Friday, March 1, 2013

Thoughts on Court Storming

The propriety of court storming is in the news today. Why? Because Coach K got pissed off when Virginia students stormed the court last night, that's why. You may ask: Did something happen? Did someone get injured or threatened by a you-know-Hoo? No, no, no—nothing happened. But Coach K has spoken, so we must listen.

As a Badger fan, I still consider it an honor to get court stormed. In my view, the high-water mark for the program occurred when the Badgers got court-stormed in back-to-back games back in 2008 (at MSU and OSU).

But Duke gets court stormed almost every time they lose on the road. I can imagine this growing tiresome. And, to his credit, Coach K doesn't actually object to court storming. He just wants better logistics. Though if you watch the video, it's hard to see what the UVA folks did wrong. They quickly formed a rope-line and shielded the benches from the hordes pretty well. It seems like what happened is that Coach K got pissed off. Full stop.

Anyhow, whatever the merits of the particular complaint that started it, we are now having our biennial National Conversation about court storming. Everyone seems to agree that court storming is dangerous—that it creates a situation akin to a powder keg waiting to explode. One of these days, they say, there'll be a brawl and someone will get seriously hurt. Even killed.

Seriously. That's what people are saying.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict something: No one will ever die because of a court storming in college basketball. There just aren't enough people in a confined enough space to have a "crush" or a soccer-stadium stampede. There are no barriers or bottlenecks between the seats and the court, so that part isn't dangerous. (And as we learned from the crush, putting fortified barriers in would be a huge, huge mistake.)

What about the powder keg on the court? Sorry, it just doesn't exist. The oncoming fans are jubilant. The losing players just want to leave. This is a keg full of noble gases.*

Of course, any time people get together things can go wrong. Someone could just start punching another person in the face for no reason. Here's some video of just such a thing happening. Oh, but wait—that didn't happen during a court storming. That happened in the middle of a basketball game!

Which brings me to the fact that basketball, the sport itself, is way way way way way way way way way more dangerous than a court storming. People get injured playing college basketball all the time. Seriously injured. Injured enough that they have to have major surgery before which the surgeon will tell them that they could die. (And they could.) Heck, the other day I watched a video of Hank Gathers literally dropping dead on the basketball court. And just look at the Badgers this year—Josh Gasser blew out his ACL, Evans just "sprained" his knee, Bruesewitz suffered a serious concussion and a near-catastrophic laceration on his calf, and Kaminsky almost lost an eye. Notably, the first four injuries on that list happened in practice!

At the moment the horn blows and the fans start pouring onto the court, every player on both teams gets about seven million times** safer than they were the moment before. Basketball is dangerous. Court storming just isn't. The players are probably more likely to get injured on the bus ride home than they are from the court storming.

*This analogy is based on my recollections of 11th grade chemistry. Or was it biology?

**Made up statistic, but almost certainly accurate.

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