Back in May, on his Comcast.net sports column "Tuesdays with Russakoff", Lee Russakoff wrote an article titled, "I Thought I Was Your Boo", in which he made a simple argument: Booing one's own team is an unconstructive act that a real fan should be smart enough not to do.
"Booing is a cathartic exercise and a guttural reaction. We expected a hit/first down/dunk and got a strike out/loss of 13 yards/turnover instead. We’re disappointed. So we boo.
"But as sports fans, can’t we rise above those visceral emotions? Can’t we say to ourselves: Wait, if I boo Donovan McNabb for that shorthop pass, it isn’t going to help him concentrate more on the next pass, it’s just going to make him less likely to show the city any love once he becomes a free agent or celebrates a championship."
After publishing this perfectly reasonable article, which argued on the grounds of common sense, Russakoff was met by intelligent responses such as the following:
“I can't believe someone (from Philly) could actually write an article asking people not to boo. Wow. I boo whenever I feel like a player or team deserves it. If your player or team can’t handle it because they are too sensitive, then get the hell off the court or field you play on and go back home to mommy. Go call your mommy Lee Russakoff.”
“Rusakoff , you've got to be kidding. If Delgado cant take a curtain call after a home run he needs to be traded...maybe to Toronto (or Montreal) were nobody cares about Baseball ( yes I know the Expos are defunct) How much does this man get paid?? My brothers flying combat missions in Iraq, whats he getting paid? You need to think of something else to whine about, these over-paid, steriod stuffed, illiterate idiots need to suck it up ...booooooooo”
Russakoff’s response to these comments just reiterated his point, which these guys seemed to have missed:
“boys- the issue isn't whether they are overpaid. of course they are. but booing them isn't going to help them hit better...and more importantly...it's just going to create a divisive atmosphere between fans and players...and then nobody wins.”
It is true that an opinion inherently cannot be right or wrong, and that there are two sides to every argument. Still, while both Russakoff and the angry fans were right, Russakoff’s argument wasn’t refuted by a single comment out of the 51 comments he received. His plea is one of common sense, which any true sports fans must seriously consider. It’s time for all of us sports fans to ask ourselves a simple question.
Is it really worth it to boo your own team?
Now, most sports fans probably don’t think it’s constructive to boo their own team. After all, the whole concept of booing is a tool to intimidate the opposing team, and it makes no sense to use a poisonous or harmful tool against someone you support.
Booing is usually a matter of frustration and anger, a chance for a fan to show their contempt for a player or team’s failure. However, if you’re really a true fan, why the heck would you boo a guy who’s giving it his all, doing his best, but having struggles?
As Philadelphia fans, we need to start asking ourselves these sorts of questions. If we’re going to start actually helping our teams, a change in attitude is in order. Sometimes the things the fans in this city will do are just plain dumb. There was a Phillies fan that drove all the way to Florida for Spring Training and stood behind Adam Eaton chanting “B-U-M! B-U-M!”
Not all fans in Philadelphia are like this, but sometimes a good amount of them could be downright savage. In the first Phillies/Mets game at Citizen’s Bank Park this year, Jose Reyes made a hard, headfirst slide into second base during a steal attempt and laid on the ground, motionless after being called safe.
Some fans were actually cheering, and this upset quite a few people, including Mets’ closer Billy Wagner, who had the following to say:
"This is about the only place I've seen that. Shoot, they booed Santa Claus. They've taken this to a whole new level when you're cheering for somebody to get hurt."
Granted, Wagner’s relationship with Phillies fans is already strained, to say the least, but he’s right on the dot here. Fans often forget the fact that they’re not watching a video game or a movie. They’re watching real people, who have lives and imperfections just like the rest of us. Many argue that booing at athletes is fine because they’re professionals, but the fact is they’re human, not machine.
However, some would argue that booing can put pressure on an athlete to push themselves to improve. In some cases, this can be true. Booing a guy who doesn’t run hard to first base or shows disrespect to the game deserves to be booed. Sometimes players will benefit from added pressure, especially given the fact that most professional players aren’t quick to crack under pressure.
Usually, though, it’s not going to help. Players already have enough reason to give it their all. These guys are fighting for their jobs for their reputations; they’re already under plenty of pressure. Sure, you’ll get the occasional Manny-type who doesn’t have to worry about losing their job or their huge contracts, but for the most part, professional athletes aren’t going to benefit from the fans bad-mouthing them every time they make a mistake or start to slump.
If you buy a ticket, you’re free to do what you want. However, if you’re a real, mature fan who wants to help your team, booing them is rarely the way to do so. By definition, a fan supports their team and doesn’t heckle them.
It’s time for fans in Philadelphia and beyond to accept this fact and start concentrating your boos on the opposing team—not your own team.