Forecast: Storms with a Chance of Lame

Court Stormings are becoming too frequent

By Scott Cogar

There is a lot of talk in the sports world about something I have never understood: storming the court/field by fans after a game. It’s a bizarre ritual that I think has some mob-mentality style psychological undertones.

The buzz stems from a recent college basketball game in which the #3 Duke Blue Devils lost to the underdog Cavaliers from the University of Virginia. Following the last inbound pass from UVA, final seconds ticked off the clock, and the defeated Blue Devil players hustled over to huddle around their bench, because they knew what was coming next.

Throngs of crazed undergraduate UVA students and fans flooded the court, forming a rambunctious, sweat and alcohol-drenched mosh pit on the middle of the court. This was not at all an unfamiliar scene, especially for the college basketball blue chip program at Duke. How is this for a statistic of the week: of the last 50 times that Duke has lost an away game (neutral site games not withstanding), the court was rushed by opposing team fans an astounding 42 times. That may be a sign of respect for that program, but it also leaves a stale taste each time it happens. In fact, court stormings are happening more frequently across all of college basketball.

Why was this news? Because Duke head coach and surefire Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski made a point to talk about the other side of court storming in his postgame press conference. More people are focusing on the danger that rushing the playing surface presents to both athletes and fans. Loud, overexcited fans running past world class athletes who just lost an emotionally and physically taxing game in a very confined space does not seem to be a recipe for safety.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the court, I present to you:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

I could certainly do more of these, but my point is made.

Further, sometimes the student response is preemptive, and impacts the game, as made famous by the 1982 Cal-Stanford interruption when the band rushed the field early or by the more recent (but just as ridiculous) affair between Utah and BYU.

I agree with Coach K. Rushing the court is not a spontaneous outburst of emotion by hundreds of passionate fans. It is now just what you do when your team wins a big game, and to use the parlance of our time, that is weak sauce.

Rushing the court or field is not some rite of passage for fans. It is a silly convention that has can only be inadequately defended by the “tradition” argument. Just because something has been done for years doesn’t make it right.

So what gives? Why do fans do it, game after game? I think it’s a psychological mistake that sports fans make when they watch a game. Fans want more and more to be a part of the game, and in a world where we have unparalleled access to athletes via social media and 24/7 ESPN, it is seemingly an acceptable sentiment. But I have news for fans who rush the court or field: you are not a part of the game. You are a spectator, and the ticket you bought is for the right to sit in a seat, not to talk to/touch/jump around with any of the participants in the event.

I haven’t even touched on the baseless reasons that fans storm the playing surface. Some justify it by upsets, come from behind victories or wins over rivals. I don’t think any of those are justifiable. Nevertheless, until the NCAA does something to set a rule (because oddly enough, this doesn’t seem to happen in professional sports) we will continue to see this ridiculous ‘tradition’ perpetuated after big games. Moreover, as long as broadcasts continue to document the court storming for good television, students’ and fans’ ideas that this is an okay behavior will be fortified.

The Southeastern Conference has put the onus on the schools to prevent court and field storming by fining teams whose fans rush the surface. Thus far, it has proven effective, and I personally am glad for it. I wouldn’t want fans to storm the field after we beat Florida or Tech, we shouldn’t give the other guys the satisfaction.

 

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