it was mostly kelly green. We met the President of the Washington D.C. Club. She did a great job on the party. A Maryland fan walked up to me in the bar and welcomed me. He called Annapolis his town and wished us a good time before leaving. I watched him going out of his way to go up to other Herd fans and tell them the same thing as he was leaving. The Herd Piper showed up and played several tunes on the bagpipes including "Sons of Marshall". We ate dinner there, the fish and chips were very good. My friends had lamb sliders and Shepherd's Pie Bites. After a couple more beers, the four of us took a $100 cab ride back to the Renaissance Hotel where we spent the rest of the night celebrating the win with other Herd fans at the hotel bar.

Day 3- Saturday 12/28: We woke up around 8:30 AM and walked down to McDonald's near the Verizon Center in Chinatown to grab breakfast. I was wearing a Marshall sweatshirt and my buddy was wearing a Marshall hat. The lady that waited on me asked who won and when I told her Marshall she looked disappointed but then laughed and said she had been joking around about the game with some of our players earlier in the week that had stopped in for lunch. As we walked back to the hotel a city worker said we looked like some proud Marshall fans that day and we told him we were. We finally got everyone rounded up and bags loaded back in the truck around 10:30 AM. We hit very little traffic and made it back to Beckley around 3:30PM.

It was a great time. Everything about the bowl felt like it was done first class. If we ever end up going back to the Military Bowl I would not hesitate to go back. Check out the photo gallery below of our trip!

2013 Military Bowl

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