[There are almost fourteen hundred words here, so fair warning to those with lesser amounts of time.]
Here’s the thing about booing as I see it. Quite simply, when used as easily (and speedily) as Toronto fans sometimes do - more so than many other fan bases; not all of course, but certainly more than many - it suggests an ‘air of entitlement’.
Scanning comments on the main RR page over the last several days, seeing a whole array of reasons (that are really justifications) regarding the act of booing (as well as those who are against it) I casually wondered if I could find a way to express how I feel about it without pissing off a slew of posters, most of whom I respect as much as one can in the mostly nameless cyber world of RR - and those who tend to defend the act of booing are usually coming from a place of pissed-off-ness to begin with, so ... there’s that - but random thoughts typed on a page (draft-form) suggests that it mightn’t be easy. But I’ll try, anyway.
A couple of seasons back, I had the opportunity to sit courtside for a Raptors game and while I’d been to many games before, I’d never sat courtside. I’m not sure I’d want season’s tickets there - it’s almost too close to really see the action as it develops and plays out - but ... I’m sure I’d get used to the view (and probably grow to love it) as time went along. The biggest thing that made an impression however, was that being close enough to feel (through the chair and my feet - again, right on the court) the ball bouncing and the running, was seeing how very YOUNG they all were. For some reason, both the missus and I were astonished (not too strong a word) that up that close, we could see that they looked younger than our oldest kid. (Partial disclosure: our oldest is now twenty-three. Got started early.) To our eyes, they were closer to ‘boys’ than they were ‘men’.
Last night as I divided my attention between the Raptors in Detroit, the Blue Jays home opener and a bit of work I was doing on my laptop, I saw good ole Alex Rios come to the plate, to a rousing chorus of boos. I watched his at-bat (he struck out) and as he walked back to his dugout, one couldn’t help notice a couple of yahoos ... I mean ‘gentlemen’, who were frantically gesturing and calling out to him, about as energetically as they could while staying in the vicinity of their seats (good seats; first section between home plate and first base), one of them vigorously giving him the finger (with both hands) and calling out lord-knows-what ... and I thought to myself, “yup, we’re in Toronto”. I stopped to think about what I had just thought - it seemed worthy of a quick ponder - and ... I thought about childhood days, growing up in Montreal ... and how my friends and relatives and I would actually make great sport of ridiculing Toronto Maple Leaf and Argonaut fans. It was much later that I would become a citizen of the fair city (Toronto), so at that time, all I knew was what I saw on TV during those games. To our eyes and ears, Toronto fans were just ... different. And not in a good way ... again as we saw it and frankly, probably enjoyed imagining. But to this day, there remains a memory of believing then, that fans here were somewhat ... boorish, at times. (I’m just reporting here.) Of course, Montreal fans - Canadiens fans, especially - did consider their own acts of ‘fandom’ to be slightly more ‘knowing’, even (perhaps) wiser (and yes, superior) as compared to any other fan-bases ... which was little more than how we all just chose to see ourselves. (The truth might’ve been quite different, I acknowledge.) But old habits die hard and that ‘yup, we’re in Toronto’ knee-jerk comment to myself was, while unintended, coming from the background of childhood experiences ... and other experiences, as a Raptors/Blue Jays fan.
Among those other memory-episodes (as a Raps/Jays fan) are a substantial number of occasions, when while watching from the comfort of my living room and witnessing what I considered inappropriate booing going on, I was spurred on to talk to the TV, saying (shorthand versions of) things like, “who do these yahoos think they are, booing a player because he USED to play for Toronto” (never said that about VC booing, of course) ... or “don’t these idiots realize that just because Vernon Wells makes a lot of money, he’s still made of the same stuff that we all are ... and that when his OWN F*@KING FANS are booing him while he’s walking to the plate, it’s gotta hurt; maybe even fiercely?” (Reading an article a year or two ago in which ole Vernon admitted to crying while driving to his home in Oakville from a game in which he felt he’d particularly sucked in, sort of underscored that reality for me, I suppose.) And there are other examples I could give, but you get the drift.
The thing of it is as I see it, these athletes are people like you and me, regardless of how much money they make (once you’ve got it coming in at that rate, it does little to cushion - no, it does NOTHING to cushion - hearing venomous catcalling and hate coming from one’s own fans ... which shouldn’t be hard to imagine) and you can bet that whatever they’re doing on the court or on the field, they are doing it to the best of their abilities, at that given moment.
Some of the comments I’ve read here on RR recently, have been in the vein of ‘well, it’s been a LOT of YEARS watching this bullshit and if they can’t take a little booing ... then fuck ‘em! We’ve suffered more than they can even KNOW!’
Which brings me back to that ‘sense of entitlement’ that I referred to at the top.
As fans, we see only what we see. To put it another way, when the Raptors (for instance) are playing in a fashion that seems to be sluggish and sometimes even distrustful (the opposite of ‘confident’) of their own talents and sometimes each other’s ... maybe it has more to do with the way they’re being coached and handled, on and off the court. And maybe, what we’re seeing in part, is the fear (consciously or not) of the reactions of their beloved fans. ‘Cause whatever else is going on out there, you can be certain that they’re not TRYING to play like bums.
These athletes are young guys who, for the most part, have less worldly (street) experience than even what some of the youngest of RR posters might have. They’ve devoted their lives to the game that we watch them play; to get good enough to make the ‘big leagues’, supreme focus and dedication - each to their own degrees, of course - is necessary to develop the skills they must have to get to play among the best ... and that really goes without saying. (Or it should.)
So, while we’re busy making our displeasure loud and clear to them, to a greater extent than most of us could know, their immediate reaction is to get confused (witness Jose’s face last week when he heard boos because he missed a shot) and later, it would be only human nature to feel resentful - and I’m guessing at that, only because it’s how I would unquestionably feel - and ... the endless cycle begins.
I’ll tell you, if I was a pro athlete ... I’m not so sure that I’d want to play in this city. From what I’ve seen - and from what they see - we’re sometimes a bit too quick to boo our own teams and players. As if we’re ENTITLED to more than just their best efforts. And you know what? We’re really not entitled to anything but their best efforts ... and just because it appears that we’re not seeing their very best ... oftentimes (again), what we see is not necessarily all that is really going on.
So ... maybe something to think about. (Or not, as you decide.) But it's my take on the subject.
Cheers. And go Raps.