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Life Lessons

Booing Isn’t Bad, But There’s A Better Way

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 31: Fans of the New York Mets cheer as Jacob deGrom #48 bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on May 31, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Joel Embiid says Philadelphia 76ers fans need to be better. Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, and Kevin Pillar decided to use a different method to chastise New York Mets fans. Bryson DeChambeau is just a wealthy misanthrope who believes golf should be played only before non-human mammals and itinerant birds.

In the meantime, marketing departments remain as desperate as ever for fans and their money, broadcasters are even more shameless in begging for fans and their noisemaking capabilities, and owners … well, you know what they’re all-in for, only their definition of fans includes elected officials.

In other words, the teams and athletes need you as much as they ever did and maybe even more given the financial constraints of Covid America, but some of them would like you to make more of an effort and less of an effort simultaneously, so what exactly is a sucker a hooligan a rude noisy bastard a faithful supporter to do?

This, you see, has pretty much been 18 months of fan reinvention, in which the filthy unbearable rabble (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) have been asked to fill, unfill, and refill buildings, often in contravention of health, logic, and sanity. They have been asked to spend their money in absentia, watch games they don’t care about, and now to shut up if they’re not having a good time. Frankly, there doesn’t seem to be whole lot in it for them, and they may finally be coming to the realization that their idols prefer them as larynxless wallets. Where’s the fun in that?

America’s addiction to sports has been sorely tested since the virus made its debut first in Santa Clara County where the San Jose Sharks were slapped into submission and then the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder forced the rest of sports to take a knee, and then a full chest and face. Ratings are lower, crowds are down, tempers are shorter, and athletes who have always felt that as performer/entertainers they should be critiqued in person as often as movie actors, which is never. 

And yet fans also led the insurrection against the abomination that was (and may still be) the Super League. Their righteousness led to superfueled indignation and ultimately to the streets, and everyone who cared to notice thanked them for saving sludge-souled billionaires from their natural instincts to eat their food and then everyone else’s … which if you think about it sounds a lot less pleasing than it actually was.

So what is a fan expected to do, exactly, when they are told they are needed more than ever but aren’t doing well enough by the athletes they are already enriching by funneling their money through an owner? Is there to be no response at all to the Mets being, well, the Mets? What is the correct procedure for responding viscerally to an entertainer who isn’t entertaining? How important are fans beyond the role of unlicensed patron anyway?

Well, the games went on for a year without any of them, and the Tampa Bay Rays have been one of baseball’s most successful franchises for the last decade while playing mostly before plastic upholstery and feral cats, so maybe the last answer is “not as important as they used to be.”

Moreover, the Super League revolt was achieved largely by fans who weren’t even in stadiums at all, but as an amorphous but purposeful force who weren’t booing the owners but actively demanding their ouster. Arsenal fans watching their team get off to their worst start since before World War I left at halftime of their last game and didn’t return, a statement of disdain that frankly is more visually and aurally effective than yelling “You suck!” from Section 3,809.

So maybe we have our answer to the entire issue that has been dogging the sensitive souls of Baez and Lindor and Embiid and DeChambeau, albeit an indirect one: Leave. Just get up and leave. Don’t look back, not even to ship off one last lonely middle finger. Show the offending miscreants the back of your front and beat the traffic home. People walk out of movies all the time, if you’re looking for the congruent entertainment parallel. Nothing says “you suck” better than adding a postscript from your feet that says “…so much that I refuse to let it offend my retinas any longer.” If enough people do it for a long enough period, players will eventually figure out that playing in empty buildings really does suck, and that booing is just the hot sauce that perks up an often bland meal.

In short, Embiid is right that fans need to be better, but not in the way he thinks. Fans can remember that they don’t work for the players, and do the thing that shows their displeasure more forcefully. If players don’t like your booing, go somewhere where they won’t hear it, and take your cash with you. Stop being fans and start being discerning customers. 

Oh, and one more thing: The players aren’t entirely wrong here. A lot of you actually do suck, and you all know at least one of your lot who does. Make them be better, or walk out on them. You’ve been without people since a year ago March, so it’s not like you need fans that badly either.