A Freakonomics Radio Bleg: Do You Boo? If So, When and Why?


We’re working on a Freakonomics Radio piece about booing — when it happens (and doesn’t), who does it (and doesn’t), what it means, etc. We’re looking for good stories and insights, so please let us know in the comments section what you’ve got, whether you were the booer, the booee, or a witness. The story might concern politics, sports, the theater or opera, whatever. Did you ever see kids boo a bad clown at a birthday party, e.g.? Am also interested in how booing breaks down along socioeconomic and cultural lines — does more booing really happen in the cheap seats? In a nutshell, we’re looking for the most interesting, surprising, revealing booing stories you’ve got. Many thanks in advance.

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  1. Sebastian says:

    To me booing is a form of voting. If they’re bad enough they get booed. If they are not that bad, I will be silent, which to some may be worse, because I will just tune out what ever I am choosing not to boo. It may be worse because it’s like saying, hey I don’t like what you’re doing, but you also don’t make me care enough to say anything. When I boo, at least you are doing something that gets my attention, albeit the wrong kind. If anything, I see booing as cheering against something, but if I do not wish to legitimize something I will be silent and ignore it.

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  2. Bobby G says:

    I boo mostly at sporting events, and rarely at performance-related incidents. I’ll boo when I disapprove of an umpire or referee’s call. This is the most common occurrence for my own booing habits, and it’s when I boo the loudest, aside from very unsportsmanlike conduct.

    I’ll boo when I disapprove of a particularly bad decision made by a player (you’ve missed four 3-pt shots in a row, stop shooting them please, or you went for a flashy play thinking it was a gimme and you mucked it up), or when an opposing team’s player celebrates or showboats, particularly when it’s in bad taste.

    As I mentioned, I’ll boo at unsportsmanlike behavior on either team, like a cheap shot.

    I’ll also boo somewhat sardonically at opposing players if they do something somewhat harmless like, say, attempt to unsuccessfully pick off the player on first base 3 or more times. Most of the time with these “silly” boos, I’m trying to get into the player’s head if I can. I don’t expect to. Sometimes I’ll boo when players I particularly don’t like are announced, either as an at bat or in the pregame announcements (I don’t just boo the opposing team’s best players, though).

    I don’t ever boo at performances. I’ve been a performer myself, and frankly if you don’t like something I think you should just walk out. What’s the point of staying in your seat if you’re not enjoying what you’re watching? Saying that, I think about my sports booing behavior, and I conclude that I still have fun enjoying the drama of the game despite there being obstacles and events I would rather not have happened. I don’t know if people who boo during performances are experiencing the same thing, but I certainly don’t.

    I suppose I could see booing at a performance if there was some longer-than-expected delay during the performance, but chances are you aren’t booing at the performers themselves in that case. Still, if you’re that upset, just leave.

    Politics… I don’t know if I’d ever boo. The only occasions you’d have to boo would be at a political rally (where you’d be booing, most likely, someone who has many people there to support him/her, people who would probably not take kindly to their speaker getting booed) or a debate. In the debate context, booing seems immature to me anyway, I would prefer to express my disagreement with an intelligent, objective retort.

    Finally, I will also submit that I boo at other audience or crowd members. If someone is causing a disruption (that I don’t find amusing), I’ll boo at them. If a guy takes a foul ball away from a little girl at a ball game, I’ll boo at him. Sometimes I’ll mockingly boo if, let’s say, a girl won’t kiss a guy on the kiss cam, or if the “by round of applause” selection was clearly wrong (in my opinion), but I’m booing there for fun.

    Interesting question. I’ve never actually thought about it before. My apologies if the comment is kind of long :)

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  3. David says:

    During Irish international rugby matches there was always booing during a Mexican wave before the team oved into their new stadium. It only occured at a certain point however. Once the wave passed through the middle of the West Stand, the place where all the dignitaries and rich people sat, the crowd would boo because they wouldn’t stand up and do the wave properly. Otherwise the crowd wouldn’t boo anything other than the referee.

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  4. Steve S. says:

    In the Philadelphia sports dogma there is a theory about the boo. Booing under most circumstance is a way of expressing constructive criticism towards the individual/team that you support. However, there exists an elite group of athletes who are “above the boo” or “unbooable”. Many successful athletes have publicly recognized these principles, perhaps the most outspoken of which being Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams.

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    • Steve S. says:

      Is the thumbs down icon the de facto “boo expression” within the social media domain? Fascinating.

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  5. Joseph says:

    I haven’t booed at any type of event. I just observe others. I sometimes think it might be a “hive” mentality. Once a couple of people start booing, everybody else does it. My girlfriend actually thinks that booing at a sports event is kind of immoral. She says it hurts the players feelings and it shouldn’t be done.

    I think people boo at opposing teams at sports events because words can do so much. Booing is much longer and seems to carry over a much further distance. Perphaps booing can be a way for crowds to distract players.

    I just like to be silent instead of booing. If my team makes a great play, I like to cheer for that. I’m not really a booer.

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  6. Gavin Will says:

    A bit of swearing here but worth it…


    Fred Mcauley – Sometimes boo isnt enough

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  7. Peggy says:

    To the best of my recollection I have only actively booed once at a live event. Even then, it was more of a hiss than a boo. I was a 29 year old married Roman Catholic mother of two sitting in my parish church (St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco) and John Paul II was addressing the laity.
    I don’t remember his words or the words of the woman who spoke before he did. I do remember the tone.
    She spoke of the complicated lives we, wives and mothers and bread winners and women of faith, led. She spoke of our deep commitment to a church that often did not seem to recognize or value us. She asked the Pope to pay attention.
    He spoke of the need for good Catholics to stop thinking for themselves and do what he told them to do and think.
    Most of the people in the cathedral cheered his every pause. I hissed quiet boos under my breath.
    When I left the cathedral that day I never went back.
    My life of faith did not stop stop. My life as a Roman Catholic did.
    Perhaps this booing story is far off your radar but it was a trans-formative moment in my life.

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  8. Tom says:

    Whenever I see the commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, I have an uncontrollable urge to boo.

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