It's no secret that I am not a fan of Rick Reilly's column. Each article he writes is like a 4th grade workbook exercise where you have to identify which phrases are similes and which ones are metaphors. No, I don't remember which is which, but I do see the irony that the previous sentence I wrote is one of the two. I didn't always feel this way about Reilly, I was actually a big fan of his during his earlier days on the back page of SI...but something seems to happen to sports writers after a certain amount of time in the biz. I think they become too jaded and unappreciative of their access and slowly begin to fall in love with their own font. Or maybe it's just a byproduct of overexposure...as I've often held the belief that one man can only have so many opinions...and when you are constantly forced to opine, at some point you just start flipping a coin and saying whatever crazy shit pops into your head. Much the way Peter King now fills his weekly column with equal parts NFL news, travel gripes, and nutmeg latte updates...Reilly seems like he's working from some sort of Dr. Seus-ian formula. (*Side note, if you've never read the KSK's weekly dissection of King's MMQB column you are missing the funniest read on the worldwide web. It's actually better if you're a MMQB regular so I recommend skimming the actual MMQB first then reliving the highlights on KSK.)
That intro paragraph was a long scenic route to my main point, which is that I whole heartedly disagree with Reilly's recent critique of sports fans rushing the court/field. In this piece, Reilly introduces his "ironclad unbreakable rules for rushing the court" in which he demonstrates a complete misunderstanding for what it's like to be a true fan. In Rick's words "The win clinched your spot in the tournament? Big deal. Sixty-five teams make it. It's like making the white pages. Cheer from your seat." Spoken like a true D-Bag that gets paid to opine about sports, yet doesn't appreciate how lucky he is.
According to Rick's "rules," you should not rush the court if the team you just beat was not in the top three...or if you've won a national championship within the last 20 years...and my personal favorite, you're a a University and you just beat a College. I hope the students of Devry remember this rule if they ever beat Boston College to clinch a tournament spot. The most boneheaded assertion is that if you're team won a national championship within the last 20 years, you can't rush the court...like some 19 UNLV year old freshman is going to refrain from rushing the court because UNLV won a championship before he was even born? F- that. Clearly, Rick has never had an authentic college field/court rushing experience. To be honest, neither have I, but I have at least been close (Miami over FSU football 2000) when I attempted to rush the field but was clotheslined by a short stocky female security guard-stress. The other 85,000 fans were scared off by the fact that the Orange Bowl had never lost a goalpost and 50 German Shepherds guarding the field. I imagine that the moments leading up to a real "rush" are probably the most exciting in a person's entire life. Essentially, 30,000 fans simultaneously experience the same thought process..."are we doing this? Are we really doing this? F&#k yeah we're doing this, AHHHH!" Is there anything more beautiful than jocks, nerds, goths, frat boys and band geeks all united by the same indiscernible yet clearly united purpose? It's spontaneous, you can't control it...and if you resist, you actually risk your life...much like falling out of your raft in the midst of class five rapids. (simile) Reilly's latest piece makes it obvious that he doesn't remember what it like to be a fan. Fandom isn't about logic or rules...there's nothing logical about a 300lb man spending half of his yearly salary on Jets season tickets so he can attend 8 games shirtless in sub-zero temperatures. It's about devotion, it's about emotion...and there's no thought process involved in rushing the field, it just happens and you're either with it or underneath it.
The way Rick Reilly describes it, you'd think fans were organizing court rushing via Evite. I think part of the problem is that Reilly is just desensitized by all of the amazing sporting events he attends without any real connection to the event. The other issue, is that court/field rushing in this country is primarily a college phenomenon and to truly appreciate the experience, you have to be lucky enough to be in the right school at the right time...and also have tickets to the right game. Not to mention, you're only a student for 4 years (or 8 in my case). Reilly graduated the University of Colorado in 1981 and while the Buffs have accumulated 23 National Championships...17 are from skiing, 5 are from women's cross-country (not exactly fan faves) and one from football in 1990, long after Reilly attended as a student.
Clearly Reilly doesn't get it...but we want to hear it from people that do. The opportunity to rush anything is so rare and fleeting, I say anytime more that 20 people feel moved to migrate from their seats to the hardwood or the 50...they should go for it. Screw it, I don't care if Valparaiso beats Johns Hopkins in an exhibition swimming match, if that gets your fan juices flowing ...then get in the damn pool and let the lifeguards sort it out. Hit up the comments to tell us about your best and worst field/court rushing experiences.
UPDATE:for another take on Reilly's article check out the the Smoking Musket, our friend and respected WVU Mountaineer blog, http://www.smokingmusket.com/2010/3/3/1335167/rushing-the-court