Earlier this week, we were talking about the proposal in Washington state to ban booing at high school sports events. Kevin Wheeler and I found this idea silly, part of the “never let a kid hear anything negative” sentiment that has swept this country.
Then I got this e-mail from listener Edward Reitz:
It is difficult for me to understand why you think it is acceptable for fans to boo high school athletes, and it is extremely disappointing that you and Wheeler agree that it is all right to “make fun of” the players. You have taken bullying to a new high, or low. For adults to make fun of high school players is sad. For community leaders to promote such behavior is out of line. Consider the maturity level of the participants. Consider how many situations in our schools today get out of control because of verbal abuse. I don’t know if either of you have children, but if you do, I think you would like for them to attend school and participate in activities without having to deal with taunting, which is serious enough even in college and professional sports to merit a penalty. It is difficult to maintain a safe environment in schools today. Why not support the administrators and supervisors who are trying to educate through activities?
No, taunting and verbal abuse and personal attacks should not be permitted, but booing is part of home court advantage. If you eliminate it, you might as well have the games on a neutral court or with no one in attendance except the teams, coaches, and referees.
Several callers who played high school sports — as Kevin did — pointed out that when they were on the court or the field, if they were distracted by the fans, that was because they weren’t concentrating hard enough on the game they were in the midst of. And several of them said that hearing boos would often motivate them, rather than having a negative impact.
We’re not talking here about adults making fun of high school players, we’re talking about other kids in the stands acting like fans do. The adults are a bigger problem when kids are in Little League or youth soccer.
If a situation becomes unsafe because of fans hurling verbal attacks based on race, religion, or economic status, that must be dealt with, and no one would argue otherwise. But that’s not the same as booing, or foot stomping, or making a lot of noise during a football game so the offense has trouble hearing signals. If your feelings are so hurt by that, you probably are not much of a competitor — do the cheers for the home team undercut your esteem, too?