Monday, March 10, 2014

Once again: To storm or not storm the court?

I've been a part of two basketball court stormings. They were crazy. They were joyful. They were a rush of victory and community and, for sure, a little alcohol. Or at least that's what I guess it was like, out there on the court. I was working both times. The only joy and victory I felt was that my laptop didn't get crushed by 20-year-olds climbing over the press table.

We've reached that time of the college basketball season when court stormings are an almost nightly happening - as is debate over their appropriateness. This happens most every February and March, when victories carry more meaning or provide suddenly happy moments in unhappy seasons. Either way, fans are heading out to halfcourt more often now to bob up and down for a bit before getting home to see if the scene made it on ESPN.

Have a problem with that? You're probably old. You probably think that court stormings are cheapened unless they happen after historic victories or huge upsets. You probably agreed with Twitter when it mocked UNC fans for storming the Dean Dome court last month after the Tar Heels, then unranked, beat No. 4 Duke ... in a regular-season game.

Dick Vitale didn't think that UNC court storming was called for, either. He's old.

The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay weighed in yesterday with his support for the stormings, however frequent they might be. Others also think the traditionalists should get over themselves, and their pro-storming stance basically boils down to two points:

1) This is college;

2) This is a time in which you do things that you will later feel silly doing when you are old and responsible and type "y-o-u" instead of just "u" because God knows what's happening to the English language...

If you think No. 2 is a really poor reason to do something, see No. 1.

Look, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has a point when he says, annually, that court stormings put players in danger, but his point is more that he wants to see the players off the court before the fans pile on. And it may be true that someday, a beered up fan is going to shove an opposing player, and that player is going to respond, and everyone will be talking about how we need to control these flammable moments in the future.

But that hasn't happened yet. (A recent post-game incident between Utah Valley and New Mexico State players started before the first fan reached the floor.) For now, court stormings are a celebration. It's youths being youthful. It's one more thing that's wrong only because it's not how we used to do it. Just be safe about it, kids. And watch out for the laptops.

Peter St. Onge

Photo: North Carolina fans storm the court to celebrate a 74-66 victory against Duke on Feb. 20, 2014, at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer)