Exclusive! 2011 Carrier Classic: North Carolina vs Michigan State
The life of a sailor serving in today’s United States Navy is usually chaotic. During a regular deployment (if there is such a thing), I typically work around 16 hours a day. That’s not counting the time it takes for me to do simple things, like shower, iron, eat, downtime (which includes anything from PS3 to knitting — yes, there are sailors who knit) and anything else that I need to do. In short, life aboard a floating city of 5,000 sailors is always buzzing.
Entering into my fourth year of service and facing my third deployment in three years, there is really only one way to prepare for a deployment: find a routine, a groove, a motive, a release and stick with it. Whatever it is, you have to prepare for it now or you will go crazy. Stock your hard drive with movies and TV shows, load up your Kindle and make sure you have laundry soap for seven months.
In all the chaos of our preparation for another journey to the Middle East, my ship caught a break.
The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is my home away from home; the ship that launched the first air strikes in 2001 after 9/11; the ship that first responded not 72 hours after the earthquake in Haiti; the ship that laid rest to a terrorist who ran amuck for far too long.
This ship is my ship. The “Chucky V” quietly goes around handling business, consistently, like Timmy Duncan, usually putting up 20 and 12 each night, but fully capable of dropping a 42 and 20 if need be.
Although there are many days when I don’t want to be anywhere near this big box, on November 11, 2011, I was proud to be here. On Veterans Day, we finally got our MVP trophy, receiving the honor and
privilege of hosting the first ever Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.
Look yo, I have been to several NBA games, even at the magical Staples Center. (Even though I am married to a Lakers fan and Thanksgiving is always entertaining, that place has nothing on the Alamodome… still mad we don’t play there anymore). I have attended NFL games in San Diego and Houston, been to countless MLB and minor league games. Every hockey game I’ve attended, NHL or minor league, has had a fight. I even attended a soccer match between Real Madrid vs Chivas USA.
So when I say that watching #1 UNC play Michigan State was the sickest sporting event ever, I’m not pussy-footing around.
We took a flight deck with four catapults and four arresting gear cables, capable of launching and recovering up to 72 aircraft, turned it into a 7,000 seat stadium and watched two of the all-time greatest college basketball coaches square off in a season opener. Watching Michigan State manhandle UNC on the offensive glass and STILL lose was almost as awesome as seeing all the faces that were there.
How many ships can say they hosted the Prezzzz himself? But then we also had folks like Dickie V, J Bilas, David Robinson (Duh), Hannah Storm, Andy Katz, Eric Montross, Tyler Hansborough, Flip Saunders, Vince
Carter, Matt Barnes, OJ Mayo, Jim Gray, Magic, Big Game James, the list goes on and on. (I know i just named dropped right there, a lot, but get off my back. You would name drop too if Magic Johnson asked you to tweet him).
But there were more than just athletes in attendance: Roselyn Sanchez, A.C. Slater and Brooklyn Decker
were there, too. Even Pam Anderson brought her plastic action figure self to the show.
Needless to say, I had more twitpics that day than I have had to date.
Now, I work in Public Affairs, so while I am escorting all these people around and walking around in a starstruck daze, I couldn’t help but notice that the best part wasn’t meeting all these people: it was the fact that they were more impressed with us than we were with them. They treated us like royalty.
I have to say, that on that day, I was proud to be a Chucky V Sailor. I have had a lot of highlights in my career. Heck, I even played a couple years of college basketball, but nothing beats that.
Yo, when Harrison Barnes get’s his name called for the starting line up intros and turns around and salutes 500 Sailors in the stands? Well, there isn’t a louder group of service members…
Nothing beats getting a “dap” from Dickie V or doing a quick radio interview with Erik Montross and the Carolina Faithful. It’s pretty cool to have Hannah Storm ask you how fast jets take off from the flight
deck, ya know the one that’s right underneath the court? When Magic tells you, “Thanks for serving,” well that just can’t be topped.
I can’t really tell you much about the game. I was in awe of the entire event. I remember feeling a cool breeze with around eight minutes left to play in the first half. I remember receiving a couple text messages from some family members back in Texas saying they saw me kissing my wife in the background during a camera shot of a UNC huddle. I remember Vince Carter stuffing his face with a hot dog, three rows away from me. I remember the ESPN hospitality tent and the trailers that were made into locker rooms. I remember President Obama coming onto the court, with all the Secret Service guys escorting him and addressing the crowd.
I will never forget this day. I will never let it escape me. It was a blur, but the blur is burned in my brain forever. I still never want to go on deployment, but for one night, I didn’t have to worry about it. I just had to sit back and bask in the cool, easy breeze of a perfect San Diego night on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier.
And that my friends, was the “ish.”
Until I went home and saw that we probably won’t have an NBA season…
Go Spurs Go…whenever they get a chance anyways…
Stephen Hale is an MC2(SW/AW) in the US Navy serving in the Media Department aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). He was 2010 Junior MC of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter @stegenhal15.
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