Yesterday evening, Grant Balfour blew a save for the second time this season, and was promptly showered with boos from the crowd at Tropicana Field. After the game, he was quite upset.
ESPN was kind enough to edit out the explatives:
"The fans can boo me and all that [stuff], but [...] It's not going to help me out. It's not going to help the team do anything out there when you do that [stuff]. The feeling is, the team's behind you and everybody's behind you -- the crowd, the whole nine yards. Things are going to go right.
"But when you start pulling that [stuff], it's not a good vibe. The team's pulling for the team, so the fans got to be pulling for the team. Everybody's got to be pulling for the team. You can't be back and forth like that. That [stuff] doesn't work. So I'll just walk away positive from it. It's a good win. A much-needed win."
Personally, I have to agree with Grant and say there's not much help in letting the player know he just made a mistake by booing him. Perhaps you find it fun to jeer, but will your experience be better in the longrun? Will contributing to him being upset make your game experience any better when the same player is still on the field?
The way I see it, there's three sides you can fall on: Pro-booing your own team's players, Anti-booing the players, or Pro-booing poor decisions. The latter would be like booing Joe Maddon for taking the ball from James Shields one out away from a complete game shut out . You're booing a choice you disagree with, but not a bad performance.
I'm in the never-booing camp. A player who has made a mistake is well aware of what he's done mid-game, and booing him will do nothing to improve future performance for the team, which I've paid money to see play ball. Why would I actively try to make my situation worse? And while I relate to booing a poor choice, chances are the guys in the dugout are acting on information I don't have. In that moment, I may be curious or frustrated, but I defer to their wisdom.
Then again, there's room for conjecture, so I surveyed the masthead for a position on the other opinions, and two individuals felt strongly enough to contribute their thoughts.
Drew Liang: Pro-booing bad player performance
As for Grant Balfour's frustration with fans booing, I think that's ridiculous. I'll never agree with a player criticizing fans. They pay the money to watch you play, so they can do whatever as long as it doesn't cross the line...and booing doesn't even come close to that.
I don't know what Balfour is expecting when he's got an ERA north of five and several outings this season where he's either blown the save or come darn near close to doing so. Fans were fed up with the team, so Grant should just keep his mouth shut and focus on getting better and not complain to the media.
Ian Malinowski: Pro-booing bad decisions
You've payed your money to watch the game and you can boo if you want. Sure, that's "correct," but I still think it sucks. Are you going to say next that "It's a free country?"
Sports fandom is about identification. We root for some crazy Australian because he puts on a shirt with the name of our home town printed on it, and nonsensical as that sounds, it works because there are a bunch of other guys from our home doing the same thing. Somehow we start believing that the players actually represent us.
The only time it's acceptable to boo, then, is when they represent us poorly, and that has nothing to do with performance. No community in the country is so superior to all the others that they "deserve a winner," and don't even try to say that it's about effort. If you think that you care more about Grant Balfour's struggles than Grant Balfour does, you are a fool.
Even more ridiculous is the idea of booing a good player who's been a part of your team's success in the past, but is now mired in decline. I didn't boo my Alzheimer-riddled grandad when he stopped being able to remember my name.
I stick to a "no booing" rule, except for one exception. Boo a manager to your hearts' content, because the public face of a manager is his decisions. It's the same difference as, in the comments, between "You're a stupid poster" and "The reasoning in this post is incorrect." The former is entitled whining and a bad look on any fan base. The latter is the masses engaging in an intellectual discussion.
One Other Exception
Sometimes the player's name just sounds like a "boo", and that just can't be helped.
The player arrives in the game, or performs well, and you cheer for them by chanting their name. They can't help it sounds like a "boo" so it actually becomes encouraging. Right, Mr. Burns?
So what say you?