Boo Birds Singing Loudly
April 26, 2006
Fans who enjoy booing their OWN players at games seem to be growing in numbers. Maybe it's the increased media attention everywhere, maybe it's the extra demands fans put on players, maybe it's the animosity toward the multi-million dollar athlete in general, or maybe it's just the extra beer consumed by the patrons.
One case in point is the recent booing received by Jacque Jones from the Wrigley Field faithful. Jones is just starting his tour of duty in Chicago, and it hasn't been an easy go of it so far. Despite three April home runs, Jones' average has RISEN to the Mendoza Line (.200) recently, prompting plenty of boos from right field and beyond. Jones has been quoted a couple times in recent days about the boos, and I thought he spoke his mind quite well regarding his status among Cubs fans in this article by Dave van Dyck.
Jones, as the article states, said "I don't have to like it. They have a right to do whatever they want to do. They have a choice of whether or not to like me as a player and like what I'm doing. They have a right to voice their opinion." He then went on to say that he understood the booing but didn't have to like it.
It's not easy for an athlete nowadays to express displeasure about a situation without coming off as a crybaby (especially when the athlete is struggling), but I thought Jones did a great job of keeping his remarks honest, yet professional. I agree with his stance and would take it a step further: you bought a ticket, so you have the right to boo and do anything within reason at your seat. My question is why? Do you think booing a hometown player will suddenly make him feel more comfortable at the plate and hit better? Not a chance. Booing makes the player defensive, causes him to press, and ultimately play worse. That's why we boo the OPPOSITION.
So would I never boo? Not exactly. I would encouraging booing at a lack of effort, not a lack of performance. If my star outfielder is jogging nonchalantly around first because he lazily assumes his drive will clear the fence only to see it carom off the wall, holding him to a single, by all means would I encourage the whole place to boo him mercilessly. For the money we pay as fans and the money athletes make, we deserve EFFORT on their part.
Demanding performance is a little trickier. Naturally, we want our teams and players to perform to their abilities (and beyond), but when that's not happening despite obvious effort, will booing help the performance? Not a chance. If I rooted for the Devil Rays and they lost 2 out of 3 from the Yankees, how could I berate my team? Realistically, they were likely outmatched in all 3 games but managed to win 1 of them, technically exceeding expectations. Naturally, I want to see MY team win 2 of 3, so what can I do about it when the other team is better? I could wish for another win, I could cheer for a win, hoping to inspire confidence, but I couldn't imagine booing for another win. It just doesn't make sense.
In the real world, I think our cheering or booing has a minimal effect on performance, at best. Professional athletes got to that level through natural talent and hard work. It's safe to assume that they are doing their best. As a whole, they are a competitive group and are not as likely to "coast" as we think. Still, athletes are people and when they get lazy, we should let them know. The problem is knowing the difference between lazy and slumping. Lazy is not running to first. Slumping is hitting .200 on April 26th. If you are going to boo Jacque Jones for a couple weeks of poor hitting, I hope you will also find the 2-week period when Aramis Ramirez hits .200 in the middle of summer and boo him too. Yes, all hitters are capable of stringing together 10-20 games of subpar performance and still finish with his expected stats. That's why the season is 162 games - the highs and lows average out by the end to truly reveal who performed and who didn't. Ramirez's struggles won't be as noticeable because his yearly average will hide it, but the effect on the team is the same, to boo 'til you're hoarse. Or, you can just cheer your team on and enjoy the game.