Wednesday Lunch: The SACK Lunch’s Guide to Booing Etiquette

Posted: April 6, 2011 in mlb
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

By Nick Gallaudet

MLB’s 2011 Opening Weekend is in the books, and as usual with sports, it was accompanied by a flurry of mixed emotions ranging from euphoria to frustration to disappointment. As an A’s fan, I experienced all these emotions on Opening Day: euphoria with Josh Willingham’s 1st inning homerun, frustration with the A’s defense as a whole (five errors in the season opener!?!?!), and disappointment as I watched Felix Hernandez become the A’s daddy. One thing I noticed watching that game, however, was that the A’s fans at the game had no problem expressing their emotions. I heard more boos at that game than I have ever heard at an A’s game, and this is coming from a guy who watches over 100 A’s games a year. The two instances in which I was embarrassed as a baseball fan to hear boos were when former Athletic Jack Cust stepped in the batter’s box for the Mariners and when A’s 3rd baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff made back-to-back errors in the top of the 4th. I didn’t think either of those instances called for boos, so I am going to take it upon myself, here and now, to give you the SACK Lunch Guide to Booing Etiquette.

The SLGBE is going to focus on baseball, but these rules can be used for any sport.

Types of Boos

First, for us to really understand when it’s okay to boo, we need to identify what is fueling them. I personally believe there are three motivating factors behind boos: jealousy, frustration, and legitimate hatred. Jealousy and legitimate hatred tend to go hand-in-hand, for example, Derek Jeter has heard his fair share of boos during road games, and I would say 85% of those boos are based solely in jealousy. The other 15%, I would contend, are a mixture of jealousy and hatred. There is no doubt that when Jeter is booed at Fenway Park; it is because Red Sox fans cannot stand even the sight of the man, but at the same time, there is not a Red Sox fan out there who would not have loved to have Jeter in Boston for his entire career. Most of the booing heard in MLB games is from home team fans directed at the away team, but that is not the only time fans boo. The third form of booing is unique and usually saved for home fans directed at home players. These are the boos motivated by frustration, and usually reserved for poor performance or attitude by home players (like Kouzmanoff in the A’s opener).

Booing the Visiting Team

Now that we have a solid understanding booing and its motivating forces, we can get down to when it is appropriate and inappropriate to boo.

Booing the opposing team is almost always okay, and should be expected by the away players. Most of the time, the booing directed at the road teams is a sign of respect and tends to be directed at the best players on the other team. Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are two of the classiest players in the league, but they are still booed at away games. It’s just part of being a superstar, and those are the jealous boos and as far as I’m concerned are perfectly fine. The only time I take issue with home fans booing an away player is if that is the first game back for a recently departed player that made major contributions to the team, and that can be a sticky situation. I felt like Jack Cust did not deserve to be booed during the season opener, and that’s saying a lot given the fact that I openly celebrated the day he signed with the Mariners because now he officially would not be clogging up the middle of the A’s lineup any more. Despite my feeling about Mr. Cust, I recognize the fact that for three years, he was pretty much the A’s only power threat and he brought a much-needed presence in our lineup. When he signed with the Mariners, he didn’t spurn the A’s for the highest bidder as the A’s chose not to re-sign him. He did nothing to disrespect the A’s organization and was (mostly) a decent guy when he played in the Bay, and he did not deserve to be booed in his return to Oakland. That same reasoning also applies to traded players. It is also poor form to boo a returning player who was traded, because that was management’s decision, not his, but if that player asked to be traded, that’s another story, and as far as I’m concerned it’s open season.

It also is important to mention that sometimes, the only option a player leaves the fans with is to boo. jason-giambiJason Giambi, for example, was a major piece of the Oakland lineup in the early 2000’s earning AL MVP honors in 2001 before ditching the A’s for the Yankee pinstripes. Giambi made a much larger and longer contribution to the A’s than Cust could ever hope to, but the way he bolted left some fans understandably bitter. I recognize that you can’t blame the man for chasing the money, but at the same time, the fans have the right to let him know how they feel about his greed. Sometimes this one can be hard to come to grips with, because I was personally a big Giambi fan, and couldn’t bring myself to boo, despite the betrayal I felt, but I had no problem with other fans letting him have it.

So here is the recap of when it is okay to boo visiting players:

BOO: Opposing superstars, former players that spurned fans for the big pay day, and former players that asked to be traded.

DON’T BOO: Former players that were traded or former players that were not re-signed by your team.

Booing the Home Team

This one is simple. There is only one time you are ever allowed to boo a player at home and that is when they clearly are not doing whatever it takes to better the team. That means if they are clearly mailing it in, not hustling, or are starting fights with teammates (basically anything Milton Bradley does when he gets bored) it is okay to release the boo birds. Last year, Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez jogged after a misplayed popup, allowing two runs to score in the process, and was rightfully booed, and subsequently benched by his manager. That blatant lack of hustle was more than enough to warrant booing, but this is where responsibility falls on the fans. It is up to the people in attendance to judge whether or not an error was caused by lack of effort or simply a poor play. In last year’s ALDS, Atlanta Braves 2nd baseman, Brooks Conrad made three errorsin Game 3 against the Giants and was greeted with boos by the Atlanta crowd. Like Kouzmanoff’s Opening Day errors, these were simply misplayed balls, not a result of lack of effort, and while it may be hard to contain your boos, it is vital to do so, because these players are busting their tails everyday to try to win. Kouzmanoff has never done anything to give A’s fans reason to question his play and Friday was no different. I always get upset when I hear home fans boo their players for making a physical mistake because I can guarantee that they did not commit the error on purpose and booing does nothing to help their confidence, which is such a major part of baseball. Players need to know they have the support of their fans, because baseball is such a mental game that if they play in fear of being booed, they’re going to make mistakes.

In 2006, his last year in Oakland, Jay Payton was a key part of a very good A’s lineup and played his heart out every game. On the A’s Labor Day game against the Texas Rangers, Payton misplayed what should have been a line drive single into an inside-the-park-homerun and was booed by the Oakland crowd. Payton famously called the booing A’s fans, “a bunch of dumb-ass people,” after what he felt was unjustified booing, and I agreed. Baseball is a tough game to play; it is a daily grind and with 162 games, players are going to make mistakes and I think it falls on the fans to show those players support and let them know they have their back even if they do make a mistake. Payton’s reaction to the boos demonstrated how personally players can take the criticism. Boos can’t be un-heard, and players take it to heart, so it really is a fan’s responsibility to show support for their team if they want the best play out of them. I almost feel silly begging fans not to boo their players at home, but since I started paying attention to it this week, it happens more than you’d think.

Recap of when to boo home players:

BOO: When, and only when, they show a blatant lack of effort.

DON’T BOO: Any other time.

I hope this guide will prove to be helpful next time you go to a professional sporting event, and remember this: it is always okay to boo Barry Bonds. Barry_Bonds_234178c

  1. […] Nick: You’re a good guy and one of the classiest sports fans I know who shares a mutual love of a man named Peyton. We should hang out more. […]

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