When I first heard about today's Carrier Classic college hoops game, I was very intrigued. In honor of Veterans Day, North Carolina and Michigan State are playing on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson, anchored in San Diego harbor.
But in actually watching it, I find it jarring -- a bizarre mix of crass commercialism and partisan politics, as well as patriotism and sports.
The game is being televised on ESPN, which is milking it for all it's worth. It's sponsored by Quicken Loans, a major home mortgage company, which is kind of weird given that California is an epicenter for the housing meltdown. At halftime, State Farm had its name on a shooting contest for scholarships for military children.
Before the opening tip, President Barack Obama made remarks that at some points sounded suspiciously like a re-election speech. Besides saying the right things about the sacrifices of men and women in uniform, he also highlighted his efforts to help veterans, including tax credits that the Senate passed this week. He also mentioned that the Carl Vinson took part in the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
The teams are wearing camouflage uniforms -- with "U.S.A" on the back instead of players' names - that, let's face it, are hideous. And my distaste has nothing to do with the fact that I went to Duke, Carolina's archrival.
But I guess that's America today. You can't have a pure special commemoration for our veterans. It has to come in a package with money and politics - like it or not.