The Camp Smedley D. Butler Marine Corps Base on Okinawa hosted the Armed Forces Classic for the first time on November 13, (the 14th in Japan). The game pitted the Gonzaga Bulldogs (#9) from Spokane, Washington and the Pittsburgh Panthers. But the game had to be called at halftime. Was it called for snow? A hurricane/cyclone? An Earthquake? Nope. It was called for…sweat?
Slip and Slide Basketball
Okinawa was at 100% humidity over the last several days. Add rain showers to that, and the players slipping and sliding from all the sweat and oil on the court. The condensation on the court made conditions extremely dangerous for the players. Try as they might, officials couldn’t keep the court dry. When players started falling, at least one of whom cracked his head hard, officials called the game.
The game was held at Foster Field House, just one of 10 venues on the base. It is not air-conditioned. It was the Marine’s first time to host the event, and the 4th time it has been held a various military bases. It was carried by ESPN from their Heroes series.
Both coaches expressed disappointment with the decision, but agreed it had to be made.
“The way the court was, we just couldn’t finish it,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “It was about who didn’t fall down, that’s what the game was coming down to. Whoever didn’t fall was probably going to make a play. We tried and the officials called it. I don’t know what else to do.”
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said it was still a once-in-a-lifetime experience in more than one way.
“It was tough, coming this far. But we came for the experience, we came for the Marines and we’re certain we accomplished that goal,” Dixon said. “We came for a win, too, and I guess we got half a win.”
When the game was called, Pittsburgh was ahead by two points – 37-35. It was a long plane ride for the athletes for such a short time on the court
The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force band played both the national anthems of Japan and the United States. The Marine color guard presented the flags of both nations. A Japanese woman sang their national anthem, and a male Marine sang ours. The coaches wore combat boots, and desert camo pants. Gonzaga warmups were emblazoned with the words “United We Stand.”
It was short-lived, but the teams enjoyed being on the base. The Gonzaga team had played games outside the U.S., but only in Canada – winning all of them. Pittsburgh had never played outside the country. Guess we’ll never know. Sorry, Marines.