There is a question every Ph.D. student has to answer at some point. No matter if he studies Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics or Zoology with a focus on Environmental Toxicology (yes, you can do that): at some point, he has to face it. The “So What?!” question.
Why on earth should your take on something matter to the rest of the world? Why should anybody give a hoot about your ideas? And why in the world are we better off knowing it? That’s a darn good question. A question everybody should ask himself from time to time. “So What?!” If people asked this tiny little question, tons of mind-numbing trash (aka “Dancing with the Stars”, “X-Factor” and the Kardashians) could have been avoided.
So far so good. But what does all this have to do with college basketball? Well, speaking in general terms: probably as much as nothing. But for me, it has.
During a conversation with an old friend from Germany a couple of days ago, I mentioned how excited I was about the Carrier Classic between the Spartans and the top-ranked North Carolina on deck of the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego on Friday. I talked, my heart started racing, I talked some more, and faster. And while I still blustered, he suddenly asked: “So What!?”
That’s when I decided to answer the “So What!?”-question for the Carrier Classic.
- “So What!?”-factor #1: The Season Opener vs. The Number One
The first game of the season is always a special one. New players, new look, new game. Especially if you got a major roster revamp like the Spartans. Only two players on the current roster (Keith Appling and Draymond Green) averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season; seven players have never even played a single minute for Michigan State. This is a young team that needs to find it’s rhythm – and it will do so with a nice record at stake: Michigan State is 90-22 all-time in openers, winning 33 of the last 34. But not only is there a record at stake. Coach Izzo’s team is also facing the pre-season Number One. And you always want to beat the Number One – especially as an unranked team. This is a classic David vs. Goliath scenario. After starting the season from near the top of the Associated Press Top Ten ranking for the past five years, the Spartans didn’t even make the Top 25 at all in 2011. So what better way to start your season than with a big upset? It’s about time, too. Michigan State is 3-17 all-time against teams ranked No. 1, but has won two of their last four.
“So What!?” #2: The Special Meaning
“There’s guys who are laying down their lives and sacrificing everything so that we can be a part of this great basketball game”, says Spartan red-shirt senior and co-captain Austin Thornton of the US armed forces. Thornton’s brother Thomas is one of those guys. He is a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. And he will be attending the game. “This is enormous. This is our little tidbit to give them back. To go out there on Veterans Day and show them our appreciation for what they do for us”, says Thornton. And to honor the troops, Michigan State will play in its new camouflaged uniforms – uniquely designed for the Carrier Classic – that include details resembling actual military uniforms and that carry “U.S.A.” on their backs instead of the player’s names. “This means a lot to us”, says small forward Branden Dawson. “We are all one big family.”
“So What!?” #3: The Big Time Cinema
Not convinced, yet? Ok, so you’re maybe give a darn about college basketball or are somehow not so much into this patriotism thing? No offense. But hey, wake up, this is a basketball game on a frikkin aircraft carrier! An aircraft carrier! You want me to repeat that for you? It’s on an aircraft carrier. Yes, those gigantic things that swim and planes can land on. You see? This has never been done before – and it smells like big time Hollywood cinema. If you look at the sketches of the field, the stands, the ship – you can’t but be amazed how this looks like taken from some action movie or comic book. Grab your popcorn, take your seat and fasten your seat belt – this is gonna be a hell of a show. “The opportunity to play in such a prestigious event, on a ship, is a memory maker like no other”, says Coach Izzo.
So What? Michigan State vs. #1 North Carolina
So Where? San Diego, Calif. | USS Carl Vinson | ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Andy Katz)
So When? Friday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m. ET