Midshipman Third Class Hunter Bloy won't be lining up for Navy against Army Saturday at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. By the time kickoff rolls around, Bloy already will have been competing against his bitter rivals for the previous 30 or so hours.
Bloy is part of the U.S. Naval Academy's Patriot Games team. An annual tradition leading up the Army-Navy game, the Patriot Games pit midshipmen from Annapolis against cadets from the U.S. Military Academy in series of physical and mental challenges.
Points are earned through five different events; the team with the most points is presented with the Patriot Games trophy during the Army-Navy game.
"This competition is definitely a big source of pride," Bloy said, from Freedom, Wis. "I think that we're all very motivated people – that's why we're at the military academies – and everyone is very competitive. No one likes to lose. It's such a great atmosphere."
The Patriot Games got underway this morning with the Rocky Relay – named for the famous Hollywood boxer who made his home in Philadelphia. Members of each of the two teams did dozens of push-ups and then jumped rope before joining other members of the team in carrying a stretcher up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The weather didn't cooperate – temperatures were in the high 30s, and there was a slight drizzle in the air – but it didn't dampen either team's enthusiasm. Team members shouted words of encouragement and counted out push-ups for each other, while a small crowd of observers also cheered on both squads.
Navy ended up winning the relay. Other challenges during the games include a Leadership Reaction Course, in which participants are presented with a course that presents both mental and physical obstacles (won by Army); a pull-up challenge; and then a tug-of-war challenge (won by Navy). On Saturday, the games conclude with an obstacle relay at Lincoln Financial Field.
"These games are a great way to kick off Army-Navy weekend," Bloy said. "While we're in school, we are pretty strong rivals. But what's great is that after we graduate, we're all on the same team. We're all fighting the same fight."
Also today, fans of both teams meet up in downtown Philadelphia for the annual pep rally. With the Shops at Liberty Place 30-feet tall Christmas serving as the centerpiece, cheerleaders and pep bands from both schools populated the mall's Rotunda. The Army and Navy bands took turns mixing their fight songs with selections from the likes of Lady Gaga.
The crowd, at least three to four deep around the bands and cheerleaders, and almost as deep along the circular railing lining the floor overlooking the Rotunda, was a mix of Army and Navy fans, as well as shoppers who stumbled across the rally. They were vocal, especially during the Patriot Games pull-up contest, won by Army.