When is it ok to boo your team?

I ask this question because of recent remarks from Giants cornerback Antrel Rolle. Last week he said “We risk ourselves out there on the field each and every day also. When soldiers come home from Iraq you don’t boo them. I look at it the same way. I take my job seriously.” It was a completely misguided comment which he eventually back tracked his way out of. Comparing a football player to a returning soldier is unbelievably stupid, but it got me thinking; when is it alright to boo the team you follow and love.

The Washington Redskins immediately come to mind. Living here in the Washington D.C. area has given me a new perspective on a team I have basically been forced to follow to a certain extent. When you listen to sports radio as much as I do, you are going to learn how the fan base feels about the local team. I’m using the Redskins as my example because they are dysfunctional and bad. They are also the perfect example  of when it is ok to boo your team.

Up until 10 years ago, the Redskins were a model NFL franchise. They won 3 Super Bowls and seemed like they were perennial playoff contenders. Basically, they were successful. Then Dan Snyder bought the franchise and showed everyone how not to run an NFL team. Firing head coach after head coach. Trading away draft picks for “star players” who are past their prime then giving them ridiculous contracts (See Donovan McNabb, Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Albert Haynesworth, etc.). If that wasn’t enough, gouging your fan base for every last penny in their pocket.

So where are the Skins now? On the verge of yet another disappointing season. So, if you are a Redskins fan, is it ok to boo your team next time you over pay for your tickets and go to a game? Absolutely. Boo with every fiber in your body. You have every right. Dan Snyder has basically taken a dump on your head and as sports fans, we will always come back for more. We love our teams with passion and refuse to let go, even though we should. It is the abused sports fan syndrome. We convince ourselves year after year that they are going to change. That this will be the year. This one free agent signing  or this new coach will make the difference. Yet it never seems like it does.

You may ask yourself, what does this guy know about the abused sports fan syndrome?  He is a Steelers and Penguins fan. Yeah, well I was also at one point in time a Pirates fan. It all makes sense now doesn’t it? It has gotten so bad that I finally had to break up  with them. I divorced them. Not only did I divorce the Pirates, but I divorced baseball as well. The Pirates did such emotional damage that I couldn’t even pick a new baseball team, even though it was within my rights as a sports fan. I had to let it all go. I feel in love with sports because of baseball, now I can’t even stand to check the box scores on a daily basis.

This season I was forced to attend a Pirates game. I had no choice. So since I had to go to the game, I did what I never do. I booed them every chance I got. Bad Error; booooooooo. Strike out; boooooooo. Opposing team hits a home run; yeaaaaaaaaaa. Now, I wasn’t necessarily booing the team. They can’t really help it that they don’t have the talent to compete. I was booing management. I know they don’t care, but I had to have my voice heard.

That’s why we boo as fans. Because the frustration of losing becomes too much. Because we run out of patience when it seems like we care more than the players or management do. Because it is pretty obvious that management cares more about making money than producing a winning team. Fans want to be relevant, we want to compete. Watching your team win a championship is great, but as fans we can handle a playoff loss a lot better than a losing season. I would rather have my heart-broken in overtime of the AFC Championship game then have my heart-broken before the season even begins because you know that your team has no chance to go to the playoffs.

The other reason other than Rolle that I thought about this, is because I was at the Steelers-Patriots game a couple of weeks ago. When Tom Brady and the Pats rolled over my beloved Steelers. An extremely frustrating game. The Steelers were supposed to be playoff contenders, one of the best teams in the NFL, and here they were getting destroyed by a team they were supposed to be as good as, if not better. The moment came in the third quarter. The Steelers were down 17-3 and had driven inside of the Pats 5. After three attempts they didn’t get into the end zone and it was now fourth and goal from the 2. Please tell me that is not Jeff Reed and the kicking team coming onto the field. If the Steelers make the field goal they are still down by 11 and will need two touchdowns to win. How does this make any sense? Score a touchdown and this is still a game, even though it shouldn’t be.

Well I’m sure you remember what happened. Jeff Reed missed the chip shot, ultimately leading to Reed being cut, and the boos came raining down and I found myself booing. However, I wasn’t booing Reed, I was booing the decision to kick the field goal. I was booing Tomlin for playing it way to safe. After the game I actually felt bad for that. Even with the loss the Steelers were 6-3, still very much in the playoff hunt, and two years removed from winning their six Super Bowl.

We as fans didn’t have the right to boo. The reason we did is because we are spoiled. Our team has had so much success over the years that we expected to win that game. A loss never entered our minds and here we were, watching a great team have a bad night and we couldn’t handle it. Our success, expectations, and emotions got the best of us. But guess what? It happens. Even the best athletes, doctors, lawyers, or steel workers have a bad day. How would you feel if everyday you came to work and performed above expectations and then one day you made a lousy mistake and your boss and co-workers came to your desk and booed? I don’t know about you, but I would be pissed.

So what is the point of all this? It’s ok to boo your team if they have proven time and time again that they are inept and just don’t care but it’s not ok to boo your team if they are successful and competitive almost every season. If they made the playoffs the last two-years but because of some injuries or other circumstances they go 8-8 and miss the playoffs, don’t boo. Cut them some slack. If your team has finished below .500 for the third straight year and seem to be making every wrong move they can make, then boo with everything you got.



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