NBA Fans: To Boo or Not to Boo

Hoopism is excited to announce that regular contributor and all around great guy Matt Gordon will be officially joining Hoopism as Writing Editor. The pay is non existent and the job undefined, but the high fives are never stingy. Matt previously has contributed on a number of research projects in addition to his regular “Cultures in Basketball” diary. We’re pretty excited to work with him and look forward to his contributions. You can follow Matt on Twitter @matogo18.

Hey everybody, I know it has been awhile since I have posted. Yago’s class has come to an end, as have my four great years at the University of Michigan. However, now that graduation festivities are over, I feel prepared to dive into what has already been a fascinating second season. The first question I would like to address: When is it appropriate for fans to boo?

I recently saw this question addressed in a very interesting post by Andrew Lynch on the Phoenix Suns blog – Sun-N-Gun. In the post, Lynch essentially suggested ground rules for booing:

“In order to truly be a disappointment worthy of our bile, a player must first have

seemed worthy of our greatest accolades and of the highest pedestal – and he must

willfully have turned away. It is this confluence of promise and choice that leads us

to our boisterous derision.”

I’m not sure how I feel about this definition. In my mind, to elicit booing, the player receiving the venom collectively spewed by a fan base must either have had high expectations and failed to meet them or simply played awfully. However, with this definition, I get hung up on the “willfully turned away” line. What does that mean exactly – if the underachiever in question is not willfully sucking then should he still be booed? This also feels a bit too arbitrary, as fans are not always the best judges of player effort.

Anyways, I was at Game 2 between the Bulls and Hawks on Wednesday night and could not help but become overwhelmed by the unilateral distaste (putting it lightly) for Carlos Boozer (not the most convenient last name right now either). From the get-go, Boozer played as he had over the course of the entire postseason – poorly. He seemed tentative, unsure with the ball, and unable to play like the man the Bulls paid $80 million dollars to be their long-awaited 20-10 post man. Of course, it has now been well documented that Boozer is apparently suffering from a painful turf toe injury that is hampering his lift along with more or less everything else other than his rebounding. Still, Boozer’s play in the post-season was anything but inspiring before he suffered this injury during Game 5 of the Bulls-Pacers series, so one must wonder what is really going on with Boozer.

Having spent the semester in Yago’s famed “Cultures of Basketball” class, I feel like I am in a somewhat unique position to analyze this query. During one of our final class discussions, the members of the Michigan Basketball Team spoke candidly about their views on the impact of fans at games.  It’s far too easy as a fan to forget that regardless of their often-exorbitant salaries, professional players are human. Whether they outwardly show it or not, they react well to positive encouragement and poorly to hatred, especially from home fans.

You can say all you want about these players needing to be professionals and that they shouldn’t be listening to the fans anyway, but I think it’s pretty hard to tune out a raucous stadium of 22,000+ fans cheering your exit and booing your entry into the game. Again, if you want to counter by saying, “screw him” – he’s highly paid and if he can’t perform then I’ll boo away, I suggest thinking about your purpose as a fan.

At the end of the day, your bottom line goal as a fan should be to see your team win. Without a doubt, you give your team the best chance at winning if you unconditionally support every member of the team. Basically, in private, do your own thing – yell, curse, cry, whatever – but in public, support your team. The Bulls are not going to win an NBA championship without every member of their team playing well and together. We can boo Boo-zer all we want but I think it is crucial to remember the big picture. Unfortunately, this issue of fans vs. “star” power forward is not even unique to Chicago with Los Angeles seemingly ready to run Mr. Pau Gasol out of town.

Thus, how do you think fans should handle underachieving stars during playoff time? Should we suck it up and support our team because, at the end of the day, that gives us the best chance at victory, or when a player fails to meet expectations should we boo? Until next time…