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Column: Before clock strikes 12, Eagles go wild on court


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The Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast University are certainly the Cinderella story of the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. By defeating No. 2-seeded Georgetown and No. 7-seeded San Diego State last weekend, FGCU became the first No. 15 seed in history to advance to the Sweet 16.

Everybody loves a good Cinderella story, right? So how come I find myself hoping the clock strikes midnight on these guys very soon?

I watched the second half of their game against San Diego State Sunday night. I really enjoyed watching the Eagles play. They seemed to steal the ball and/or complete the perfect alley-oop pass and dunk on nearly every play.

They were loose and clearly not intimidated by the higher-seeded Aztecs of San Diego State. I guess once you’ve knocked off the No. 2 seed, confidence is not a problem.

But as the game wound down and it became clear that San Diego State would not be able to mount a comeback, I began to notice a few tatters in Cinderella’s gown.

One Eagle punctuated each basket he made by running back up the court with his tongue sticking out as if a doctor were examining his throat. I don’t know, maybe he’s done that all season, but it just struck me as a bit of a taunt and a “look at me” kind of move.

The Eagles began celebrating long before the final buzzer, with players on the bench doing what appeared to be the funky chicken along the sidelines. Since when does a Division I basketball coach allow his players to dance on the sidelines while the game is still in progress?

Apparently FGCU coach Andy Enfield has no problem with it, as neither he nor his coaching staff made any attempt to control the frolicking.

Once the final buzzer sounded, the FGCU Eagles went wild. That’s perfectly understandable since they had just done something no other team in their position has ever accomplished.

They celebrated. Then they celebrated some more. Then they celebrated too much.

Perhaps the TV cameras in their faces caused them to go a little overboard. I hope that’s the case because what I saw made me wish I hadn’t rooted for them to pull off the upset.

Instead of shaking hands with the other team, as has become post-game tradition, the FGCU players put on a show for the cameras, repeatedly embracing each other and mugging for the cameras and the crowd. One player even stood on the court and blew kisses to the fans in the stands. Ya think he knew he was on TV?

The San Diego State Aztecs, on the other hand, showed a lot of class. Two Aztec players personally congratulated some of the Eagles and wished them well the rest of the way.

Even as the teams for the next game were coming onto the floor, the Eagles were still hamming it up for the cameras, doing the funky chicken and generally showing no class.

I’ll give the players the benefit of the doubt. They’re just kids, after all, and they had just experienced one of the highlights of their lives. They earned the right to celebrate their accomplishment.

But the adults in the room, specifically the FGCU coaching staff, should have reined things in before the players turned from Cinderella into wicked stepsisters on national TV.

Florida Gulf Coast takes on the Gators from the University of Florida on Friday. Will Cinderella meet her prince and live happily ever after? Only time will tell.

But Gators like to eat chickens, even if they’re just the funky ones.

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or dshowalter@therepublic.com.

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