As he opened the broadcast of ESPN's College GameDay on Saturday morning from the Inner Harbor, ESPN's Chris Fowler said, "All of us are so proud to be here."
The popular Saturday morning television show, launched in 1987 and hosted by Desmond Howard, Kirk Herbstreit and former Navy assistant coach Lee Corso, was making its first visit to both the Army-Navy football game and to Maryland.
"There's just something very special about the atmosphere," said Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan.
The appearance of College GameDay was one of several special events and festivities centered on the game, which was played in Baltimore for the fifth time in the 115-year history of the series.
It was a perfect day for football. More than a thousand screaming Mids, Cadets and college football fans greeted the GameDay crew, many of them there before 7 a.m. to get into the pit in front of the set. Many carried signs instead of their usual training weapons.
Several guests from Army and Navy made appearances, including Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, Army coach and former Navy assistant coach Jeff Monken and Navy Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Roger Staubach.
"It was pretty crazy down there," said Midshipmen Fourth Class David Christie, who was attending his first Army-Navy game.
The day was filled with ceremony. As kickoff approached at M&T Bank Stadium, the traditional exchange of Cadets and Midshipmen took place at midfield. The juniors were being returned after spending a semester at the rival institution.
Shortly after that, several Navy Leap Frogs and Army Golden Knights parachuted onto the field, the last carrying an American flag. The Army and Navy Glee Clubs performed the National Anthem together, and Army helicopters and Navy fighter jets performed a flyover.
The son of a Naval Academy graduate, Christie wanted to soak up everything involved with the game. He woke up early Saturday morning and made the trip to Baltimore to attend the live taping of College GameDay before heading to M&T Bank Stadium for the 12:16 p.m. March-On of the Brigade of Midshipmen. The Army Corps of Cadets followed with their March-On at 12:46.
"I was so excited last night that I couldn't sleep," Christie said. "I was up early and ready to go. I just love the spirit and everything involved with the game. Army is going crazy; Navy is going crazy, too. It seems like the fans love it, too."
Fans at least once found themselves on the same side; those assembled for the ESPN broadcast booed when Fowler reminded the crowd that Air Force beat Army and Navy this year to capture the coveted Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
By the time Corso predicted a Navy win on Saturday, that unity was gone.