Booing an 8-man Raptors team in the middle of a playoff race against a full-strength Celtics squad in a tight game has to be one of the worst ACC moments of all time. Booing, in general, is never good, but given the nature of professional sports in this era it is sometimes warranted. Usually, it’s when the home team isn’t giving an honest effort thereby cheating the paying customers. In this case, boo to your heart’s extent so that it’s known that you don’t appreciate the product on the floor and that they’re not worth your time or money.
Supporting the players through thick and thin is a quality of a true fan as long as they’re giving it their best. Against Boston, the crowd rained the boos on Jose Calderon after he missed a couple jumpers which I thought was very unwarranted. Let me tell you why. As a huge critic of Jose Calderon’s defense, I’ve torn into him on many an occasion, but it’s never been for lack of acceptable effort. He happens to be an inherently bad defender and he just can’t help it, the technical criticisms levied at him are playing his man too tight, relying too much on the help, lack of vision in the open-court etc. Rarely, if ever, has his effort been in question and by booing him on Wednesday night, that’s exactly what the crowd implied.
Calderon is a wing player who shoots 40% from three-point range. He has every right to take a jumper when given space and as long as the shot isn’t forced, it’s not a bad or lazy decision.
This season we’ve suffered home losses against Atlanta, Orlando, OKC, Utah and road losses against a number of teams where the effort was genuinely lacking. It was evident that the Raptors had come out flat, unprepared and expecting an easy night when it was anything but. Feel free to voice the displeasure in those cases, boo the players, boo the coaching staff and boo Bryan Colangelo has he pretends to be in “thinking mode” in the tunnel. But against Boston missing Bosh and Turkoglu in a single-digit game? C’mon.
There is a growing sense of frustration in the fan base at why this team isn’t performing better. The talent appears to be there but the defensive technique and work ethic is often lacking; “try harder” would appear to be a logical response from a cash-paying customer, but that’s ignoring the increasingly obvious fact that the Raptors suffer from fundamental and systematic personnel and coaching problems. Perhaps it’s just a bad mix of people. Hedo Turkoglu was a pretty good player in Orlando. Antoine Wright was a starter on a Western Conference Final team in Dallas. Chris Bosh is a very good player. Jarrett Jack is a solid backup. Amir Johnson is a great garbage man. Marco Belinelli is a very good three-point shooter. Jose Calderon is a high-assist, low-turnover PG. Reggie Evans is a fierce player. DeMar DeRozan is a pretty solid rookie. Sonny Weems is a great find. None of these guys have had issues with effort at any point in their careers, so the booing is new (and confusing) to them.
If you want to boo somebody, do it professionally. Fire up your email, send one off to MLSE and complain to the people who assembled a team only because the math added up, looked decent on paper, made a convenient head-coaching hire instead of a revolutionary one and sold 50-win expectations.
The Raptors have a lot of great fans, many of them in their late 20s, early 30s who have invested in season tickets because the Raptors came into existence during their teens. I know more than a few of these fans that bleed Raptors basketball and I’m sure you do too. But having said that, there aren’t enough of them. For every hardcore Raptors fan that shows up to the ACC, there are two who are there because of free tickets and when things go south, their natural reaction is to either leave early or boo. And when you’re in the thick of a playoff race, you want to be inspired by the home support, not discouraged.
The knowledge of the fan base has increased considerably since the early days when fans used to waive thunder sticks at home players shooting FTs, but incidents like the one on Wednesday count against the “respect” we’ve earned around the league, and don’t think the players don’t talk about this amongst themselves. The idea that booing will help matters and turn things around in the game is ridiculous, sure, it might have the intended effect of conveying to the GM that you don’t appreciate the makeup of the team, but that can be done in ways other than where we end up looking like a fickle fan base.
It’s incidents like these that have taken away from what the ACC used to be: a hostile environment to play in. Look at Golden State’s miserable record, how often have the boos rained there? I honestly believe that the players don’t even view playing at home as a major advantage because they’re so on edge as to how the crowd will react. Yes, they’re entirely to blame for their slow starts but once they screw up the first quarter, there’s little encouragement from the fans to do better. You get the sense of “here we go again” and everybody sort of checks out of the game and the environment almost becomes toxic.
One of the major problems with the ACC environment are the sideshows. There is too much non-basketball related things going on that distract from the intricate happenings of game. There are too many promotions, corporate involvements etc and it all takes away from the game, it’s almost like MLSE feels that they need to give fans reasons other than the game to be there. I understand that these are important revenue streams, but their implementation is flawed and it all takes away from the seriousness of Raptors basketball.
I know I’m rambling a bit here so I’ll close. I understand booing, but it does so much more bad than good that it’s not worth it. There are other ways of having your opinions heard, call the Fan, write to MLSE, post on blogs, use Twitter, and of course the most effective one, don’t go to the game.
If you got some time, swing by Sports Centre Cafe and Fan Appreciation Nigh on Raptors Fan Fridays. It’s the last one of the season unless we make the playoffs.