In honor of Veterans Day falling on 11-11-11, the Department of the Navy put on the “Carrier Classic” college basketball game at the North Island Air Station in Coronado, California. It was the first ever college basketball game to be held on the flight deck of an actual operating aircraft carrier. The U.S.S. Carl Vinson also known as the “City at Sea” was docked in the San Diego Bay for the “Carrier Classic” game between the #1 North Carolina Tarheels and the Michigan State Spartans.
It took work crews 10 days to transform the 4.5 acre flight deck into an outdoor basketball court and arena. That would be about 3 football fields lined up end to end. An overall attendance of 8111 fans which included the President and the First Lady, along with the Secretary of the Navy and the crew of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson attended the game in order to honor our troops. Only 1500 tickets were given to the schools to split and everyone attending that was not military had to be cleared through extensive background checks before being allowed to board the Vinson. Navy SEALS patrolled the bay in their fast boats with a floating security fence surrounding the ship.
The historic occasion began with President Obama honoring our troops, “The U.S.S. Carl Vinson has been a messenger of diplomacy and a protector of our security for a longtime and the men and women that serve on this ship have done an
extraordinary service in the Pacific, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. We salute you!” The Carl Vinson was used in the initial strikes during Operation Desert Storm and the provided assistance with the disasters in Haiti. A most recent and more notable event would be when the ship provided the staging ground for the burial at sea for Osama bin Laden.
The game seemed to pale in comparison to the excitement on board. Just the fact of being on the ship and outside was exciting in itself. NBA Hall of Famers Irvin Magic Johnson and James worthy were honorary captains for the game. Magic Johnson for the Spartans and James Worthy for North Carolina. North Carolina took a small lead early in the game and then Michigan State came back to take the lead late in the first half. The second half would show why the Tarheels are starting the season off ranked #1. They played their way back into the lead after halftime and would never really look back finishing the game with a 67-55 victory.
What an honor it was for these two storied teams to play in the “Carrier Classic” game. I wonder who will get the invites for next year’s “Carrier Classic”.