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Jacobsen: Stay in the stands unless it’s deserved (Dec. 3)

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, December 3, 2012


When I was younger, one of my favorite Christmas specials was “Elmo Saves Christmas,” where Elmo receives a magic snow globe. He asks that every day could be Christmas, and the snow globe grants his wish. But Elmo soon realizes this is a mistake: besides the practical concerns of keeping a Christmas tree properly watered during a July heat, Elmo finds that Christmas just isn’t special now that it comes every day.

I might sound like a scrooge, but this is how I’m beginning to feel about storming the court. I’m pretty sure that there are freshmen at this school are unaware that you can attend a sporting event without ending up on the playing surface afterwards.

I’m not just saying this because I’m currently on crutches and physically can’t run onto the field (although I won’t deny that my inability to participate is definitely adding to my indignation). I’m saying this because taking the field or the court after a win is something you do on monumental occasions, not just for  “signature wins.” 

Every year, a student body decides to storm the court for a completely unworthy win, and every year bloggers and ESPN analysts bemoan the state of college fans, saying that this beautiful and wonderful tradition has been overused and abused until all its special meaning has been lost. They’re wrong to think that fans have only recently let this practice get out of hand – rugby union fans have been staging “pitch invasions” as far back as anyone can remember, and efforts to stop them date back to the 1920s. But the bloggers are right in one respect: fans do look silly when they run onto the court and the players all look at each other as if to ask, “Why?”

And sadly, the Notre Dame student section has become “those” fans. Yes, I know that the basketball team beat the NCAA defending champions last Thursday (more accurately, the freshmen who now wear their uniforms), but Kentucky was ranked eighth, not first. They were not undefeated. What, did you all expect the Irish to lose?

Some people have told me that they took to the court because the football players did. Some people said they were celebrating the football win over USC and a berth in the BCS National Championship. I’ll make a special allowance for the situation (although a celebratory trip through Stonehenge would’ve been more appropriate). 

There are plenty of websites that have published extensive guidelines for when it is appropriate to storm the court after a basketball game (for the record, none of them list “My football team is going to the national championship” as one of them.) These rules are well-intentioned but, really, who can remember three pages worth of guidelines when you’re in the stands? So I’m going to make it easier: Will you still talk about this event in 20 years? If the answer is yes, go ahead. If it’s not, stay in your seat for the Alma Mater. 

Beating an undefeated, No. 1 Syracuse team last January? That was both memorable and in keeping with the tradition of taking down top-ranked teams at home. That court needed to be stormed.

Running onto the court was still new when Notre Dame ended UCLA’s 88-game winning streak after trailing by 17 at the half and 11 with less than four minutes left in the game. They’re still showing highlights of that game almost four decades later. For a win that exciting, I’d approve if students stormed the court, went to get sleeping bags, then returned to spend all night on the parquet.

But as for a triple-overtime win over then 4-4 Pittsburgh, not even the kids who tried to jump on the field afterwards will bring up that game 20 years from now unless that just happened to be the day they met their future spouse.

I appreciate the kind of passion that students show when they run onto the field. But when I think of my favorite celebration from this year, easily the most moving was from the Michigan game. Nearly the every student stayed in their row and danced long after everyone else had left, waving multicolored leis in the air. Nobody wanted to run anywhere or storm anything. And why would they? At that moment, there was absolutely no place any of us would rather have been.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.