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.