A shower of sports crowd hisses and jeers can sometimes be a good thing. Indeed, it is upon occasion absolutely required of the responsible fan. On an individual basis.
The genesis of these articles was the reception given to Laker Metta World Peace on his first Oklahoma City appearance after elbowing the Thunder's James Harden. Just like that, the former Artest again became a poster child for unsportsmanlike behavior, which tops the list of things it is acceptable to boo.
1) Booing poor conduct and cheap shots is more than accepted -- it is encouraged. Today's star athletes have generally been able to get away with anything from the first moment that they showed exceptional talent as children. Too many coaches at all levels look the other way in pursuit of victories. And then we're surprised when millionaire professional athletes turn into maladjusted narcissists.
If people would boo the spoiled-rotten star running back in 7th grade, he might not end up in jail at 25. Most sports fans are happy to boo the bad hit -- when the other guy makes it. How about booing the local hero when he/she deserves it?
2) Cheating. Surely there is nothing worse in sports. (Short of a Bounty Gate that is so despicable as to be criminal -- and will undoubtedly in fact be officially criminal before all is done.)
Shame on Major League Baseball for banning the asterisks campaigns against Barry Bonds. That was an honest expression of fan disgust over what many believe to be one of the most egregiously unethical periods in the history of modern athletics. Cheering cheaters is anathema to sports. "Calling them on it" with crowd noise is a watchdog responsibility. Plus, it allows us to scratch that booing itch without being unsportsmanlike ourselves. It's a double win!
3) Off-the-field anti-social behavior. Sometimes schools and leagues discipline their own; sometimes they don't. If we don't want perpetrators of domestic violence, assault and public endangerment to be paid huge salaries while entertaining our families, then we have to embarrass them on the field of play. Home and visiting players alike bring this upon themselves.
Again, it's a chance to indulge in catharsis with a social conscience. When university or team economics turn a blind eye, we don't have to. This principle extends to any infractions for which normal people would lose their jobs. Or for being just plain tacky or even lacking any sense of fan appreciation. Let 'em have it.
4) Sitting politicians. They are even worse than professional athletes when it comes to being insulated from the consequences of their actions. So, boo away. Their position in public life is voluntary. Besides, if others in the stands wish to cheer them, they can make it their job to drown you out as everyone exercises the right to free speech -- or hiss as the case may be.
Note: The same does not apply to political spouses, family members or retired politicians appearing on behalf of any charitable or social cause. If they throw out the first pitch because they are promoting their new book, go for it. If they are there to support the veterans, zip it.
5) Owners. Probably not really fair on a human decency basis, but if you have the ego to put your face on a franchise you should probably be able to take what comes with it. (Virginia McCaskey is, of course, an exception unless you like screaming at little old ladies.)
6) Coaches. This is, ultimately, a matter of individual conscience. One hates to envision their kids getting teased in school. But since I have had my share of "My Fair Lady at the races" moments yelling at coaches I should probably take the fifth.
7) Current broadcaster who is a member of a former hated rival. Fair game -- they expect it.
8) Officials. Surely they consider this part of their job, right? Further, home crowds have the psychological advantage over the officials because it's been scientifically determined that they do tend a bit towards wanting to please the folks in the stands. So, heck yeah.
9) Cheerleaders. Amateur cheering can be a true athletic show in its own right. But there is something a little too "Mad Men" about a grown woman who takes money to dress like a stripper and behave as if her function in life is to jump around like an idiot celebrating the achievements of men she doesn't know. (In the interests of full disclosure I must confess that I do this -- but I am fully clothed and unpaid. And in my living room.)
10) Is it acceptable to boo if the protest is creative? A true dilemma. One has to admire the ingenuity of the fans who threw frozen waffles onto the ice to express displeasure with their Toronto Maple Leafs. Now that was funny. Once. Repeated performances started to mess with the players' heads.
11) Taking liberties with the National Anthem. Please, please boo people who insist on inserting extra notes, glissades, vibratos and general nonsense into this song. It's hard enough to sing and few enough people sing it well. Don't make it worse. And, just in case any of his representatives are considering this, if Ozzy Osbourne is booked to open any sporting even in this country I will personally fly in and lead the chorus of boos.
Bottom line, if you can easily explain to a six year old why you booed someone and the reason isn't, "Cause we hate the Giants' freaking guts," you are probably on safe ethical ground.
As for Mr. World Peace, he is apparently taking his medicine in stride:
"There's a lot of great-looking women in the stands booing," World Peace said, prompting a female Thunder employee recording the interview to roll her eyes. "I'm like 'Wow, you are beautiful.'"
Whatever gets you through the night, dude.
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