Navy is welcome to drop anchor at any bowl, thanks to its following

December 30, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

SAN FRANCISCO - OK, I'm a little confused.

How is it possible that the Midshipmen of Navy can feel at home wherever they play when the Ravens don't even feel at home in their own locker room?

The Mids will play in a bowl game for the second year in a row when they face New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl at SBC Park today. The Lobos are slightly favored - and you might think that being located about 2,000 miles closer to the Bay Area would help - but no one from New Mexico is under any illusion about who will have home-field advantage.

"I'm sure it's going to be like a home game for Navy," Lobos coach Rocky Long said earlier this week. "I don't worry about it. It's a fact that they appeal to fans coast to coast because of their service component, and rightfully so. They have a huge crowd advantage."

The academy has sold more than 15,000 tickets for the game and hopes to push that to 20,000 by game time. New Mexico had sold just 2,500 at last count, but still hopes to get close to 4,000.

Navy's national appeal makes the Mids very attractive to the second-tier bowl committees in the years when they are bowl-eligible. In the parlance of the bowl sponsors, the Mids "travel well," which means that they bring lots of people to town. They also have a built-in fan base in any metropolis that has a major naval facility nearby.

Here's how important that national following is: The Las Vegas Sun ran an article the other day detailing how much more successful the Las Vegas Bowl would have been if the bowl had brought in the Midshipmen this year ... instead of UCLA.

The Bruins, who play within a four-hour drive of one of the entertainment meccas of the world, sold just 4,000 advance tickets for their game against Wyoming (which, considering their lackluster showing in a game in which they were favored by 12 1/2 points, may have been a good thing).

Ravens franchise player Chris McAlister admitted yesterday what a lot of people already knew - that the Ravens do not have the same close locker room chemistry that they've had in years past.

Of course, you don't need a team of sports psychologists to tell you that good locker room chemistry generally goes hand-in-hand with success on the field, and the Ravens have not performed up to their expectations this season. But McAlister also pointed to the size of the locker room in the new practice facility as a possible reason for the apparent lack of team bonding this season.

It's not a ridiculous concept. There was the same kind of talk when the Orioles moved from the cozy clubhouse at Memorial Stadium to the spacious locker room and lounges of Camden Yards. That said, no one ever suggested that they would rather go back to the old ballpark.

Confidential to Maryland basketball fans: I'm no prude and I haven't forgotten what it was like to be a crazy college hoops fan, but yelling "Sucks" after the name of each player introduced from Liberty University - a very conservative religious school and a team the Terps were certain to blow out - is beneath you.

Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams rated it as one of his greatest achievements yesterday when he signed into law the District's controversial ballpark financing plan, and why not?

He just gave away $584 million the District didn't have to build a ballpark that the majority of citizens (according to recent polls) didn't want ... at least not on those terms. That is quite a political achievement.

In Williams' defense, no project of such magnitude ever reaches fruition without controversy and political opposition, so we'll just have to see how it all turns out. It's possible that I'll be strolling along the Anacostia waterfront in five years and marveling at the amazing renewal of the area. Quite possible, in fact.

It's also possible they'll just be wrapping up the Peter Angelos territorial rights lawsuit by then.

By some accounts, Williams drove a pretty hard bargain. There was talk that Major League Baseball originally asked for naming rights to the Washington Monument and 100 percent of parking and concession revenues from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Final thought: I'll have to defer to reader Mike Noon of Gambrills, who pointed out in an e-mail that Sidney Ponson should be free of his current legal difficulties by Opening Day.

"Good news on the Ponson situation," Noon wrote. "It turns out Aruba won't sentence a felon until he gets three strikes, so Sidney will never do time."

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