New Year’s resolutions are tough. They require introspection, honest self-assessment and a strong sense of discipline. On the night of Dec. 31, 2005, I was – well – not cogent enough to engage in any of the previously mentioned activities.

Sarah Royce

So for 2006, I decided to defer my resolution to a more qualified source – famed moralist, philosopher and world-renowned “SportsCenter” anchor Stuart Scott.

“When you go to the sporting events and you’re watching the athletes compete as hard as they can, stop booing, OK?” Scott said during ESPN2’s New Year’s Eve special. “There’s no point in booing these athletes. They’ve all worked hard. They’ve all trained hard, and let’s see you get out there and do it, all right?

“If you want to go and have fun and cheer your team, do that, but if your team, if your guy, if your girl doesn’t do anything, c’mon, man, don’t boo them.”

On second thought, maybe I’ll just scrap the resolution thing altogether.

Maybe it’s my New York upbringing, but I find Scott’s suggestion offensive. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I liken booing’s role in sports to voting’s role in a democracy.

In a democracy, the only way most citizens can get through directly to a politician is in the voting booth. If Joe Schmo is unhappy with the performance of his representative, he can cast a vote against him. While the politician may not enjoy being voted out of office, he understands that the possibility is inherent in his chosen profession.

Similarly, in a stadium, average fans have few (legal) options for expressing disappointment. Booing allows disgruntled fans to harmlessly tell their team, “We, the fans of Team X, are profoundly unhappy about your performance at this juncture” (or, colloquially, “You suck!”). And although the voices of a scattered few are powerless, if fan sentiment is united, the resulting chorus of boos can send an unmistakable message to a team and its coach.

Of course, I’m not a Philadelphia fan. I don’t believe in booing every bad play, loss or draft pick. In fact, there are many occasions when boos should be stifled. I agree with Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker that booing has no place in collegiate sports. Middle-aged men and women have no business jeering 18-year old kids who (usually) play sports for free.

But once athletes make it to the pros, booing should be considered fair game. There are many benefits to becoming a professional athlete: large sums of money, fame, widespread admiration and beautiful, beautiful women practically lining up to satisfy your every desire. If the cost of that is a couple of jeers after you throw three interceptions in a playoff game (I’m looking at you, Eli Manning), I can’t feel bad for you. Every job has its drawbacks, so if you don’t like being booed, give up the money, fame and models. Instead, become an accountant or something. No one will boo you then.

I know goody-goodies will say: “You should support your team, no matter what.” To some, sports are merely a diversion, a source of entertainment, like going to a movie or watching an opera. These people can sleep well at night after their team loses a crucial game. For these individuals, booing athletes seems silly, pointless.

But as far as I can tell, booing is evidence of how deeply fans care about their favorite squads, not proof of malevolence. These are the people who won’t turn on “SportsCenter” for days for fear of seeing a highlight of their team’s loss. These are the people who are silent on a two-hour drive home because they’re analyzing every botched play, every missed opportunity. These are the true diehards.

There are plenty of individuals who fit this description but rarely, if ever, boo their teams. That’s fine – in fact, I’d put myself in that category. But Scott’s pandering “resolution” is still ridiculous. If you’ve paid preposterous sums for your ticket, for merchandise, for parking, for food – if you’ve made an intense emotional commitment to a team – if you’ve devoted time and energy that could be spent more productively in order to attend a sporting event, you should be permitted to express your displeasure in a nonabusive, nonthreatening, nonvulgar way – by booing. No matter what Stu Scott and a few coddled, whining pro athletes say.

 

– If you didn’t like this column, feel free to boo Matt Singer on the Diag or in class. He can be reached at mattsing@umich.edu.

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