Booing, Booers and Boors of Home Teams — Gutless Cowards

— Richard E. Vatz

Years ago at an Orioles’ game I was sitting behind home plate, and several rows behind me a Baltimore sportscaster, there as a fan, was booing the Orioles.

Decades earlier, my favorite baseball player of all time, Pittsburgh Pirate star Roberto Clemente, in the midst of a rare mini-slump, was booed at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Clemente is the player after whom Major League Baseball’s coveted “Roberto Clemente Award” is named. This award is presented each year to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team.”

The latter event has had a life-long effect on me, because while I have contempt for fair-weather fans, I literally detest those who boo their home teams’ players, unless said players are simply not trying. Ever seen an outfielder lazily jog after a ball hit over his head or a tennis player who has given up? Go ahead: boo him or her. He/she is violating the implicit contract between athlete and fan.

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As I have heard booing resound throughout sports stadiums (and other, non-sports environments) over the years, I have noticed some critical explanatory facts (and written on this previously as well): first, the sound of booing makes it seem as if many more people are booing than actually are. I have been to many events — sports and otherwise — wherein I heard what seemed to be an entire audience booing, and yet I could not see any particular person doing so. Call it the Law of Disproportionate Booing Volume (LDBV) — 3-4% of people booing reverberates throughout a stadium, auditorium and most other environments, making it sound as if everyone is doing so, not just the boors. Journalists, never having had Booing 300 in college, report it as “the crowd booed,” not realizing that it was a tiny percentage of those in attendance who did so.

Second, when I have seen people I recognize booing their team, they have never been high quality people. O.K., I have on rare occasion booed a fatuous or offensive speaker, but it was always an opponent, never a friend, a teammate, or someone or the representative of something I supported.

I taught my children never to boo their home teams, and I think — think — I was successful.

Yesterday, the latest example manifested its ugly self: there was loud booing at the Baltimore Ravens game as the team made serial mistakes in the first half, but there was no lack of effort.

In a Baltimore Sun column by Jeff Zrebiec, Ray Lewis was quoted as saying that he had no problem with the booing because the fans would turn around and cheer when the Ravens “put some points on the board.”

Exactly — booers of home teams are gutless, fair-weather fans.

Let me put it clearly: booing your hometown players — singly or as a team — is the refuge of a coward. You usually won’t be noticed or called to task, but you are utterly beneath contempt.

And there is a special place in hell for those who boo minors — any minors.

Prof. Vatz teaches communication at Towson University

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