Shots fired! Army-Navy game season has officially kicked off, in the form of a fake City of Annapolis news press release announcing the Maryland capital's first annual "Go Army Beat Navy" day.
The faux announcement went up on the news press release site PR Newswire on Nov. 4 and by midday, had been picked up by Yahoo! News and tweeted out by two West Point-affiliated Twitter accounts.
"Although home to the midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis has many residents who are proud supporters of the cadets of West Point," the release said, allegedly quoting Mayor Mike Pantiledes. "We felt that it was important to acknowledge them as residents of Annapolis and provide them with an opportunity to support the great heritage of the United States Military Academy."
Mike Nemeth, a 2004 West Point graduate and former intelligence officer who now works in marketing in Ohio, conceived the scheme: Using his newswire access, he posted that the Annapolis City Council had voted 7-1 on Wednesday to celebrate "Go Army Beat Navy" day on Nov. 6 as a nod to West Point supporters and alumsni now living in the Naval Academy's shadow.
The release included comments from fake business owners — identified as Sylvia Thayer and Fred Steuben, a nod to West Point's first superintendent Sylvanus Thayer and a Prussian general who trained Continental Army soldiers — as well: "We constantly hear from our customers that there's more to this town than supporting the Navy. Not everyone likes boats — I[i]t'll be great to support real soldiers for once."
A spokeswoman for the City of Annapolis was happy to debunk the supposed city council proclamation.
"We know these pranks happen every year and we look forward to them, but to that I say, 'Go Navy!' " said City of Annapolis spokeswoman Rhonda Wardlaw, adding that the city, of course, has the utmost respect for the other service academies.
The stunt was inspired by a Naval Academy spirit spot released Sunday, Nemeth told Navy Times.
"I give them credit for having so much time to put those together," he said. "It's great that they have so much free time."
Nemeth put together spirit videos during his time at the United States U.S. Military Academy, in the pre-YouTube and Facebook days, he said.
"I usually do a video every year even now," he said. "I'll give credit to the Naval Academy. They keep making really great videos."
But with Naptown Funk going viral in recent days, he hatched a plan to get a little more press for West Point.
"I’m not even well enough connected to coordinate cadets in a video, but I can pull off a little [psychological operations] psy op warfare prank on the Navy," he said.
Nemeth put his own phone number as a City of Annapolis contact on the release, but had yet to receive any phone calls seeking comment on the "city council decision."
He also added a fake "annapoliscitycouncil.org" link, which takes readers to his West Point spirit gear website, academycasual.com.
"My favorite part has been friends of minemy screenshotting reactions from midshipmen and Naval Academy people," he said.