Fan post from Trip Cook (@tripcook), a 3 Shades of Blue reader:
I should start my full-throated defense of booing with the following caveat: the actual act of booing is dumb. It’s a big, dumb, guttural sound best heard through cupped hands and in modern times, an angry southern accent. It’s a cry typically reserved for officials entrusted to uphold the rules of a game, opposing teams who have the misfortune of wearing the wrong jersey, or in very special instances, the poor decisions of a beloved team. Its greatest asset is the ability for its unintelligible, dumb groan to be heard and understood by people who are too far away to hear specific criticism.
Now that I’ve undercut my point, I’d like to defend booing in all of its forms. More specifically, I’d like to fight for the right to boo a favorite team, their players, coach, and front office. The booing of the Grizzlies’ backup point guard (or more accurately, the coach’s decision to play the backup) by a home crowd Wednesday drew the predictably sanctimonious criticism from media and fans who see sports fandom as only being acceptable within a sort of expert-prescribed list of emotions. Those emotions include:
“Hooray, home team!”
“Boo, away team!”
Basketball is an exercise in emotion. Sporting events are public exhibitions that allow anyone to pay money to watch a game they love played at the highest level. Most of those people in attendance support one of the two teams they’re watching and feel emotionally invested in the result of the event. The reason many of us pay extra money for a worse view than one we get on television is the heightened emotion that comes from being in the same building as the event. Now, I’m not an expert on the deeply-ingrained form of primitive sectarianism that encourages individuals to identify with one team and hate another, but that lizard-brain passion inherent in sports fandom is big business around the world in 2014. While it’s natural for a certain class of people to try to develop rules of behavior for that particular sect, there’s nothing saying that the rest of us are compelled to let the most self-righteous in our midst rule the day.
Of course, it’s particularly galling for media members who attend games for free and get paid to criticize teams in public forums to use the same platform to condemn fans who are expressing their own displeasure with a team they love and financially support. These are the same gasbags who have appointed themselves arbiters of the acceptability of storming the court or any other fan-led outpouring of emotion. Naturally, many of them are fine with fan anger and celebration as long as its properly directed to their radio show, blog, or newspaper’s comment section. Once it steps into the realm of the live event, fans can expect a lecture about being “classy” or how they’re theoretically being perceived by those outside of the arena. It’s nonsense.
There seems to be a particularly restrictive definition of fandom in America. In other parts of the world (and Green Bay), fans own the team. In America, the public gives millions in public tax dollars to billionaires who control a corporation in the entertainment business. The public often has little say in the behind-closed-doors negotiations that bring sports teams to their city and giveaways that provide these corporations with free or deeply discounted headquarters for their operations. Presumably, the public benefit is that the residents of the area can play some role and share in the successes and failures of this corporation.
As part of this bargain, the public is given an opportunity to pay to cheer, cry, scream and jeer along with a team whose wins and losses become a part of regional identity. Memphis, a hard-working city that often feels unfairly maligned by others, feels an affinity with its professional basketball team, much like Detroit with the Pistons of years past. I believe that affinity says much more about a city than it does a team. A sports team gives us a chance to talk about how we feel about our surroundings without feeling too self-conscious or confrontational. While our voices seem to carry little in the way of public policy, I’m convinced that we should be able to express our (perhaps displaced) displeasure at a sporting event without condemnation from the self-appointed fan police.
Being a sports fan is often compared with being a part of a religion. Maybe it is similar in its extreme dedication, but I think it should be more fun than church. I prefer the European fan model where supporters loudly express themselves in delightfully profane ways. I appreciate seeing obscene gestures directed at the other team and when it’s necessary, the supporters’ home team, manager and ownership. It’s a big, silly display where fans play a larger role than politely applauding when the home team succeeds. It’s the passion of old professional wrestling combined with the excitement of sports’ undetermined outcomes.
My argument, at its most basic level, is simple. If I’m required to not express myself as part of some imaginary agreement as a “fan,” then I’m not a fan. If I’m relegated to a handful of acceptable responses to an emotional game with a financial stake in my passion, then I want no part of whatever these gatekeepers of games see as fandom. First and foremost, I’m a human being with eyes, brain and a mouth. I don’t need a lecture for using those things in a public setting. Since there’s been an influx of cultish “don’t question dear leader” behaviors associated with being a “classy” fan, I’d like to suggest that we scrap those sanctimonious parameters and start fresh.
First and foremost, I’d like to propose that we ignore those windbags and boo our team when they’re doing something we disagree with, run on the court when they win, heckle and act like classless idiots who don’t get paid to prognosticate on the acceptable behavior of fans. We already do this, of course. But when we do those things, there’s no reason we should be burdened with guilt over the sight of classier-than-thou fingers waving at us. Sports should be fun. Storming the court is fun. Heckling is fun. Booing is fun. Well, it’s at least cathartic and in the case of the decision to play the Grizzlies’ backup point guard, smart.
According to a poorly-written Wikipedia entry, booing can be traced back to ancient Greece. The same culture that helped develop the first successful version of direct democracy also gave us the audience jeer, a really dumb sound to express disapproval. According to the article, the practice is sometimes criticized as unsophisticated, while others argue that it keeps performance levels high by rewarding success and punishing failure. I can’t say which is true, but booing at sporting events is one of the few exercises in direct democracy we have left in America outside of the People’s Choice Awards. If you choose to forgo that fun form of expression in hopes of eventually receiving your Classy Fan Merit Badge, more power to you.
For the rest of us, let’s be heard. Let’s ignore the gasbags. Let’s have fun. Let’s be unsophisticated. Let’s be dumb. Let’s show no class. Let’s BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!