Monday, March 10, 2014

Rushing the Court: If It Feels Good, Do It

Late Saturday night on the East Coast, San Diego State and New Mexico were locked in, well, let’s politely call it a defensive struggle. The two were battling – quite literally – for the regular season Mountain West Conference crown.

It was the type of game that without any stakes involved would necessitate a channel change. But it was a game for a championship. And there were real, genuine emotions involved between two NCAA Tournament-bound teams.

Alas, the favored Aztecs were down 41-25 with about 12 minutes to go and, like many others, I was ready to change the channel and move on with my life. But San Diego State wouldn’t go away. They kept clawing back. They threw in a 1-3-1 zone out of nowhere. They went on a 19-1 run. They won the game. They won the Mountain West regular season title. Their fans stormed the court.

Uh-oh. A court storming?

Sure enough, I read a tweet like this one the next morning: “Wait, they rushed the court at San Diego State? For a win by the No. 10 team over the No. 21 team? What am I missing there?”

rushing the court goodI am picking on him because I was following him and immediately unfollowed per my rule that I unfollow any sportswriter that complains about college kids rushing the floor. And what is he missing? The ability to enjoy sports.

This hit critical mass in late February, when North Carolina pulled off a huge win at home against Duke and the prevailing wisdom was, like this tweet, “You storm the court, that means you're putting your opponent -- in this case your hated rival -- on a pedestal. FAIL!”

When did this become a thing? When did sportswriters get to decide when college kids should or should not have fun?

It is sadly indicative of a larger problem within the context of reporters using social media where they believe they know more than anyone else and their opinion carries a greater weight. In particular, that they get to decide what is wrong and what is right with the sports world.

At the end of the day – who cares? Who cares that some 40-something sportswriter believes there are unwritten rules for when college kids should rush the floor?

This is not a problem unique to college basketball, as college football fans have come under fire at times for a field rush. As if you are only allowed to celebrate a huge victory in that way if you go to certain school or beat a certain opponent.

Who makes up these rules? Why can Nebraska fans rush the court after beating Wisconsin but San Diego State fans can’t? Why can Maryland fans – in the midst of a horribly disappointing season – get the rush the floor but North Carolina fans – in the midst of a remarkable season of overcoming adversity – cannot?

This is a long-winded saying that the rushing the court debate should go the way of the dodo bird and never be discussed again. Why should we discourage fans from having fun?

It’s remarkable that in an era when college administrators are struggling with attendance from students, that sportswriters go out of their way and appear to take such glee in boarding their high horse and looking down their nose at students.

There are some who believe the rushing the court could pose a safety problem. Remember, most field storms in college football used to involve tearing down the goal posts until injuries took that mostly off limits. No one seems to mind.

If we find that rushing the court results in injuries – safety is frequently cited as a concern without any evidence – than maybe it would be time to ban all court stormings. No one would like that but no one like to see people pointlessly getting hurt.

But as we stand in 2014, there is no reason to stop college kids and fans from rushing the court. They do not need to answer to old men who haven’t been a college student in a generation, nor should they listen to me, a mere decade out of a college.

No, college students should heed the advice of Sigmund Freud. When it comes to rushing the court, you’ll know when the moment is right. Your fellow fans and students will give you the cue. When the buzzer sounds and your team wins a big game in spectacular fashion – whether you’re rooting for Maryland, UNC or North Dakota State – you’ll begin the sprint to half-court.


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