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It's Time to Press "Pause" on Court Invasions

Photo Credit: Eric Chan from Hollywood, United States, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

When I was a freshman in high school, our football team won the state championship.  It was an incredible experience.  Our team dominated the game – it was a foregone conclusion by the end of the third quarter.  It cemented in my mind that this was the perfect place for me.  And, crucially, it was our turn to storm the field.

Except, that didn’t happen.  Police officers were lined up in anticipation for this exact moment.  No student, no parent – nobody – was stepping foot on that field on this day.  A stern glance from a cop was all I needed to know that my dream was dead.  But weirdly, it didn’t ruin the experience for me.  How is that possible?

I mean, come on – everybody knows you're supposed to storm the field or the court after a big win.  It’s basically in the rules.  Win a game, storm the court.  Easy peasy.  It’s just the way it is.

But that’s not really true, is it?  Something strange has happened over the last twenty years or so.  Storming the field or the court used to be for special moments – like a massive underdog beating a top-ranked team.  Now people will storm the court because…it’s Saturday?  Because it’s something to do? The extraordinary is slowly becoming ordinary.

The pitch invasion (as it’s known across the pond) has lost its luster.  It’s no longer the sensational surprise it used to be.  Storming the field used to be for the under-est of underdogs.  Now, even Ohio State likes to get in on the action.  Honestly, isn’t storming the field a little beneath a mind-bogglingly successful school like OSU?

Or what about the University of Cincinnati storming the court after defeating a 19th-ranked TCU team for their first Big 12 win?  UC is a program that’s won two national titles!  Granted, they were over half a century ago, but still – TCU would kill for that kind of success.  They’ve been to a single Elite Eight in their entire history!  What happened to great expectations?  Why are we celebrating a win over the fifth-best team in the conference like it’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans?

The increased frequency of field or court storming has also opened up a Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences.  Duke’s freshman phenom Kyle Filipowski was injured this past Saturday after Wake Forest fans stormed the court following their 83 - 79 win over the 8th-ranked Blue Devils.  Never mind that the difference between Wake’s and Duke’s record this year is three f-ing games.  Or that they beat Duke last year.  Or that the teams are an even 2 - 2 in their last four matchups.

It’s not just an isolated incident either.  An Ohio State fan knocked Caitlin Clark to the ground after the Buckeyes bounced the Hawkeyes back in January.  She avoided injury (thankfully), but watching the face of women’s basketball hit the hardwood because some wild, probably drunk wacko decided this was her moment to live out her fourteen-year-old fantasies is decidedly not what college athletics needs right now.  What the hell are we doing?

Look, I’m not trying to be the party-pooper here.  I can admit, when I was a fourteen-year-old at St. X watching the upperclassmen win the state title, there was nothing more on Earth I wanted to do than to celebrate with the boys on the field.  But I didn’t.  Not because I didn’t want to, of course, but because – whatever their reason – the Canton police weren’t having it.  And yet, it was still an incredible night.  Would storming the field have made it better?  I don’t know, but I can say with 100% certainty that I’m not breaking out in cold sweats in the middle of the night because I didn’t get to behave like a buffoon after my team won a football game.

The bigger picture is this: storming the field or the court has gotten incredibly cliché.  It’s no longer electrifying or gravitational or unique or interesting.  Instead, it’s become reckless and inane and self-serving and boring.

I’m not calling for a complete ban of pitch/court/field invasions – just a moratorium.  Let’s all take a deep breath.  College sports has been going through a lot recently with all the Name, Image & Likeness stuff, with the transfer portal and all the general unease that permeates everyone and everything involved in it.  It deserves a break from all the nonsense.

Five years is all I’m asking.  No storming, no invading.  Just fans watching sports and behaving like fans instead sprinting towards painted grass like lemmings when they see a suicidally-steep cliff.  It’s time to end the madness.  Storming the field won’t make or break your experience.  You’ll live – just like I did.

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