March 11, 2009 11:50 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- With our third-to-last GMHN of Season 5, we have a very special treat for you, yes we do. The image you see over and over during Championship Fortnight is students running all willy-nilly onto the floor after their beloved teams win mid-major titles. So it's only fitting that we celebrate this with The Mid-Majority's First Annual Floor-Storming Symposium.
The pictures in this post are all by me. I've stormed the floor 11 times, but I leave the true expertise on that subject to others who've put it in their website names. Our panel today contains the illustrious duo that heads up Storming The Floor, Marco Anskis and Eric "Extra P." Angevine. They've literally written the post, if not the book, on court storming: an intricate ruleset of when to do it, and when not to do it. We also have Matt Restivo, a fantastic blogger and floor-rusher in his own right, from the Siena Saints Blog. Matt's reporting from Monday night's Siena win, after which he ran out on the Times Union Center hardwood with everybody else. He and I also rushed together in Albany last March, making us stormin'-bros 4 lyfe.
The four of us, through the magic of the Intertron, sat down this week to discuss such matters as authoritarian killjoys who stop the rush from happening, Cornell's moshpit from last week, court-storming injuries and memories, explaining the feeling to others less fortunate, Bison Fever, the best court storm ever, and the parallels between floor-rushing and sex.
TMM: Eric and Marco: you've laid out the rules, but you haven't set forth any punishment for breaking them. Boise State fans, for instance, stormed the court when the Broncos beat previously WAC-undefeated Utah State last month. What should their justice be?
Eric: Well, we don't have much power. Blog-based mockery is all we can fling at this point. Since we're basically talking about something fun here, I wouldn't punish too severely. You don't want to become the no-fun police. Maybe just make them run a victory lap around the arena without their coats or something. That would probably suffice for Boise State, but wouldn't kill anyone at Long Beach State. Maybe they'd have to run it WITH their winter coats on.
Marco: I suggest reducing the number of scholarships available to student-section leaders. I'm much more of a stickler about the rules.
TMM: You've said that winning the Ivy League regular season title, which gets you the autobid, isn't a stormable achievement. Cornell's floor storming actually changed the result of a game temporarily with the broken equipment, and it certainly wasn't as much damage as J.J. Jumper did a few years back. Are you open to rethinking this rule?
Eric: Yes, and I'll tell you why. I started thinking about all the permutations of wins, losses, and tiebreakers those Ivy cats have to keep track of to even know if they SHOULD storm the floor on any given night in February/March, and it suddenly seemed only right and proper that they get the payoff after doing all of those mental gymnastics. Not that they're not used to spraining their brains, but still. And yet, all of us who couldn't get in to Ivy schools get a really hearty laugh out of denying them the privilege. I would like to point out that I've denied myself as well, since I went to Kansas. Going back to school at Old Dominion a few years back opened up a whole new world for me.
TMM: Do you think the Cornell moment might have helped transform the image of Ivy guys as mild-mannered milquetoasts who like to make out with textbooks? Is this a good thing?
Eric: Dude, have you SEEN the naked hotties in some of those medical texts?
Marco: Cornell fans did something that no other floor stormin' fan base has done: they CHANGED THE SCORE OF A GAME. Think about that for a moment. Forget about being feared in the Ivy, they should be the most feared student section in the nation. Trailing Syracuse by three points with under one minute left? That's fine, they'll just take the court and give the scoreboard a little bootâ€¦
Eric: I think the clock-wrecking might have changed their image a little bit, but I think we still have a long way to go before Marco feels the need to compare an Ivy storming to the vibe at a Pantera concert (which is how he described Providence over Pitt).
TMM: Speaking of things like that, the CAA was the other night. I keep remembering an incident from back in 2005, when a VCU cheerleader (I think) was trampled during ODU's court storming and had to have major surgery. She was a real symbol of that rivalry back in the days before people had things like "CAA Zone" and "teh Twittr". Do you remember this? Am I hallucinating?
Eric: Vaguely. How strange that I forgot that. I was at that storming, but I was very careful. I didn't feel it was especially violent at the time, so I suspect it was just a rare accident.
Marco: I do not remember that, but it clearly states in the official rules that storming fans should be mindful of the opposing players, coaches and cheerleaders. Unless you've actually taken part in a floor storming, you have no idea just how intense it can be. Imagine 2,000 fans, coming from all directions, hopped on nerves, adrenaline and pure joy, darting full speed toward an eight-foot center court logo. Then, add booze. My advice to opposing fans/players/cheerleaders: If you can see the storm gathering, run for shelter.
TMM: Court storming is a transformative experience, you've both done it. Tell me about your first time.
Marco: My secret shame up until last March: I had never stormed the floor at a college basketball game. That all changed in last March at the A-10 Tournament in A.C. -- thanks to Kyle! With total disregard for my job, we both left press row, secretly tucked away our press passes, and joined the Temple fans as they consumed the court. All I can remember are people flying in all directions (the speed of it all is much, much faster than it appears on TV), high-fiving Sergio Olmos, and the heat. It is so damn hot in the core. Probably the best basketball moment of my life.
Matt: Well it's hard to describe the heat that hundreds of bodies produces all around you, I stormed at Siena last year, just screaming my head off, running like a maniac and jumping on anyone that wasnt a fragile female. Storming is stellar.
Eric: The aforementioned 2005 CAA final was my first. I was a late bloomer, because nobody really did ever storm the floor at Kansas. But that '05 game was one of the best I've ever seen - the geographical proximity of VCU and ODU, the fact that they hate each other intensely and could both bring huge fan bases with them made the atmosphere really raucous. Then the game was back and forth and narrowly went to OT. There was a lot of pent-up emotion on both sides to the very end. That was the time I accidentally wandered into the VCU section on my way down to storm and got pelted with foam fingers. I count myself lucky that it was just foam.
TMM: Matt, sorry I couldn't make it to Siena this year and storm with you again. What was it like this time? Was it awesome?
Matt: While personally my storm was amazing, I noticed a ton of girls crying afterwards. They must have lost their bags or cameras or something-- or they could have been tears of joy. With about a minute or two to go, I turned to some of the young students holding their jackets and said, "put those on, and be careful, run as fast as you can, it's every man for themselves."
TMM: A lot of people -- the majority, actually -- have never stormed the court. If you were explaining this to one of the billions who hasn't taken part in this important rite of passage, how would you go about describing the feeling?
Matt: When you see those YouTube videos of cameras just going every which way, completely incoherent, add a ton of noise and hot sweaty bodies jumping on you, then you've got a start.
Eric: It's one of those situations where you just love everybody you meet. Even the sweaty face-painted guy. You might even give him a hug, you're so happy. And you're right in there with the players and coaches, and they seem genuinely thrilled and grateful to be with their fans. It's one of the rare moments of complete abandon that an adult is allowed to participate in.
Marco: You truly feel like you have accomplished something. And as fan base, you did - you wouldn't be out there on the court if you didn't do something special. Whether it's finally earning that elusive NCAA Tournament bid or finally topping your rival, it's something to celebrate. And Eric's right, you just want to hug everyone in sight. I can't think of any other situation in life where that's even legal.
TMM: Sometimes, security and school officials stop court storming from happening -- it's common practice in the OVC and Atlantic Sun, and it happened again last night at the Sun Belt. What are the larger ramifications of this, if any? Should people rise up against The Man and demand rights?
Marco: I think the ramifications are that your league looks super lame on national television during Championship Week. Let the kids be kids. It's supposed to a joyous moment for everyone involved. If all that emotion isn't released on the court, it's going to be released on campus property or on a few parked cars, so pick your poison. The storming is going to take place somewhere.
Matt: Don't forget the Southern conference, I don't think they stormed either. Lame! What's funny to me is that if a group of students just got together and said, "we're going to storm the court no matter how many red jackets try to protect the court"... there is NO WAY they could stop a thousand kids rushing toward the middle of the court. I understand that it is a dangerous activity, and schools and conferences may not want to bear the responsibility should something tragic happen. Let's make one thing clear, storming is not for the faint at heart. But when it comes down to you standing on the edge of "should I do it, or should I play it safe"... know that it's something that every sports fan should experience once in their life.
Eric: It's a tough thing - I mean, the school owns the court, but students pay to be there. One thing it should never resemble is the ultra-stupid football ritual of tearing down goalposts. That one just kills me. Injury! Destruction of property! As much as I think floor storming should be ecstatic and near-mindless, nobody should ever get hurt. And at most of them I've been to, nobody has. One thing I can state definitively is that I never, ever want the tradition of storming when you win the auto-bid to stop. If that happens, it will be a sad day for college basketball.
TMM: Talk to me about the deeper meaning of floor storming. I've often said it's a sex ritual, that a stream of people running towards a logo is a lot like those videos they used to show us in school with sperm and eggs and stuff. There's a lot of details I don't want to know about, but it court storming better than sex?
Matt: I compare it more with just literally the urge to "go wild," to be out of control, and it encompasses so much of what being in college is all about. The students all rush for a common goal, but what is that goal? Maybe you're right, the need to be on top of your school's logo, or the need to be the first one to carry that player on your shoulders. I think its more about having a medium where you can just scream, run around without repercussions.
Eric: No, not better. Despite the orgasmic buildup and release, floor storming is the exact opposite of an intimate, one-on-one experience. Part of what I love about getting into a storming is the cameraderie with hundreds of other people. I'm naturally introspective and don't like crowds, so this is one of those rare opportunities where this group experience is really, really fun and I want to share it with a lot of people. It's emotionally expansive.
Marco: Comparing the storming of the floor to the sperm and the egg is now my favorite metaphor of all time. I may even go Fire Joe Morgan style and add a "sexual floor storming metaphors" tag to STF. I think that "orgasmic buildup and release" just about sums it all up.
TMM: I feel dirty now. Are there religious overtones to this phenomenon that I'm missing? Any literary parallels or references that can explain floor storming? Is this some serious Braveheart shit, or what?
Eric: It should be Braveheart shit. To me, the emotion underlying the whole thing is "Holy shit! We actually won!!!", and that's why we made up these silly rules in the first place. What we got tired of seeing was this halfhearted or situationally-inappropriate storming. The game really, really has to mean something, and you have to have been in doubt as to whether it would go your way. So often at the big schools, it just looks like some spoiled kids decided it was a great excuse to throw a party - no more or less interesting than a fraternity kegger. Ersatz emotion is what we want to avoid, or soon we'll need announcers and musicians to tell us when to get excited, like they do in the NBA.
Marco: Would you consider the Crusades to be the Middle Ages equivalent to the storming of the floor? How about storming of the Holy Land? I think that Sader Nation would agree with that comparison.
TMM: OK, best historical court storm ever, not counting the Aragonese Crusade. Any opinions?
Eric: I think Jimmy V's one-man storming was a pretty iconic image. But that doesn't really count. I'm not sure I have enough historical images in my head to say best ever. My favorite from Championship Fortnight this year was Siena's, because I'd never seen a player crowd-surf before. That was a nice innovation.
Marco: Valvano running around the floor, desperately looking for someone, anyone to hug after Bally State's shocker over Houston was the first image that came to my mind when thinking historically. Notre Dame fans running from all directions in 1974 after the Irish snapped UCLA's 88-game winning streak also comes to mind. Personally, I'll take any mid-major conference tournament championship. It just means everything, as I'm sure everyone knows by now. Bonus points for a last-second shot.
Matt: This [Monday night] was definitely my best court storm ever, I was joined by three of my friends from college, all virgin stormers. We graduated in 2007, losing a close one to Niagara in Bridgeport. This one felt like justice.
Eric: I have to give a special shout out to the NDSU floor stormers. After hearing that most of the NDSU supporters were kept away from the game by highway closings, the fact that even fifty guys showed up to jump around on the center logo is impressive. Though they may need work on their technique, since they took down Tviedt - it would have been kind of embarassing to have to explain how one of your best players can't play in the Dance because a 300-lb icicle rancher fell on him.
Marco: Yeah, floor stormings like NDSU's are my absolute favorite. It was basically just a motley crew of students, balding men in their 40s, some dude spray-painted in all gold and a few scattered parents out there on the court, just going bananas. Throw in the redshirt backstory (a story so moving that it could make an N.C. State alum like Bally cry) and the last-second shot by Woodside - that's all just icing on the cake. The fact that they tackled one of their own players makes it even better in my book.
TMM: Thanks again to Marco, Eric and Matt. This was great.
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