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Commentary: Carrier Classic concept should be left to sink to ocean floor

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

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The Carrier Classic and outdoor NCAA Division I college basketball in any form are concepts that should be left to rot on the ocean floor.
Despite two of three Carrier Classic-branded competitions being canceled Friday due to condensation on courts mounted atop the flight decks of the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., and the USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Fla., outdoor games will return next season. The Carrier Classic will return for the 2013-14 season, according to multiple reports. Don’t bring the Carrier Classic back, though – let it sink.
The Ohio State women’s basketball team completed its afternoon game aboard the USS Yorktown against Notre Dame, losing 57-51. It was one of two outdoor games successfully completed last weekend – Syracuse men’s basketball defeated San Diego State on the deck of the USS Midway in the Battle on the Midway in San Diego Sunday. For OSU and Notre Dame’s part, their game was not completed without some interference from Mother Nature.
As you might expect, there were no problems with condensation during the OSU-Notre Dame game as it was played in bright sunshine, but the sun was a problem in itself.
Notre Dame players donned eye black to help lessen the sting of the sun in their eyes, but the Fighting Irish never faced the sun when driving to the basket. OSU had to contend with a talented Notre Dame squad, (last season’s NCAA runners-up) but also one of the powerful forces in our universe as it ran its offense and drove to the basket facing blinding light. That’s probably not a fair fight.
The sunlight also made it next to impossible for the Buckeyes to read the shot and game clocks on the backboard they shot at in the first half, forcing players on the bench to count the final seconds of each possession down at the top of their lungs.
The sun set in time for the second half, but that meant Notre Dame never had to compete against the sun on offense. Despite the harsh conditions, OSU only lost by six points. Played in a controlled environment, that margin could have been smaller, or the result reversed in the Buckeyes’ favor.
Nevertheless, both Notre Dame and the conditions defeated OSU, causing the Buckeyes to drop from No. 19 to No. 20 in the Associated Press top 25 poll. Undoubtedly, OSU agreed to play in the game to support the troops. Was it an altogether selfless act for our military personnel, though? I doubt it – of course the Buckeyes wanted to beat a quality opponent like Notre Dame. Why OSU would risk such an important game that could help its standing come NCAA Tournament selection time is a head-scratcher. If you want to play on an aircraft carrier, play an exhibition game that won’t count toward the teams’ actual records. No team should play regular-season competitions in that kind of unstable, unpredictable environment.
As night fell in Charleston and the OSU men prepared to start their game against Marquette, progress toward tip-off was halted due to wet floor conditions. After an hourlong delay, game officials and the OSU and Marquette athletic directors and coaches called the game off.
Down in Jacksonville, Georgetown and Florida played 20 minutes of basketball on the deck of the USS Bataan before condensation on the court forced the cancelation of the game after halftime.
For the good of the teams involved, the fans, and the servicemen and servicewomen for whom the games are played, this failed concept needs to be tossed overboard.
The OSU-Notre Dame game showed that you couldn’t play during the day if you want a fair fight. The men’s game showed you can’t even start a game at night because of dew points and other meteorological phenomena.
The cause for which these games are played is something every American can get behind. The games’ promoter, Morale Entertainment Foundation, endeavors to “lift the spirits of our brave men and women who are fighting for our freedoms,” according to a Carrier Classic release. Even after the OSU-Marquette game was canceled, players from both teams mingled with troops and other fans, and posed for pictures and signed autographs.
There’s a lot of good behind the Carrier Classic, but it’s a poorly executed concept.
Bringing happiness to the troops will always be the most important aspect of the Carrier Classic. However, you can pay homage to the troops and safely and reliably stage NCAA Division I basketball contests on dry land, so why complicate things? Go the simple route.
Play the games at gymnasiums near military bases, wear the camouflage-themed uniforms and interact with our troops after the games – that tribute won’t be lessened simply because the games aren’t being played on battleships and aircraft carriers.
A word of advice to all the Carrier Classic organizers: Don’t lose sight of the true meaning of this event while in pursuit of a too-hard-to-pull-off spectacle. In fact, don’t even bother dredging the Carrier Classic concept up at all.  

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