Shut Your (Mon)Mouth; Why the Monmouth Bench Isn’t Worth Your Hate
Sports are all about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, or so we've been told. Lately, the Monmouth Hawks are experiencing the former.
Members of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the mid-major Hawks, who haven't sniffed the NCAA Tournament since 2006, have been tearing through their non-conference schedule at a rapid pace, earning wins over elite programs such as UCLA, Notre Dame, USC and Georgetown en route to a 7-3 record thus far.
Garnering the most attention for the Hawks, however, are their rowdy bench players....and not even when they come into the game.
As Monmouth's wins tally up, the celebrations of the guys on bench, part of the "12th man" unit have also escalated. Their antics first became famous during the Advocare Invitational, held at Walt Disney World, during their upset victory over then-#17 Notre Dame. From there, the theatrics only carried on further, and the guys are have become celebrities. They recently made an appearance on The Today Show to discuss their newfound glory, which includes imitations of The Sistine Chapel's famous painting, a bull fight, and the world famous "human scissors". The group has since earned the nickname, "The Hawk's Nest".
However, in this current sports atmosphere of "hot takes" and "debate culture", the celebrations of college students who otherwise are likely not involved in the game has been scrutinized and torn apart from every angle.
Think pieces left and right have popped up in response to the bench boys, with some saying they guys may need to tone it down. On Pardon the Interruption, ESPN's Michael Wilbon took things a step further, claiming that fans only support the celebrations of white athletes. Reports have since circulated that the NCAA will be reviewing their bench decorum rules in an attempt to curtail the jubilation (a claim that the NCAA has since denied).
The reality, however, is that at the end of the day, the celebrations aren't hurting anyone, and don't deserve this level of scrutiny.
For one thing, everyone loves the story of the little guys, the underdogs, whatever you want to call them. With most of these guys walk-ons who will only see the court in the event of a 30 point blowout (Some guys involved have yet to take the court in a game this season), this is their one chance to shine. Walk-ons have to put in all of the work...the sunrise practices, the constant traveling, the endless meetings and film sessions...for little to no court time. With these celebrations, these guys have a bigger role on the team.
Does it amount to being basically cheerleaders? Sure, but maybe you can let the kids have a little fun. Playing college basketball is no easy task, whether you're playing at Monmouth or Duke. It's these moments of spontaneity and pure joy that make us love the game, moments that make us forget about the problems facing sports today, particularly those facing the college game.
Besides, celebrations in college sports are nothing new whatsoever. The same nation, the same media that will praise Clemson coach Dabo Swinney for "dabbing" after the top-ranked Tigers' biggest wins, are the same individuals targeting the Hawks' bench now. Antics like these are also no less common in college baseball rain delays, where supposed rivals will often work in collaboration to entertain themselves. Why "having too much fun" is suddenly a personal foul in the eyes of college sports critics is beyond me. How quickly we forget that these student-athletes, faces of nationally renowned programs, are simply college kids, whose sole purpose (other than getting an education, of course) is having a good time by any means possible.
And really at the end of all this, there's really one picture perfect way to end the supposed debauchery going on the sidelines...if you hate so much...just beat them.
Geoff Magliocchetti realizes he may be hating these celebrations when the Hawks play his alma mater Marist soon. Remind him of this fact on Twitter @GeoffMags5490
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