Buckeye Basketball On A Carrier Deck

Tonight the Ohio State men’s basketball teams kicks off its season with a game against the Marquette Golden Eagles.  The game should be especially interesting, and not just because the Buckeyes and Marquette are two big-time programs.

The added interest comes from the game’s location.  It will be played outside, on the deck of the USS Yorktown, a decommissioned aircraft carrier.  The players will have to deal with the wind, and the different sight lines, and adjust to playing in a fundamentally different setting than your normal college basketball arena.  It will be a test of the players’ focus:  can they shoot as they normally do, or will they be distracted by the carrier’s bridge superstructure, looming just behind one of the baskets?

The setting is not only novel, but also historic.  The Yorktown is a fabled ship, built in only 16 1/2 months during the heart of World War II to replace a prior Yorktown that was sunk at the Battle of Midway.  The new Yorktown was commissioned in 1943 and fought valiantly during the Pacific offensive that defeated Japan.  The Yorktown went on to serve during the Vietnam War and recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts when they returned to Earth in December 1968.  The ship was decommissioned in 1970 and was towed to Charleston, South Carolina in 1975 to become part of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

I’ll be watching tonight to see how this year’s version of the basketball Buckeyes look — but also to take a gander at the Yorktown and think about the sailors who served on her and did so much for the country.  Fittingly, the proceeds from the game, called the Carrier Classic, will benefit armed forces charities.

A Most Welcome Sign

The morning commute can set the tone for the day.  If it is a ball-busting, white-knuckling hassle, filled with stops and starts and inexplicable traffic jams and angry road ragers, it’s hard to get to the office with a cheerful attitude.

Lately my drives to work have been like that.  I take I-670 into Columbus, and for months the Third Street exit to the downtown area has been closed.  As a result, all downtown traffic has been funneled into alternative routes.

My alternative route, frankly, sucked.  I felt like Luke Skywalker following Wedge down into the trench of the Death Star as I banked into a sharp left turn onto I-71, then maneuvered through a narrow cement canyon as cars tried to merge in from the left.  I kept wondering when one of the speeding cars ahead would nick the temporary concrete barriers channeling the detour traffic and go tumbling off into oblivion, like one of the doomed Rebel X-wing fighters.  Fortunately, there was no Darth Vader lurking nearby — just frustrated commuters dodging the orange cones and dealing with constantly changing traffic patterns on their way to work.

This week I noticed that “closed” sign had been removed from the Third Street exit.  Yesterday, with hope in my heart, I bypassed the dreaded detour and gave Third Street a shot.  Sure enough, it was open, and I sailed regally into downtown with a happy sigh.  Of course, I didn’t see any changes that would justify closing the exit for months in the first place — but I’m just happy it’s open again.

Amazing how one little sign can change your day for the better.