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The sights and sounds of fans storming the court

Stephanie Kuzydym Modified: April 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm •  Published: March 5, 2013

In Monday’s Big 12 Coaches Call, the league’s coaches gave their thoughts on fans storming the court.

You can read about that in the paper or online.

But all the talk made me think about the two court storms I’ve sat through in the last two years.

Here’s the good: They allow fans to celebrate even closer with their team. They are incredible memories. They are incredible things to watch. They are great for intro videos. They’re an added touch to the already exuberant victory.

Here’s the bad: They often leave people injured, although you don’t really hear about them unless they’re semi-famous. They cause constant arguments on Twitter and Facebook about what’s an acceptable court rush. They catch people off guard, leaving them almost trampled.

The most recent court rush I saw was when Oklahoma beat then-No. 5 Kansas. Fans slowly trickled onto the court but it was sheer jubilation. Heck, even members of the football team were excited for it and joined in. Junior defensive back Aaron Colvin tweeted about how he made it out injury free — in case any Oklahoma football fans were worried.

Overall, it was a tame court storm. Even the players said they were surprised when the fans finally started coming onto the court because it was delayed.

The first court storm I saw, which is also the first court storm I’ve ever witnessed live, was when I was sports editor at my college newspaper just last year when Indiana played then-No. 1 Kentucky. I was there to calm the fury of Twitter if IU upset so my reporters could write. I sat back in the press conference room for a majority of the game watching it on TV and occasionally walking out and standing on the baseline of the court to watch. The emotion was intense and with a couple of minutes remaining, I realized that IU could potentially upset so I grabbed my camera and headed out to the court. I stood in the south bleachers on the stairs because there was no extra room.

What happened after Indiana guard Christian Watford hit a buzzer-beating three to upset was an absolute explosion of emotion.

During the court rush, most people are running toward the court or sitting in the stands watching as people below them try to get to the court. I moved to the court and watched as some of the 17,000+ fans in Assembly Hall tried to make their way onto Branch McCraken Court — and then I wrote about it:

The final shot arced toward the basket, and time stopped.
As he watched the ball, junior forward Christian Watford kept his right hand in the air.

The fans stood with their hands raised, holding their breath. The five red banners softly swayed.

Then, the sound of pure swish echoed. The golden numbers lit 0.0.

Across Assembly Hall, the wave of emotion released.

A decade of pent up frustration was freed onto Branch McCracken court. 

Since 2001, after former IU Coach Bob Knight was fired, Indiana has been roaming a desert in search of respectability. 

IU Coach Tom Crean’s first three years brought the worst season records to Assembly Hall in its history. 

On Dec. 10, the Hoosiers found paradise.

An uproar filled the rafters. The IU men’s basketball team celebrated in a pile. Thousands of fingers pointed in the air. Seniors who sat through a 6-25 record their freshman season watched their team upset the country’s premier team to turn the card to 9-0.

The faithful stormed the court.

“This is Indiana. This is Indiana,” fans shouted as they swarmed past black-shirted security guards. A guard threw both his hands up like stop signs toward the rushing crowd. They couldn’t even be slowed. 

Fans sprinted. Some tripped and fell. Some were even trampled.

Members of the Big Red Basketball Band’s first instinct was to protect their instruments from the chaos. They lifted their trombones and trumpets above their heads before dropping them to their mouths to play the fight song.

“We’re No. 1,” a fan shouted. “No. 1, baby.”

Fans in the general admission seats became restless to join the party at center court. 

They began jumping over the cinder block walls, using the scoreboard as a ladder rung.

More fans spilled over the edge. Policemen stood on the wood bleachers with their hands extended, catching fans as they jumped and sprinted the second their foot touched the wood.

“Careful,” one officer said. “Here you go.”

Once they hit the court, they slammed into one another in jubilation. 

Fans poured across all avenues of the hall. A mother stood protecting her two young children, their eyes wide at the sight of what college basketball means to Bloomington.

Gray-haired men shouted. Friends hugged. Fans high-fived.

“We did it,” a Hoosier alumna cheered before kissing her husband. “We’re back.”

The victory brought back an old feeling.

Saturday night brought back the faith that Butler basketball isn’t what the state of Indiana should be known for.

This is Indiana basketball. It’s the five banners. It’s Martha the Mop Lady. It’s the costumes and the candy stripes. It’s the tradition. 

After inheriting a program in shambles, Crean had now become the shepherd. At the edge of the court, the coach watched as the floor disappeared beneath a red sea.

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