Whenever I see people booing athletes, it takes all my strength to not turn to them and yell THIS.
So last week, I wrote a column stating that sports fans should stop booing their own team. To which a colleague asked: "What should the fans do when they want to voice disapproval?"
Well, I'm not opposed to expressing disapproval when watching sports. But booing is NOT the way to go. Here now is my guide to why booing is dumb, and what fans should do instead.
Reason for booing: "My team is losing."
Why it's dumb: Sports is entertainment, so if you're booing because your team is losing, there is still a team that's winning. I attended a ton of Northwestern football games in the pre-Rose Bowl years, and even though I was rooting for Northwestern, I was also attending games to see the great players of the other teams.
Point is, there's no harm in going to a Bulls-Heat game and enjoying LeBron James, or going to a Bears-Lions game and enjoying Calvin Johnson.
Reason for booing: "Somebody on my team messed up."
Why it's dumb: Fans boo players when they are not performing up to standards, but success in a team sport is weighed another team trying to succeed, too. So if Charles Tillman is defending Calvin Johnson, and the ball is in the air and it's a good throw, it's likely that either Johnson will make the catch or Tillman will stop him. Does either fan base have rights to boo in either scenario? I say no.
Furthermore, sometimes players are "failing" because they are simply not good enough for the job. Look at J'Marcus Webb. He was a seventh-round pick who started 44 games because nobody else could beat him for the job. He was simply the poor bastard unlucky enough to stay healthy and be the best of an untalented lot. If Gabe Carimi panned out, no one's complaining about Webb.
Reason for booing: "It just doesn't look like they care."
Why it's dumb: If a player is legitimately exerting less than maximum effort, then I suppose this is the only area where I might empathize with the booer.
But here's why I still don't like it: Even though most players love playing their respective sports, there are still days when they don't want to go to work. Happens to the best of us. If that's the case, giving a player a boost by cheering is a more effective way to impact behavior.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD OF BOOING
There are two root causes of booing: a fan wants to vent frustration, or a fan wants to motivate players to do better.
As for how fans should voice disapproval, they should take these matters up with management. Write letters, complain on the airwaves or social media, or even boycott games or stop spending money on the team.
Players have to play. It's their job. You know who DOESN'T have a job to do at the ballpark? Fans! If players have had their enthusiasm or desire sapped by a poor team or a poor season, they take that personally but still have to be there. We have the choice not to show up.
It reminds me of a Lisa Simpson quote when she's fantasizing about being in the "band of #2's" with Art Garfunkel, John Oates and Jim Messina and the crowd starts booing: "Why would they come to our concert just to boo us?"
Behave toward your favorite team like you would if you were attending a friend's softball game—cheer them on, give them support, never be mean, take pleasure from the great plays, and if they lose and for some reason that affected your mood, shut up and take it. If you want to make decisions after the fact ("OK, I'm not going to any more games.") by all means, do so. But booing is for cowardly malcontents who don't know what it's like to be out there themselves.
It all comes down to fans asking themselves: "What am I buying when I attend sports games?" Are you buying entertainment? The sport itself? A chance to be involved with a team? Or victory?
If you're buying any of the first three, then booing makes no sense.
If you're watching sports because you want to feel involved with a team, then act like the players do when their teammates make a bad play: cheer and support them! If something doesn't go well, they're probably just as upset as you are. Give them a verbal pat on the back and get on with your day.
And that's the triple truth, Ruth.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @readjack.
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