#360USA: NCAA court stormers invite disaster

Steve Brenner 09:04 02/03/2015
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Kansas State fans court storm after beating rivals KU

Considering the United States is a country where a woman successfully sued a fast food chain after being scalded by a hot cup of coffee, what transpired in Kansas this week simply beggared belief.

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Tensions, naturally, were at boiling point at a packed Bramlage Coliseum. Hosts Kansas State, were homing in on a crunch win against their cross-state rivals at Kansas University.

The visiting Jayhwaks arrived on enemy territory boasting the best record in the Big 12 Conference. It was a monumental triumph for the 7-9 Wildcats and their wild fans. Oh what a night. College sport in the United States really is something else.

The crowds, the passion, the atmosphere, the hope of reaching the respective drafts and sealing a pro-career are all ingredients which add to a wonderful mix of unique, if enduringly naive, sporting drama. What happened at the climax though was moronic. Type ‘Kansas court storming’ into YouTube and make your own mind up.

Now, I am not a curmudgeonly old stick-in-the-mud when it comes to celebrating and losing your mind at the end of a big game. We’ve all been there. It’s why we love sport. Yet the dangerous rushing of fans storming towards the court and the players raised an insurmountable list of safety hazards.

Security staff looking resplendent in their fluorescent green jackets were supposed to be on hand to form a ring of steel. It appears in this laughable case though, they were all enjoying a nice end of match snooze. It would have been almost acceptable if the winning shot was bang on the buzzer, sparking delirium at a dramatic last gasp basket. Yet the home side eventually ran out 70-63 victors.

The result wasn’t in doubt with just seconds to go. No matter. Onto the court the students poured, sandwiching the distraught defeated visitors in the process. One of their players, Jamari Traylor showed remarkable restraint after crashing into an invader while coach Bill Self was also caught into the anarchic rush. It’s staggering no-one was seriously injured.

Court storming is relatively commonplace in high school and college sports here, especially when there is a major upset in the offing. Indeed, this was the third time in the space of just a few weeks that the Jayhawks have been caught in the crush.

You can picture the scene. A raucous crowd of 15,000 or more young, carefree students cheering on their friends in front of a live TV audience.

What, sadly, could also be envisaged was a scenario scarily similar to one which left a Tuscon Arizona player Joe Kay paralyzed down one side of his body following some crazy celebrations 11 years ago. He wasn’t the first. There have been plenty. 

Two years ago a wheelchair bound fan had to be rescued after being caught in the middle of what must have been a terrifying ordeal. I could go on.

Someone will get seriously hurt unless the NCAA pull their finger out and demand fines and instant bans for anyone who takes even the smallest of steps onto any playing area – a place which really should be sacrosanct.

The SEC (Southeastern Conference) have already outlawed invasions, dishing out $50,000 penalties to offenders. Why on earth has their stance not been replicated nationwide? It doesn’t happen in the NBA, NFL or MLB. It shouldn’t happen anywhere.

As excitement ratchets up another level with the end of season March Madness championship playoffs fast approaching, supporters are going to become, if at all possible, even wilder. When the worst does happen some day soon, all hell really will break loose. Lawsuits will be flying off the shelves faster than a demented fan rushing towards his favourite point guard.

KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend said: “Several players of ours got hit, not with fists but got bumped. This has to stop. I think court storming is fine but you need security to the point where player safety is not involved as it is here.

“It is fine if you want to celebrate, you win, that’s fine but don’t put people at risk from a safety standpoint. Someone is going to get hit, there is going to be a fight and then there will be lawsuits and all things like that. It is not right. “

In years gone-by, mass pitch invasions were commonplace. But this is 2015. The quality of stadia has ensured the viewing experience has never been better. Social media and rolling news channels, unfortunately, give idiots a platform.

Let’s hope the authorities make sure a select bunch of morons don’t ruin it for everyone else.

MLB

Another baseball drug scandal has shamed the sport but this one hasn’t earned Josh Hamilton the same furious reaction afforded to Alex Rodriguez.

Hamilton, like Rodriguez, was a former No1 draft pick yet has battled chronic cocaine and alcohol addictions.

The LA Angels outfielder faces a 25-match ban but knows having been hit with a two year suspension in 2004, MLB bosses will want to make some kind of statement.

Without doubt, while recreational drug use is frowned upon, nothing destroys trust more than substances which unfairly aid your performance.

NBA

Two vastly differing injuries have robbed the NBA of two of their leading lights as the race for the playoffs enters its final stretch.

There was shock and horror as Miami Heat and All-Star Chris Bosh (below) was ruled out for the remainder of the season after blood clots were found on his lungs. It was a bitter blow for the highly respected Bosh who was thankfully cleared of any serious damage.

For the Chicago Bulls however, the news that the brilliant Derrick Rose had suffered yet another knee problem was met with acute sadness.

Rose, just 26, has unfortunately seen his career blighted with a series of injury setbacks and will know his knees can only take so much.

He could be back before the end of the season but he is sadly already being placed in the bracket of players who could have achieved so much more if it wasn’t for the brittle nature of their bodies.

Boxing

And so it begins…

It may be two months away but that hasn’t stopped Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao laying down the law.

Both camps have quickly moved to announce there will be no multi-city press tour to promote a fight which, in all honesty, doesn’t need promoting.

After all, when the May 2 meeting in Las Vegas is being tipped to generate a record $40 million in gate receipts, it’s no wonder the promoters are, for once, thinking less equals more.

Unfortunately though, neither are prepared to grant rival networks into their own training bases to document the build-up 24/7 style as is the norm for big pay-per-view fights. HBO’s Pacquiao didn’t want Mayweather’s Showtime cameras into his gym and vice versa.

Expect more tit-for-tat battles in the coming weeks.

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