Booing is every sports fan’s right. In fact it’s our duty
When you buy your ticket to the big game, you get certain privileges which don’t apply in the outside world. You get to leave your pie wrapper and beer cup at your feet. You get to yell insults at the match officials. And you get the right to boo to your heart’s content.
This right is not enshrined in the Australian constitution, nor even on the fine print of your ticket. But it should be, because booing at sport is as natural as cheering, even if it’s your own beloved team.
At the Super Rugby this weekend, a significant contingent of the 14,000 strong Sydney crowd booed the NSW Waratahs against the Western Force. They booed at halftime, then again at fulltime when their team’s slender lead had evaporated and they lost a match everyone expected them to win.
It happened last year too, which made retired Waratahs and Wallabies legend Matt Burke most upset in his Fairfax media column. His line was that if you’ve never played, you don’t know how hard it is and you don’t have the right to boo. If the law has a term for this, it is surely the sook’s defence.
Some commenters on foxsports.com.au yesterday put forward a slightly more reasonable argument, arguing that booing doesn’t help your team as it’s hardly going to boost their confidence.
That’s a fair point, but we fans have certain expectations, and when those expectations aren’t met, the boo is the only weapon we’ve got. It sure beats writing a concerned letter to a bloke in a suit.
Actually, that’s sort of what happened last year, when Waratahs fans vented their formal dissatisfaction at a laughable event called the “fan forum”, which was the rugby equivalent of an addict’s intervention. At the forum, a small band of diehard fans confronted the team and urged them to change their inept ways. Losing is acceptable, the fans said. Losing when you constantly kick away valuable possession is not.
That was a year ago today. So guess what happened this weekend? The Waratahs principle tactic was to kick the ball to no one in particular, in the vain hope something good might happen. It didn’t. And booing ensued.
Let’s not pretend that we go to live sport to polish our manners. Partly we go to be entertained, but partly also we go to let off steam. If our team plays well, we cheer. If they play like a bunch of limp flowers, we shape our lips like we’re howling at the moon and give it all we’ve got.
That doesn’t make us a “pack of arseholes”, as V8 driver Jim Richards once famously insulted the Bathurst crowd after winning in a Nissan and copping it big time from the Holden and Ford fans. If anything, it shows we are true fans.
When the Brisbane Roar lost their first match at Suncorp Stadium for nearly two years back in December, fans booed. Some said that was unfair. Roar coach Ange Postecoglou saw it this way:
“We strive to be the best and if you want to be the best people will judge you harshly when you fall short of those standards. You’ve got to cop it on the chin and move on.”
Fans boo because we are disappointed. The Waratahs hail from Australia’s most populous rugby state, and should be a dominant force. Yet year after year, they serve up the same schlock and wonder why their crowds dwindle.
There is only one sensible response to this. Until they bring some of the flair and running rugby they’ve long promised, they deserve to be booed all the way to the sheds. And if you don’t agree with that, well, boo-hoo to you.
Say boo to Ant on Twitter: @antsharwood
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