Week 10: Commander’s Classic

An Overtime Thriller!

Army 21, Air Force 14/OT

Football games involving the three service academies– especially games between the service academies– are a different breed of football. They’re famously stuck to running a wishbone triple option offense.

Off the field, game days involving the service academies are also a different breed. The first-ever Commander’s Classic came to the DFW Metroplex and Globe Life Field courtesy of Lockheed Martin, which is based in Fort Worth. Though this isn’t quite Army vs. Navy, the mixture of soldiers and airmen was a sight.

While this game day offered an incredible experience, it came with a price tag. Early-sale tickets just to get in where $73 after fees; closer seats pushed $200. Parking is a financial nightmare, too, with three options: $50 lot at the stadium, $40 lot within two blocks, or $30 lots within a mile.

The field was wedged onto a baseball field normally inhabited by the Texas Rangers, which left the Air Force-painted end zone just feet away from the outfield wall. Luckily for this game, every single point was scored going the other way.

Before the game started, six Medal of Honor recipients were honored before the 20,000+, ranging from Afghanistan veterans to Vietnam vets. With so many veterans and service member’s families in the crowd, it was an emotional welcome. Globe Life even cracked their retractable roof open (despite temperatures in the upper-40s) to offer a view of F-35s and Chinooks doing a flyover.

A notable tradition is the Cadet Exchange, where cadets are ceremoniously “returned” to their service academies before the game. Instead of being a solemn representation, the cadets are returned with some pretty hilarious messages spelled on their backs. The Air Force Academy won the jabs by spelling LAME AF across the six Army cadets’ backs.

That’s all Air Force won the day, though. Army won the ballgame, 21-14, in overtime on a bizarre sequence. Quarterback Christian Anderson fumbled the ball into the end zone and the ball was recovered by his own lineman. After a gutty fourth-down stop, Army sang second (a tradition by the winning service academy).

36 combined passes were attempted by the teams, uncharacteristic of the service academies. It led to 35 second-half points. Following the first score from the Air Force Falcons, fans launch cheese singles onto the field. Don’t ask me why, but schools in the western plains tend to take after one another (Texas Tech is famous for throwing tortillas on the field after kickoff).

The Commander’s Classic provided a wonderful game day experience. It’s different– from the venue to the offensive schemes to the fans. There’s lots of pride surrounding these programs and it bleeds into Saturdays.

Game Day Grades

Stadium: N/A. Professional stadium, I’m not grading it here.

Tradition: B. It’s not Army-Navy, but it’s a special matchup anyway. The Commander-In-Chief’s trophy is at stake in all of these games, which is one of the best trophies in sports, period. There’s plenty of other traditions, from the cheese slices to singing the alma maters that are worth paying attention to.

Atmosphere: B-. The makeup of the crowd and the military feel is really neat. I mean, they had an Air Force jet on the sidelines. However, a triple-option offense brings a sleepier crowd. When the game was in the balance, it was exciting. But the best part about the atmosphere is the pageantry.

Tailgating: C-. I was actually surprised to see any tailgating at all. But we’re talking about a crowd largely made up of cadets and families that have responsibilities. Those that did tailgate were up bright and early; it just wasn’t much (note: the game also kicked off at 10:30 local).

Fans: A+. I’ve never run into a more well-behaved crowd. There were no altercations, only respect amongst one another. And of course the fans are passionate– many served in the respective branches. Many more’s children are serving.

Extracurriculars: A+. Arlington is one of the best cities in the US. It’s situated right in between Dallas and Fort Worth and has a plethora of things to do in itself. Check out Texas Live!, a conglomeration of several bars and eateries with live music on the campus of Globe Life Field.

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