Opinion: Booing Players-A Jerk Thing To Do


I tried to write this with a soft open after Dan Haren got booed by the Nats Park home crowd just two Saturdays ago.  I hemmed and hawed about how to be polite about it and still get my point across.  Turns out that I’m not that good of a writer. So, with Drew Storen getting booed at home after two bad outings in front of the home crowd, I figured it was just time to just say it:

It is my opinion that you don’t boo your own team or players for a poor performance.  And if you do boo a player for giving a bad performance, I think it makes you a complete tool bag (and a lot of other people agree).

Now before you get huffy and puffy about the last part (the judgement part), I want to remind all the “booers” that booing is, in and of itself, judging.  So I’m not exactly worried about any stones that are about to be cast from glass houses.

Still-given that I’m riled up, and that booing at Nats Park has become a “thing” as of late, I suppose I ought to offer some of my insight as to why I pass such harsh judgment.

First there is exactly one (1) time it is (kind of) okay to boo a player:

  • When he clearly quits on a player/the team

The other caveat might be a player who does something so ridiculously morally reprehensible that, independent of their play on the field, you find them to be a loathsome human being.  I don’t want to tell anyone that, if they get the chance, that they shouldn’t boo Aaron Hernandez (Allegedly).

But as to why booing, on the whole, is crap thing to do:

It’s Self-Entitled:  The whole point of booing is because YOUR player is not doing what he is SUPPOSED to do…for YOU (a lot of people don’t know that this is how thought ends, but it does). See, that “for you” thing is not what it’s about even if this exactly what the boo-er thinks. I imagine that the booer feels let down after having put in all this energy rooting for the team, and spent all this money buying tickets and what not…and this jerk-face out on the field throws a fat pitch down the middle and “What the hell am I doing up here if you’re going to do that? Who the hell are YOU not to PERFORM for ME?”

Who is he?  He’s the guy who’s been doing this since he was 12.  He was the guy who went out day after day after day to lift weights, swing the bat, learn how to throw a curve, etc.  He’s the guy who skipped parties and a normal dating life and a million other things that you got to so he could be as good as he can be at his profession.  He’s in the top .0001% of all human beings at what he does, and he still lives with the reality that your hobby is his livelihood.  Even the worst MLB player is a zillion times better than any fan at baseball, Mr. Boo face, and he’s put in a truckload more than the most ardent fan has done for his team, let alone a boo-er.  Trust us, as much as you care-he cares a ton more about how he performs.

This is why the “actual” most passionate fans in baseball (that we’ve encountered anyway) rarely boo – They have a very clear understanding of how difficult the game is.  It takes a real understanding of the fact that in a 162 game season bad days happen and the other guys on the team get paid, too.  Passion for a sport, or a team, is really more about understanding than zeal it.  Any idiot can get up there and scream his head off for a night or two.  It takes passion to sit back actually endeavor to understand the wholeness of baseball.  Booing a guy for two bad outings doesn’t demonstrate any type of understanding at all.

It Ignores the Player As A Person:   It’s a lot easier to boo a guy when there are 10k other people that will do it with you from about 400 yards away.  Go look him in the eye and boo him.  Come on, tough guy with a lot of things to say and your right to express yourself: Go right down there and wait for Drew Storen and tell him, to his face, how awful he is.  I’ll be waiting to see if you can muster up the courage to “tell it like it is” with him right there, but I won’t be holding my breath.

It Focuses on Result, Not Process:  In a game of failure like baseball, it’s the process that needs to stay pure – not the result.  In fact, the result is never going to stay constant-that’s part of a game with a 70% failure rate.  Sure, this is a professional sport and people are accountable, etc. but when you boo it is ONLY because you’re not getting the instant result YOU wanted.  Remember, however, that neither is the player! (Or his teammates or his manager or the front office…all of whom refrain from booing him, btw). Sometimes folks get hit, sometimes bad pitches happen.  The true testament of a good player is the ability to reflect and change (heal if necessary) and to simply endure a bad outing.

The Emotional Bias is Overwhelming:  Anyone booing Bryce Harper’s 1 for his last 15 out there? Anyone want to stop “chomping” long enough to let Roger Bernadina know that he’s absolutely bombed from the bench this year?  No? These are likable guys and so everyone focuses on all the good stuff they do (or in the Shark’s case, the fact that he has a great nick name and we all get to make a fun hand gesture when he comes out).

Storen, on the other hand, missed some pitches in a big game last year, maybe you heard (it was probably two weeks after some of you started watching baseball).  So everyone wants to keep attaching the emotion of that performances to his performances this year.  Same with Dan Haren, who came over and struggled.  There is no emotional attachment to him, so his poor performance (while, no two ways about it is poor) is blown out of proportion.

If the Nats scored an NL average 4 runs a game, he’d still have pitched poorly-but the team would have won about 4 or 5 more games when he pitched.   Out the window is the fact that the offense hasn’t scored all year, and that he’s the fourth starter…it’s all his fault.

Similarly, It’s easy to forget Storen’s 16 scoreless appearances, including 10 holds, this year, or that a bunch of people screwed up in Game 5.  People who want to beat a dead horse will do just that.

If only Storen (or Haren) had a fun last name or a cute hand gesture we could all do for him…”fan” reaction would be a lot different.

It’s Antithetical to Supporting the Team: It really is. These are the guys on the team. If you want the team to win, they’re the guys that are gonna make it happen or not. As stated before, the players, managers, and front office all know who is doing well and who is struggling.  If they can make a trade, or think a younger guy has a better shot than the current one, they’ll make the change.  Assuming they don’t though, this is the guy who is pitching for you.

Now I don’t know about you but I think it’d be a lot harder to do my job if everyone hated me. Or if the people who were supposed to have my back were there just waiting for me to fail, not believing in me at all.

If you believe that fans have any sort of impact on the game at all or that your voices are heard on the field at all, you’re making a choice as to whether to help create a positive environment or a negative one.  I don’t see much reason for making a negative one when those who fail will, eventually, be replaced. And I trust those people in the Nats office, who are paid to make those decisions, to make those decisions.

WTF Is Booing Supposed To Mean Anyway?:  What precisely do you think your boo’s express?  “YOU STINK AND YOU ARE PLAYING POORLY?!?”  Well thanks, Sherlock, for shedding light on the worst kept secret in the park.  You think he doesn’t know he sucks today?  You think the manager or the players he plays with don’t know? Do you think that this has some how eluded everyone else?

No one needs to hear from a bunch of people he doesn’t know (and don’t know him) that they are disappointing in his performance.  He wouldn’t be in the MLB if he wasn’t already disappointed with how he just pitched-he would have never got that far if he was ever satisfied anyway.

Sorry, my instinct is that if you boo a player for poor performance you probably just showed up because it isn’t football season yet and they were hoping to glom onto something good and now the Cowboys fan at work will make fun of you for a baseball team you actually both don’t care much about.

Much the way the caveman didn’t understand he couldn’t climb a tree to catch the moon, so too the booing baseball fan doesn’t really understand what he sees.
But maybe I’m being unfair!  Let me go through a few of the common refrains of boo defenders to see if I have judged too harshly.

I HAVE A RIGHT TO BOO!:  This usually falls into the “THIS IS AMERICA so I have a right to boo” and “I bought a TICKET and I have a right to do whatever I want, including boo.”  And you absolutely do, sir.  Well, you don’t have a right to do whatever you want-I mean they’ll kick you out for some stuff, but on the booing you’re right.

So long as you don’t use foul language you should be okay to boo.  As to the Constitutional right to boo, let me just remind you that the Freedom of Speech guaranteed in this country extends only as far as infringement by the State (be that Federal or a Local Government).  That means you won’t be put in jail or fined for booing.  No one here is advocating you should be.

Of course, that’s neither here nor there since we are not talking about whether you can boo, but whether you should boo.  Simply put, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. (See: Jumping off bridges, cheating on your wife, hurling obscenities at old ladies).  So I agree you can do it, just so long as you understand that doesn’t mean anything in the context of this conversation.

(So the guy who called me a Communist for not liking booing has it backwards: A member of a party that represses speech would be advocating those who boo Most Glorious National Sports Organization be put in jail, not simply advocating they refrain from booing).

THEY ARE PROFESSIONALS:  Yes they are.  So am I.  I went to a ton of schooling to learn my day-job craft and I’m pretty good at it.  Maybe you did something similar, too.  Now go ahead and imagine doing your job in front of 40,000 people. Have you ever had a bad day at the office? Maybe two or three? Right. Now what if everyone in your building booed you as you came to and left the office. Case in point. We all have bad days. these guys just, unfortunately, have them in front of 40k people. The players on your team are professionals as are the guys on the other teams. Sometimes they beat the professionals on the team you root for and sometime your team wins – No one goes 162-0 and not everyone finished 81-81.

BUT NO, THEY ARE PROFESSIONALS SO THEY CAN TAKE IT:  Oh I see, so since they are grown men they should be able to handle a little booing. I get it.  And sure, that’s really nice when a guy like Dan Haren says “I probably would have booed myself,” but again you’re mixing up a reason why you should do it with a reason why you can.

Your booing doesn’t put it right or make a real difference or anything like that. Would you boo a little league team – let alone a little league player – who was losing? Would you like it if your boss booed you in front of your co-workers (let alone in private)?  I mean, come on-you’re a professional. You can probably take it, right?  These MLB players are indeed professionals, and adults.  Of course they can take it, but they are certainly not okay with it.  (Way to kick a dude while he’s down by the way).
HE GETS PAID MILLIONS OF DOLLARS:…by someone other than you, so it’s none of your business. It is what the market would bear for his services, and if the Nats hadn’t paid him someone else would have (paid nearly as much anyway-certainly still in the millions of dollars). When people complain about Jayson Werth’s contract and then boo him, I wonder if they think he was supposed to turn down the money.  You want to complain to management, that’s fine.  But don’t blame the guy who took the money. And again, you are not paying his/their salaries.
Your ticket prices are not a reflection of a bigger payroll.  No really.  They don’t. Tickets and concession sales barely scratch the surface of anything (most likely being recycled into costs for the park).  The TV contracts and profit sharing in baseball (not to mention tax breaks for building stadiums) go towards the cost of the team-particularly payroll.  Your 100 beers and 10 tickets all year probably amount to less than 1/1000000 of one percent of any player’s salary.  So get off your “he works for me” high horse.  He doesn’t, and even if you did pay his salary some how, you’re a terrible boss if you boo your employees.

HE SUCKS AND I WANT THE TEAM TO KNOW HE SUCKS: A. If he sucks, they know he sucks. Don’t worry.  B. ) Okay, you really are that offended by his performance? Turn the TV Off. Turn the Radio Off. Stop going to games.  You want the front office to do something, stop going to games.  Write a letter explaining as such. Frankly, the team as a whole is going to prefer if you pay to watch the game and then boo, or tune in.  They are interested in butts in the seat, and don’t much care what happens after that (with in reason). If enough of you hate a player or how the team is handling it, and boycott as such, the team will get the picture.

And don’t worry: We won’t think you’re less of a fan for not going to games.  With all the boo-ing and BS, it was hard to reconcile you as a fan anyway.

BUT IT IS HIS FAULT WE LOST THE GAME:  It never comes down to one guy, ever (or very rarely, anyway).  First, you’re not on the team so stop saying “we.” Seriously.  Secondly – no really, it almost never comes down to one guy. Not Bill Buckner or Scott Norwood or Drew Storen or anyone. Sure, all those guys could have won games for their teams in critical situations, but to focus on their miscue as the end all/be all of any loss by a team is to ignore the million other things the TEAM could have done to win.  The Red Sox had another whole game to play before the World Series was decided. The Bills should have friggin’ tackled somebody on any number of third downs in Super Bowl XXV.  The Nats shouldn’t have taken their foot off the pedal in Game 5. Just for fun, look up the definition of “team” and tell me where the operative word is one or individual.

Boiling it down to one moment is to scapegoat a player and doing that is a purposeful distortion of the truth.  I can not get behind that.

Ultimately, I have no real belief that writing such a statement as this makes anything better, or convinces folks of anything, really. As my friends from Boo-beckitsan are quick to demonstrate, however, sometimes it just feels good to get some stuff off your chest regardless of how well it is received, how it makes you look, or whether it causes any kind of change. (So if you boo, do it on a blog or something, ok?).

Folks will keep boo-ing. People will think I’m wearing rose-colored glasses, am a jerk, or (my favorite) “just need to calm down and not make such a big deal about it.”  But who knows – if people can somehow hold out hope that something good will happen by being cruel to a player from the stands via booing, I can hold out hope that maybe I’ve made sense to someone, somewhere, who didn’t see it that way before.

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Frank and Susan bring you an introductory level podcast to baseball and the Washington Nationals. DC is new to baseball, and baseball is new to DC. Whether you're a life long resident who just never got into it, or a transplant that came from a football and hockey town, we want to answer the questions baseball novices were a little too afraid to ask, and help everyone appreciate the National Passtime just a little bit more.

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