On the surface, Matt Hauser was an Army fan, wearing a black-and-camouflage jersey and rooting for the home team at the annual Army-Navy flag football matchup at Fort Meade.
But like many Marylanders, he has deep respect for Navy, too. Lifting his Army jersey, he revealed a blue Navy jersey underneath.
Even in flag football, Army-Navy is "a nice rivalry," said Hauser, a Severn insurance agent who helped organize a tailgate party for Thursday's game. But there's more to it, he said.
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- Fort Meade (military base)
"It's really not about the football. You realize where you are and what these kids are doing for us," he said.
For 14 years, Fort Meade has hosted a flag football battle between Army and Navy personnel for bragging rights in advance of the college football contest between the service academies, scheduled this year for Dec. 14 in Philadelphia.
Fort Meade is an Army installation, but members from all branches of the military serve there, making it easy to set up an Army-Navy matchup. Players are drawn from intramural teams and take the game at Mullins Field seriously.
While flag football action may be more tame than the tackle game, it's no less competitive. Heading into the game, Army's team captain, Staff Sgt. James Lee, was confident in his unit's superiority.
"We're the best on the ground, the best in everything we do," Lee said.
Not on Thursday, though — Navy clobbered Army, 33-8.
No one was certain of records, but Army had a winning streak of at least four years heading into the game. Some Army fans said jokingly that it was the mild weather that gave Navy an advantage. Marine Corps Sgt. Will Brown, the Navy team captain, had another explanation: "We outsmarted them."
No matter who wins, the annual game is beneficial to both sides, said Army Col. Brian P. Foley, Fort Meade's garrison commander. After all, he said, "We're all on the same team."
Meade is home to Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard personnel. Many are drawn to the base's Defense Information School and intelligence activities.
"We are not a joint base by designation, but we are a joint base by population," Foley said.
For the past several years, the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce has promoted the event by sponsoring a tailgate party with food and music. This year included an appearance by Poe, the Ravens mascot.
Despite the friendly talk about all being on one team, Foley rooted for Army.
"We've got a record to sustain, at least have bragging rights we don't have at the collegiate level," Foley said. The Navy Midshipmen are 7-4 this season and have won 11 straight games against Army's Black Knights, who are 3-8 this season.
It quickly became clear that Navy would run away with the 2013 flag football crown. The squad held Army scoreless for much of the game.
Cheering in the stands and banging yellow spirit sticks was 21-year-old Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeff Ross.
He relished the thought of having bragging rights, but then reconsidered: "I don't know too many Army people to talk trash to."