Mike Sorensen: Rushing the court may be fun, but it needs to be curbed
Grant Hindsley, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — Call me a killjoy, an old fuddy-duddy or whatever, but I don't like the idea of rushing the field. Or storming the court.
I’m also not a fan of Gatorade showers after every football victory, hand slaps after every basketball free throw, or hugs after every gymnastics routine.
Too many things in sports seem to be overdone these days.
It used to be that fans rushed the field or court on rare occasions — like when their team won its first championship, or upset the No. 1 team in the nation.
These days, fans rush the court, it seems, just to rush the court. It’s the thing to do — like camping outside in tents for the latest blockbuster movie or the latest cellphone. Let’s do it because everybody else is doing it!
OK, I admit, I’ve rushed the court before. If you’ve ever seen the video of the Utah Stars’ ABA championship victory over Kentucky, I’m the long-haired teenager front and center in the white T-shirt and Levi's looking straight at the camera before I joined the celebration at the old Salt Palace.
But now I’m older and supposedly wiser. Maybe it goes back to early in my career as a sportswriter when I saw a crowd on a college football field pull down the goalposts after rushing the field. One of the steel uprights swung around and hit a guy in the side of the face, leaving him a bloody mess.
Since then, I’ve always steered clear of postgame celebrations. You never know what is going to happen — whether it’s getting hit in the head by a goalpost or having an inebriated fan jump all over you.
Last Thursday night, I had an up-close-and-personal view of the ugly scene in Orem that made national news.
I was covering the Utah Valley-New Mexico State basketball game, sitting about 15 feet away from the court when all hell broke loose as a routine court-rushing by jubilant fans turned into a brawl at center court — complete with fans and opposing players mixing it up with fists and shoves before order could be restored.
This was actually one case where rushing the court was somewhat justified. Utah Valley has been a Division I school for less than a decade and by beating NMSU, the Wolverines virtually assured themselves of a piece of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title.
The Wolverines had looked dead in the water, trailing by six with a little more than a minute left, only to come back and tie the game in the final seconds and then win in overtime. Naturally, the fans were excited and the Aggie players were upset to have lost a game they thought they had in the bag.
The two scenarios weren’t a good mixture, however.
First, K.C. Ross-Miller fired a ball at UVU’s Holton Hunsaker as the final buzzer went off. At the same time, a group of students flooded onto the floor and the fisticuffs began.
Clearly, the New Mexico State player precipitated the whole mess and his teammates were out of line for mixing it up with the exuberant fans.
On the other hand, if I was a New Mexico State player and all of a sudden, I had a bunch of college students bouncing within inches of my face after I had just suffered an agonizing loss, I might have reacted poorly.
Would this ugly scene have happened if fans hadn’t been in the mix?
If you watch the tape, which I’m sure most basketball fans in Amercia have seen at least once by now, UVU’s Hunsaker didn’t rush at Ross-Miller after being hit. He just stood there with his hands up, like, ‘What the heck was that?’ Ross-Miller started to head back toward Hunsaker, but was quickly intercepted by an assistant coach.
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