The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 23, 2013

Much ado about booing

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Perhaps you’ve done it, or at least you’ve been seriously tempted.

It happens when your favorite player makes a boneheaded play that costs your favorite team the big game, and perhaps costs you a little cash.

It happens when you pay good money for a movie ticket and find yourselves confronted by a real stinker, plus overpriced popcorn and soda.

It happens when you hear news of Congress’ inaction resulting in furloughs for everyone except themselves. When the price of a barrel of oil goes down but a gallon of gas goes up. When  your daughter brings home a new boyfriend who looks like he’s been held hostage in a piercing/tattoo parlor.

In those moments you just want to throw your head back, open your mouth wide, and let your emotions fly through one simple utterance:

Booooo!

Booing is one of life’s simple pleasures. It is our right as Americans, though it isn’t strictly an American phenomenon Europeans don’t boo, they express their displeasure through shrill whistling. I guess if you live in Europe and can’t whistle, you’re just out of luck.

Granted, booing isn’t appropriate in every setting. Like at T-ball games, for instance, when the 5-year-old star of the team strikes out. Or in church, if the pastor’s sermon puts you to sleep (or fails to, depending on your expectations).

Likewise, if you’re at a wedding and the preacher says, “Speak now or forever hold your piece,” don’t boo.

If you are attending your child’s school play, and the leading man forgets his lines, don’t boo. And if your wife burns dinner, booing is a very bad idea.

When it comes to booing, Philadelphia sports fans stand alone. On Dec. 15, 1968, at an Eagles game at old Franklin Field, Philly fans even sank to booing Santa Claus, and pelting him with snowballs, to boot. The Eagles were in the throes of a season in which they would finish at 2-12.

They were playing the Minnesota Vikings, when a young man dressed as Santa Claus came onto the field for the halftime show.  As soon as he did, the 54,535 people in the stands let him have it.

In sports, it is inappropriate to boo anyone at any level below the pros. If someone is making millions of dollars to hit a ball with a stick and they miss at a critical time, go ahead and boo. Pros can take it, though they don’t have to like it.

A member of the New York Yankees, who didn’t want to be identified, told the New York Daily News he blamed booing by New York fans, in part, for the team’s futility in last year’s American League Championship Series, in which they were swept by the Detroit Tigers.

“I really think the booing spooked a lot of the guys,” the player said. “A lot of guys hadn’t been booed before, and they couldn’t believe how nasty it got in the stands.” Perhaps they should have their hearing checked.

Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers turned the tables on fans in Orlando recently when he made his first trip back to face the Magic since the team traded him to LA last summer.

While Magic fans loudly booed him, Howard returned the favor.

If you are paid to do something, and you fail, you should expect to be booed. Feel free to come down and boo me, for instance, next time I split an infinitive or dangle a participle. Heck, on occasion I’ve been known to boo myself.

Booing referees or umpires is almost de rigueur in sports. But give these people a break. They are just trying to do the best they can.

They aren’t out to get your favorite team, they aren’t blind and neither are they perfect. At any level below the pros, these people are just trying to supplement their incomes.

Heck, even politicians are being booed these days. In fact, in Riverhead, N.Y., members of the town board have decided it is OK if it is done politely.

Earlier this month, the board voted to ban booing. But earlier this week, they struck the anti-booing rule from their books by a 4-1 vote.

Feel free to boo in the Riverhead town board meetings, just don’t be disruptive while you’re doing it. Now all you have to do is figure out how to boo with decorum.

The preponderance of booing seems to be symptomatic of the general decline in decorum in today’s society.

The Oklahoma legislature has recently addressed the problem of flaring tempers, profanity on the chamber floor and snide remarks during debates. And that was when they were deciding to have lunch.

Even small furry animals are not exempt, it seems. Punxsutawney Phil, the famed groundhog who annually predicts the pending end of winter, didn’t see his shadow this past Groundhog Day.

Legend has it this means an early spring. The persistent cold weather that has pervaded of late has prompted officials in one Ohio county to issue an “indictment” of Phil.

The rodent was charged with misrepresentation of spring. The penalty? Death. That seems somewhat extreme. I should think a good booing would suffice.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.