- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 3, 2005

BALTIMORE — Any animosity between Maryland and Navy fans appeared to be history in the sun-splashed parking lots yesterday at M&T; Bank Stadium.

Tailgaters decked out in red and white mingled with those in blue and gold. Some let the colors bleed together, displaying mixed allegiances. The scene played out like a party 40 years in the making — far from the feud some who remember the previous engagements in this series might have expected.

“This is awesome. This is college football at its best,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. “The atmosphere is electric out here. It’s great for Baltimore, and it’s great for both schools. … There are all kinds of mixed marriages.”

John Gaines of Palm Harbor, Fla., graduated from Maryland in 1990. His father is an ardent Navy football supporter and season ticket holder at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

While Gaines, his wife and children were decked out in Maryland gear yesterday, the rest of his family and friends donned blue and gold attire.

“We got our tickets and booked the flights as soon as the schedule came out,” Gaines said. “I got all my girls in turtle outfits. [The rest of the family] said I can wear my ‘M’ hat for one day. [Tomorrow] I’ll have to put a blue and gold hat on.”

Another member of Gaines’ party, Bill Fiore, a Navy fan from New Jersey, is a veteran of the Maryland-Navy series. He is good friends with Skip Orr, the Midshipman who was tackled out-of-bounds by Maryland’s Jerry Fischman in 1964.

Fiore and Gaines’ father were in the Marines, and he has been following Navy since he was 5 years old.

“I don’t hold any animosity toward Maryland anymore,” Fiore said. “I don’t think their fans hold any animosity toward Navy anymore. I think it’s just a football game that both sides want to win to get off on the right foot.”

Lauren Benner of Annapolis figured out a way to display her allegiances. She took a red Maryland shirt and a grey Navy shirt and cut them in half. She sewed a half of each together and repeated the process for a friend and her younger sister.

“My older sister goes to Maryland, but I’ve always gone to Navy games,” Benner said. “She keeps saying, ‘Go Maryland,’ but I’m kind of a Navy girl.”

Many other fans took easier routes to the same solution. Navy hats with Maryland shirts and vice versa were popular ensemble choices.

The day provided a chance for some old work buddies to catch up. Bob Semin of Sykesville, Md., and Herb Nelson of Ellicott City, Md., worked together for Westinghouse in Baltimore.

Semin’s Maryland outfit and Nelson’s Navy shirt might have clashed four decades ago, but yesterday they stood shoulder-to-shoulder without hesitation. Semin also saw the 1964 contest in person.

“I think everyone’s been very friendly, very cordial,” Nelson said. “We’ve been talking to Maryland fans, Navy fans. When the buses go past, everyone waves regardless of which team they were from.”

Once in the stadium, the game proceeded without a hitch. Maryland’s students have earned a reputation for poor behavior, but there were no major incidents.

When the Brigade of Midshipmen stood at attention after marching onto the field, fans from both sides of the stadium stood and cheered.

The question is whether this series will continue. Both teams have filled their schedules for the next few seasons. Navy has several teams it schedules each season, and Maryland has limited openings because of its conference slate.

“I’d like to see it happen [regularly] as long as Navy can be competitive,” Semin said.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” Nelson said. “Navy plays Notre Dame every year, and they compete.”

“They lose every year,” Semin retorted.

“They lose, but they compete,” Nelson said.

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