The 2012-13 men’s college basketball season tips off Friday and the centerpiece is the Sears Armed Forces Classic at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, showcasing Connecticut versus No. 14 Michigan State (5 p.m. ET ESPNU, 5:30 p.m. ESPN).
Taking place in a C-5 transport airplane hanger, the ESPN televised game will be played on a specially constructed court with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. The game is part of ESPN’s fourth annual America’s Heroes: A Salute to Our Veterans.
Senior coordinating director Jeff Schaetzel, part of the ESPN production crew visiting the air base, said:
“[It's] simply amazing that we started with an empty hangar and ended up with all of this, here at Ramstein Air Base, a long way from Canton, Conn. This is my fourth Veterans Day remote, and each year they exceed expectations. These have, by far, been the most memorable experiences of my career.”
Front Row contacted ESPN employees who spent time on a U.S. military base in Germany. We spoke with Mike Edery, who is currently a Video On Demand Analyst, and Robb Williams, a director in ESPN Studio Directing Department.
When did you live in Germany and what was your role?
Edery: I was stationed with the Air Force Reserve Unit at Ramstein in 1994 and 1996, each for 2-to-3 week stints.
Williams: I was 11 when I moved to Germany (1981-85) with my family. My father worked for the United States Air Force and was stationed in nearby Kaiserslautern.
What do you think it means for ESPN/ESPN Regional Television (ERT) to bring the game to a base?
Edery: I think it has a tremendous impact as anything from home makes you feel a little bit closer to friends and family. I specifically recall watching a Pittsburgh Penguin playoff game on Armed Forces Network through an ESPN feed. The game was live at 4 a.m. and I watched the entire game.
Williams: It shows recognition for the work that our servicemen and women perform. Too often they are overlooked or taken for granted.
How does your military experience help in your current role with ESPN?
Williams: It has helped me by appreciating the differences in everyone. Different isn’t bad, it is to be celebrated.
How does Ramstein compare to other bases?
Edery: I think Ramstein is very unique because of its location and it also the headquarters for NATO. The base is situated in beautiful area of Germany and the surrounding towns are very friendly to servicemen and women. One of the highlights, I think for me, was that I got to visit the actual castle that Walt Disney modeled the current iconic Disney castle.