On Wednesday night, I was midway through NBATV's tremendous documentary "The Dream Team" when the subject of the film changed from team camaraderie and overwhelming success to a discussion of the brief media backlash at the time from those who believed the Dream Team was too good. I was 7 years old in 1992, and it never occurred to me that the Dream Team wasn't the best thing in the history of the world. But here I was, learning there was actually a backlash to the Dream Team. A backlash! Against the Dream Team!
It made me realize, not for the first time, one undeniable truth about any good thing in sports, culture, politics, you name it: The backlash is coming. There will always be a backlash.
I'll admit that it had might well apply to the news, reported Friday afternoon by Andy Katz, that Florida and Georgetown are the latest college hoops duo to schedule an early 2012 nonconference game on the deck of a U.S. Navy ship, the third Carrier Classic-esque event to be scheduled on the same day in the upcoming hoops season. To be honest, I'm not sure how to feel. First, let's get the details from Andy's report:
Florida will play Georgetown on a ship off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 9, ESPN.com confirmed Friday through multiple SEC and Big East sources. The U.S. Navy has told the two schools that it is fully supportive of this game, much like it was of the Carrier Classic last year, according to multiple sources. The date is a Friday, the closest non-college football or NFL date to Veterans Day.
The Florida-Georgetown matchup is the third game scheduled to be played on a naval ship on Nov. 9, college basketball's opening day. All three games involve a Big East team. Marquette will play Ohio State on a ship off the coast of Charleston, S.C. while Syracuse will take on San Diego State on the flight deck of a retired ship, the USS Midway, off the coast of San Diego. It is not clear if the Florida-Georgetown or Marquette-Ohio State contests will be played on active ships.
The end result is not one or two but three mini-Carrier Classics, in three different locations across the country, all on the same day.
At first glance, this is a good thing. The Carrier Classic was awesome. Now we get three games featuring six big-time college hoops programs, and we get them on college basketball's opening day. What could possibly be wrong with that?
But if a backlash comes, you can understand the reasons why. The Carrier Classic was less a season-opening college basketball game than a grand patriotic gesture. It was designed to honor America's heroes on Veterans Day. The president and first lady reserved a front-row seat. With vistas like this, no one was much concerned with the score.
The Carrier Classic was a brilliantly designed and expertly executed event. It's no wonder other teams want to get in on the action. But anyone squeamish about the idea of commercializing patriotism might be loath to see such an event recreated three times over. Are three naval ship games on the same day too much of a good thing? Does it cheapen the very reason for such a game in the first place -- cynically leveraging the ratings guarantee that is "display of American war might + basketball" -- in the hopes of drumming up college hoops interest in early November?
It might. It might also just be a win-win for everybody: The U.S. Navy is on board, according to Andy's report, and if college basketball teams can honor the troops and create must-see early-season television, is that really such a bad thing? As fans, we've spent years complaining about college basketball's stuttering season openers, and all offseason whining about coaches doing what's best for their "nontraditional" programs in favor of what's best for the sport. Now, when presented with the possibility of three huge season-opening events, are we in any position to complain?
Not that our reaction matters. The games are locked in, so on Nov. 9, we will be treated to a proper buffet of basketball games aboard warships. None of the three will have the cachet earned by 2011's marquee Carrier Classic, but all three will be must-see events in their own right, and all three will owe a major debt to the original.
Given last year's success, perhaps this trend was inevitable -- every bit as inevitable as the backlash. Your mileage may vary.