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

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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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COMMENTS: 74


  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 :)

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
  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…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvIkRkOL3tw

    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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  9. KevinM says:

    @Bobby G & Steve S (re sporting events):
    True, but there were always the players who produced noise in the “boo” data set – like Mooookie Wilson or Looou Piniella.

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    • Steve S. says:

      True, arguably the most well supported player right now on the Phillies is Carlos “Choooooch” Ruiz

      And again, along the lines of Philadelphia sports lure: The loudest boo I’ve witnessed first hand was during former Mayor of Philadelphia, John Street’s speech before the opening Citizen’s Bank Park in 2004.

      The antithesis to all of this: its widely thought (example of cognitive bias?) in baseball circles that St. Louis Cardinals fans never boo. I can vouch for the contrary, they’re human too, see: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN201106210.shtml

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    • Bobby G says:

      Definitely true. I’m a SF Giants fan and last year we had Juan Uribe and everyone would chant “Uuuuuuribe” when he came up to bat. And when I was at school, our stands would yell “Luuuuuuc” any time that player made a dunk or a block.

      I don’t consider that booing at all. In fact I think people like the fact that it sounds like booing, and only “true fans” know what’s actually being said.

      And yeah, Steve, I’ve heard that Phillies fans boo everything… they even booed a Santa Claus at an Eagles halftime show.

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  10. SKGirl says:

    I boo Kyle Busch in NASCAR. Almost every lap. I’ve booed him on tv, I’ve booed him directly to his face (from about 5 feet away). I don’t like him, his attitude, or some of his actions, therefore, I boo.

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  11. Missinlnk says:

    I have booed several times, but the one that comes to mind was at a rock concert. Not towards the musicians, but towards the sound technicians. I don’t know what was wrong, but the people running the sound board could not keep feedback from entering the sound system (I swear it felt like it was 10+ times, but I know for a fact it was at least 5 times). Every band had to deal with it and you could just see it in their actions how mad they were.

    I have some friends who have become professional sound engineers and so I’ve been taught to appreciate good sound work. I learned that, in their minds, 2 moments of feedback during a show was enough to consider a sound guy suspect. So you add all of those moments of feedback to a sound mix that my untrained ears thought was suspect and I turned around and booed after every feedback. (I wouldn’t have booed just because I didn’t like the mix as that can be pretty subjective, but I had no problems doing it once the feedback started repeating.)

    So frustrating to pay money and have to suffer through a bad set because a 3rd party, who I didn’t come pay to see and can only get in my way, is at fault. As the first poster said, it was the only way I could voice my opinion that those people running the sound board were idiots who didn’t earn a penny of their wage.

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  12. brendan says:

    In Philly, booing is nuanced. Here, when you boo the other team in general its basically the easiest way of conveying your hatred towards them. When you boo a former philly athlete who is back in philly but on the away team, its partly to say welcome back partly to say you suck for leaving (even though most everyone knows it wasn’t directly their choice). When you boo a philly athlete on a philly team, its to say you’ve been slacking and we all know it and you better step it up. when you boo a philly team after a loss or bad period/inning/quarter, you’re saying to the whole team we all know you can do better and if you dont we will continue to boo/berate you. when you boo Santa Claus or throw batteries at players, there’s really no explanation. However, when a former well-loved philly athlete returns, we go out of our way to welcome them back

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  13. Dave Diamond says:

    Only at home, i.e. in private. I would never boo in public.

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    • pewlpit says:

      Your restraint, and consideration are to be commended, and so your proper manners were preached from the pewlpit as the lead-in for this piece.

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  14. MarkCov says:

    I have a really high threshold for booing a sports player. Regarding the other locations, I guess I’ve been fortunate, I’ve never been to a theater or opera show where anyone booed. I don’t go to political events, so I’ll vote “present” on that one.
    For sports, the booing threshold is dependent on how professional they are. I won’t boo for bad plays, only bad sportsmanship. Little league kids, high schoolers, and some college sports don’t deserve booing no matter what. Some of the BCS league football and basketball players are available targets, but I prefer to direct it at the coach for not controlling his players. All major league players are eligible. They’re old enough that they should understand good sportsmanship.
    I guess I would say that the “love of the game” negates most booing potential for me.

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  15. Cañada Kid says:

    I boo only at Giants games. I’ll boo, as well as most fans at the ballpark, when the umpire makes a bad call, a disliked player (Miguel Tejada *cough*) plays poorly, or the Dodgers are in town. Every player on their team gets booed.

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  16. bonnie lynn says:

    I never boo. I may have once or twice in jest, but I’ve never been a genuine booer. This might be because I’m a counselor by trade, and so I’m fairly cognizant of how my actions might make others feel, and I typically try not to do things intentionally to make people feel bad. Being that I’m from outside of Philadelphia, the city infamous for booing Santa himself, I’ve often felt like I might be the minority in this, particularly at Philadelphia sporting events where fellow fans have been known to boo our own players if their performance is not up to par. I have wondered what makes people feel entitled to this type of behavior and what effect, if any, this might have on morale. And what is it about Philadelphia that makes people seemingly more prone to booing??

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  17. Sally says:

    My dad was a high school basketball referee¬¬ for many years (when he wasn’t at one of my own games). From about 5th grade on, he would take me to games with him. These games were always between teams that I didn’t have a stake in – he never refereed games for our home team, so I was a pretty impartial observer.

    Watching those games was a great way to learn how to stay composed when emotions are high. My dad spent countless hours studying hypothetical game situations and evaluating how to be as fair as possible. Despite his best efforts, there was always the subset of fans – usually parents – that felt they needed to get their two cents in by booing.

    From that experience, I learned to never boo anyone, ever. Maybe the person deserves to be booed. More probably, the person is doing his/her best and person’s kid is sitting in the stands watching you act like a jerk. I think the safe bet is to keep your mouth shut.

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  18. Amar Mahdi says:

    Don’t forget that in the “urban” (I hate that word) and underground hip-hop scene in the UK, it’s fairly common to hear people in the crowd boo in support of the act that they like. It’s the typical adoption of the antonym as being cool; you know, bad meaning good. So if you’re ever at a UK artist’s performance, boo to send your salute and admiration. #linguisticsrules

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  19. Pamela says:

    For me, it’s simple: Booing is boorish. There are so many other ways to show disapproval of something rather than resorting to booing. I have never done it because for me it would be rude, and perhaps a bit unfair to the performer who has, presumably, done the best he or she can at that time. There are any number of factors contributing to a poor performance. So why stoop to the lowest point of behavior and boo. If you don’t like the performance, don’t applaud. That’s what I do.

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  20. Joshua Northey says:

    The main time I boo is for humorous effect during my men’s league hockey games. Always humor to be mined from pretending to be heavily invested in something no one is taking that seriously. It is competiative and we all play hard, but the occasional lusty boo when an opponent scores is always sure to force a few smiles because it is so incongruous with the collegial atmosphere.

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  21. Noland says:

    I appreciate hockey fans always booing NHL commish Gary Bettman whenever he attempts to speak in public, making public the mutual displeasure probably 99.9% of hockey fans that deem him to be worse than Hitler.
    I remember experiencing hissing for the first time, in a cheap movie theater in Texas. I come from the Northwest and thought that expression had gone the way of silent movies.

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  22. Jay says:

    I am a high school football coach and occasionally I am responsible for monitoring the weightroom. It is normally filled with our experienced lifters (Juniors and Seniors) that know and execute the basic fundementals of the lifts. When it comes to the squat though, the players tend to start off correctly but slowly over the course of the lift will “forget” to get low enough. I guess one day myself and another assistant coach just got bored of reminding them to get lower so we started loudly booing their form. We thought it was hilarious. Now they know if they hear a boo they aren’t getting low enough. I still get a chuckle out of it and some of the players do as well.

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  23. Chuck says:

    I boo at Harlem Globetrotters games, where the “enemy” is a clearly defined part of the whole experience. Otherwise, I can’t remember ever booing.

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  24. Doc says:

    I got booed at my college graduation. My wife’s ex-roommate lacked 3 credits to graduate with us. Sitting in the stands with our parents she gave a little “boo” when my wife’s name was called before mine. By the time my name was called half the stands had picked it up and I slunk accross the stage to get my diploma. I didn’t go to graduation for my MBA or Ph.D., too much scar tissue.

    I don’t boo at games but I’m expert at arguing out loud with politicians who are on my TV.

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  25. AaronS says:

    I don’t tend to boo. I’ve never thought of myself as “Not a Booer,” but now that you mention it….

    But why? The reason is that unless it is clear that wrongdoing is taking place, I tend to assume that the referee or player is doing his/her best. In human endeavors, we will have to accept that human error can play a role.

    But when I KNOW that someone is cheating or skewering things (e.g., when Derek Jeter ACTED like he’d been beaned with the ball in order to get to base), then I boo lustily, for I can no longer assume that that person is doing their best. I now KNOW they are a low-life cheater. This might mean a basketball player who pretends to be fouled. It might be a cheap shot by a football player.

    And since so many of these things cannot be clearly discerned as being faked, I tend to not boo. But I always have one at the ready if someone purposely cheats.

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  26. Will says:

    At download festival this year, the crowd was pretty restless waiting for a band as they were about 10 minutes late. So everyone turned their attention to one security guard – now all the security there have to wear these brightly coloured fluorescent vests which have a number on it. So, everyone see’s one of the security chap, numebred ’836′, and in our heightened bored state everyone bands together to chant ‘EIGHT THREE SIX! EIGHT THREE SIX!’. Rinse and repeat.

    He walks off eventually after not knowing what to do with his new found 15 minutes of fame and every proceeds to ‘BOOOOOOO!!!!’. He graces us with his presence after about 2 minutes later and everyone is pleased. He’s welcomed back with a great cheer, and rightly so!

    836 is thirsty so he goes to drink his bottle of water. Because download is classy, everyone is chanting ‘Down it! Down it!’ But much to everyone’s disappointment – he didn’t. Of course, everyone did what was sensible and started the booing again.

    836 left and the band started. No boo’s for the band just 836 for his uncooperative behaviour!

    I suppose it is just a gesture of people seemingly not cooperating? I guess you expect to be entertained when you see a band/show or you expect to be enetertained or your team to win a sports game etc and when things don’t live up to your expectations then booing somehow seems appropiate. I guess its a universal gesture in that sense – Almost like an open palm gesture on occassions when you want to signal ‘what are you doing?!’.

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  27. Nahaal says:

    A story told to me about a concert in Iran:

    The musical group Dastan was beginning a new concert series in Tehran in 2010.
    Months earlier a few of the members, who I know personally, had recently returned from an international music tour led by the renown Shajarian. During that tour, members of the group spoke a few words against the Iranian government on a BBC interview. The consequences of those actions revealed themselves in the events that followed during the Dastan concert debut.

    The concert began successfully with a sold-out venue. Halfway into the set, a sudden power outage occurred. Under normal circumstances one would pass this off as mere coincidence. In Iran, “coincidences” are usually products of government incentives.
    After some moments of confusion amongst audience members, the announcement came that damages could not be repaired and the power would be out for the remainder of the evening. The audience booed with anger. Anger because they knew collectively this was the work of the government. As the audience grew louder, the boos began to trigger a surge of energy into the musicians. They picked up their instruments, took their proper positions, and finished the show without lights, speakers, or electricity. Raw.
    It was then that the audience and the musicians came together, embracing each other with a strong sense of pride for their country through their music and through their hearts. By removing the power from the concert, the government thought they could remove the power from the people. They overlooked the fact that traditional, delicate instruments never needed a power plug to create a musical experience.
    And no other type of government control can prevent Iranians, so passionate to their roots, from fighting for their rights.

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  28. Mike says:

    I have an interesting story about booing. It concerns the rugby rivalry between South Africa and the All Blacks, Apartheid and family traditions. Now rugby has always been an important part of South African culture, during the apartheid era, it became custom for the ‘Coloured’ or mixed race community in Cape Town to support the New Zealand All Blacks, at Newlands in Cape Town, against the Springboks, it was kind of a passive resistance and a refusal to support the SA Afrikaner government. Sadly this has been passed down to the next generation and even 15 years later, at Superrugby level (provincial) when the home team the Stormers play against the Crusaders, it’s like a home game for the Crusaders side as half the stadium boos the local team. Weird thing is, when challenging their patriotism, many folks I have engaged on the topic claim that it is the style of rugby they love about the All Blacks and how they play such a beautiful game etc i.e. Denial that they’re still influenced by the unconscious need to ‘stick it to the man’ like the parents did. mail me for more if you like.

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  29. Brad says:

    The Madison Mallards, a Wisconsin baseball team in the Northwoods league, features an amusing alternative to booing the opposing team as they are announced. The PA announcer says first name, last name, and then the last name again. This gives the crowd time to manufacture the following conversation…

    PA: Batting fourth, playing center field, DeMarcus Tidwell
    Crowd: Who?
    PA: Tidwell.
    Crowd: Oh.

    It’s all in good humor, and great way to let opponents know that we haven’t heard of any of the people on their Northwoods League team, either.

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  30. Simone says:

    I’m half Yugoslav and was raised in Australia. I have no option but to be big on booing.
    If you throw tribalistic behaviour, injustice and/or sports into the mix it often ends in tears- sometimes of laughter.

    Our whole family can become croaky voiced through booing from attending just 80 minutes of football.
    My brother in particular is proficient due to all his years of yogic chanting. We call it using his ohms as boos.
    It is commonly understood that collectively our family is worth 2-4 points to our team each game due to putting the opposition goal kicker off his game.

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  31. Billy says:

    I mostly boo terrible calls by the refs or dirty plays in sports (only in person, not watching on TV). But I love hockey most of all, which has a strange tradition of lifelong boos for hated rival players. I’m a fan of the Colorado Avalanche and in an infamous black eye for the NHL, Todd Bertuzzi attacked Steve Moore from behind, permanently injuring him and ending his hockey career. Ever since, Bertuzzi has been booed in Colorado every time he touches the puck. If he and another player pass the puck back and forth, you’ll hear “BOOOOoooo… BOOOOOoooo…. BOOOOooooo…” as a constant reminder that we still resent him for what he did. Other teams have their favorite targets – Blue Jackets fans booed Adam Foote for walking away as a free agent, while Chris Pronger receives boos nearly everywhere (ostensibly due to years of bone-crushing checks injuring one star player or another). I don’t know how unique it is to the sport of hockey, but the number of times a player touches the puck during a game lends itself quite naturally to a manageable level of booing.

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  32. Wendy Voelker says:

    Oh, boy do I have a booing story. One that haunts me 30 years after the fact.

    It was 1981. I was in fourth grade, and my elementary school had gathered in the auditorium for the middle school production of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax”. I don’t particularly remember the play all that well, but I recall the aftermath as if it happened yesterday.

    I was seated in the rear right of the auditorium, next to my best friend Amy and the rest of our class. The play ended, and the auditorium filled with applause. Then, from the front left of the auditorium, came the sound of a lone “boooooooooooooooo.”

    Then another boo from somewhere else, and then a few more, scattered around the auditorium. I thought it was funny. So I started to boo too. Until the principal, Mr. Warner, stormed up onto the stage and started screaming. He demanded that the booing stop, and that teachers grab whoever was doing it. I shut up quickly and sat back in my seat, terrified. Mr. Warner threatened that anyone who was booing was going to be banned from the auditorium for the rest of their days in the Minisink Valley Central School District (an idle threat, as it turns out).

    Some of the booers (booists?) were identified immediately, and some (including me) managed to slip out of the assembly uncaught. Until.

    I was called into the Principal’s office the next day. My mother was called in, too. She had received a phone call from the Principal’s office at some point afterwards, stating that I had been fingered as one of the booers. Prior to my mother’s arrival, Mr. Warner had asked me if I booed. I lied. 9-year olds lie.

    So, I was sitting in the office as my mom stormed in, stomping into his office and demanding to know why he was accusing me, one of the smartest kids in the school, of doing something so heinous. He told her that there were witnesses, including my best friend Amy, who turned me in. The jig was up. I tearfully admitted that Amy was right, and I indeed booed The Lorax.

    We were the smart kids, the good kids. Of course she turned me in. I probably would have turned her in, too.

    I don’t remember my mother’s reaction, but I can’t imagine it was pleasant.

    My punishment for the booing was to not be allowed to go to another assembly for the rest of the school year. I was sentenced to spend every assembly period in the principal’s office with the other booists (all boys, all from the “bad families” in our rural district.) At least the office had air conditioning. Mr. Warner was not able to impose a lifetime ban, and my infraction does not appear on my permanent record. You can even ask my mom – she told me that she did an annual inspection of my record, to make sure it wasn’t there.

    The worst part of that time: Amy and I were in Girl Scouts together, and all of this happened on the day before our troop was to leave on our annual camping trip. We went on the trip, but we didn’t speak to each other at all. I don’t think we were friends for the rest of the year, either. We became friends again afterwards, but never spoke of the incident. I have also only mentioned it to a handful of my closest friends. It’s not something I’m proud of.

    The second worst part: my family WILL NOT LET ME FORGET. I am known as The Booist, and anytime any booing is heard, anywhere, ever, the jokes start anew.

    I have never booed anything since, not even in jest. It pains me too much.

    (For the record, my family was lower middle class, but I was in the upper echelon of my class, academically. My school district was a solidly middle-class, rural district, located in Orange County, NY)

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  33. Steve says:

    Another Philly comment, since it seems like we’re the home of the boo.

    1. Intense rivals are booed on principle, just for existing. Thus Sydney Crosby gets booed from the moment he hits the ice.

    2. Opposing players (especially on intense rivals) who are perceived to take a cheap shot at one of our guys or to milk an injury are booed.

    3. When 1 and 2 converge, you get unfortunate incidents like the Michael Irvin thing.

    4. If you’ve stood up to it over the course of a career and kicked our butts anyway, and we know it’s the last time we’ll see you, you are entitled to a one-time exception cheer. Unless you play for the Cowboys, in which case there is no booing exception.

    5. For home players, you get booed if you give less than your best effort, or if you make the same mistake over and over again. Failing to run out a ground ball is an automatic boo. Shane Victorino popping out to 2nd base with one out and a runner on third is totally boo-worthy – even though we don’t hate him. Some players are immune because they are known to always give their best effort and we know they are more upset at their failure than we are.

    6. Santa and such? If you’re going to put yourself out there, do it right. It was a bad Santa. Earlier this year they brought a robot out to throw the first pitch. It wasn’t even close. Sorry kid, we’re booing your robot. If you are an adult, and you put yourself in a position to be evaluated, then you need to be prepared to accept judgement. Same principle apples to the idiot who reaches in front of a kid to catch a foul ball. Or the ball girl who doesn’t give the foul ball to the kid in the front row.

    7. Any hometown player or ex-player who criticizes the fan base, especially if it’s because they’re thin skinned and complaining about #5, when in fact complaining about being booed is a sure-fire indication that you don’t deserve immunity, no matter how well you play.

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    • Bobby G says:

      I disagree with the principles, but I’ll respect them since they’re yours and I really enjoyed reading your insight. Thanks!

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  34. xq says:

    i’m a Simpsons nerd so i say “boo-urns” a lot.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up4LTKxe0PA

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  35. Butch says:

    I boo at sporting events will the booing mob without worry of shame or judgement. I boo ironically mostly though, as a form of sarcasm. However, just recently I booed from a place of true protest in a very inapropriate setting for booing. A lecture…

    I booed someone lecturing about his work teaching architecture students in a socially minded, real world setting. He was actually given an award for this work, I think even the equivalent of best in show, with many other projects and programs that are also socially minded. The background is that this award is supposed to seek out and award inclusion in the design process, something that is not in the nature of architects and designers at all. This conference was a lot of talk about this inclusionary process, but little evidence to back it up. So my frustration levels were high when this person was at the podium and began to talk about the poor, predominately African American neighborhood the project was in. FYI it was just remodeling a run down house. As he explained all the data collection and mapping the students did, he said that information was only for the designer, because they were the only ones sophisticated enough to understand. At that moment, with little warning a boo slipped out of my mouth, and luckily I was in the back of the audience so only 25% of the audience heard this and promptly turned to look in horror who did this in such a high minded civil setting. Oops. But if I had it to do over again I’d boo again, just louder.

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  36. Jeremy Smith says:

    I boo at the commercials before movies. I boo at the bad guy in midnight screenings of cult classics. I boo at public officials who have recently made particularly odious statements, and at unwelcome election results. I boo when the police shut down a rock show.

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  37. BSK says:

    At a sporting event, I’ll boo what I consider to be a subpar effort. As a former athlete, I understand that physical miscues are going to happen. You’re going to swing and miss… drop a pass… flub a throw. It happens. I won’t boo that. But when it’s obvious that the effort is lack… mental mistakes… obvious lack of hustle, I’ll boo.

    I’ll also boo an egregiously bad call by an official, but that has a certain psychological element to it, since Scorecasting found that crowds can influence officials.

    I’ll boo a comic who I think crosses a line or who is just flat out not funny, the former because it is a way of registering my disapproval and the latter because I hope it provides feedback and/or fodder for them going forward.

    I’ll boo a band that seems to have mailed in a performance (too messed up on stage, no encore for a finishing act, ignoring the crowd energy).

    Basically, if the effort is there, I won’t boo.

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  38. Brian says:

    In my view, booing is one of the great joys of attending a professional sporting event. There is no other place in our society where such a primal act is not only tolerated but encouraged. I reserve my booing for particularly loathsome members of the opposing team (e.g. LeBron James) and for bad calls by the officials. Out of respect for my fellow attendees, I never ever use profanity. My go-to move is an outraged: “Come on!” followed by booing.

    I have no qualms about booing in front of my children. In fact, I allow and encourage them to boo if they think it is appropriate. I believe that professional athletes and professional officials should expect to be booed on the road as part of their job.

    That said, I would never boo at a youth league or high school sporting event and would think poorly of anyone who did engage in this behavior. Similarly, I would never boo a politician or an entertainer. Being booed is not an expected part of their job.

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  39. David says:

    Two stories stand out, both about baseball:

    The first is the story of the Cubs and booing. I’m in my mid-twenties and have been a Cubs fan for my whole life. While everybody knows about the Cubs long run of impotence, but until the past two seasons, the past decade had actually been a pretty successful one for the Cubs. They made the playoffs three times, and almost made the World Series in 2003. What I’ve noticed: the better the team is, the MORE the fans boo. I barely remember any booing prior to their string of playoff appearances in 2003, 2007, and 2008. But during that stretch, the boos rained down at Wrigley like never before. There’s something about booing that has to do with unment high expectations.

    The second story is also about baseball, only about the Nationals and booing. Living in DC, I go to a lot of Nationals games these days. I have only ever heard the home fans boo once, and it was the day during Strasburg-mania when he came down with tightness in his shoulder and was pulled pre-game for Miguel Batista (the infamous Miss Iowa, himself). Most of the time, the crowd is too apathetic to boo. They’ve seen plenty of losses and one more screwed up game isn’t anything new. But when Batista went out there people booed like crazy. Crowds at Nats Park rarely make noise about much, good or bad, but that day they booed and booed. Again, it only happens when people have some sort of expectations.

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  40. Claire says:

    I think I’ve only really booed at hockey games, especially the minor-league games. They’re pretty rowdy compared to the NHL games, where I cheer but almost never boo. Truth told, I don’t even know that much about hockey, (I go because my husband likes it) but it doesn’t feel right to sit there all prunes and prisms like we’re at church.

    My favorite boo-er at those games took it up a notch. He used to sit by the ice and describe to the players all the explicit things he had done to their sisters, and how ugly/hot/slutty the sisters were. Not sure if he was doing it for the benefit of the players or for the amusement of the people in the stands.

    I’m 29 and female and think of myself as lower-middle or working class. :)

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  41. Jeff says:

    My most fond memories is lustily booing during college football and basketball games. There were two categories to which we directed our collective ire: the officials and the other team. I would say it was like 95/5 split. Fro example, when the other team scored, we would attribute the events on the field to the poor execution of the officials instead of our beloved team. I remember booing a rival player as they show-boated after a score. But the majority was to show our disapproval of what we felt was a call made by the officials to deliberately affect the outcome of the contest. Of course, most of us were inebriated which gave us an inflated sense of superiority in explaining to the officials how poor they were at their jobs.

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  42. Patrick McCarthy says:

    I went to the Giants-Bears game last fall and at half-time the Giants inducted several retired players into their ring of honor. Lawrence Taylor – then under indictment on rape charges – was warmly welcomed by the Giants crowd as was every other inductee except one. Tiki Barber got booed as vociferously and unanimously as I’ve ever heard. Again – he was being inducted into the ring of honor for his years of stellar play. His offenses? Cheating on his pregnant wife, and criticizing his former mates and coaches in the course of carrying out his new duties as a TV commentator. We were in very expensive seats, but it sounded like the whole stadium agreed that Tiki was boo-worthy. I did not join in the booing (though I didn’t exactly protest it either), but my very good friend in the seat next to me – who couldn’t be a nicer, more agreeable fellow in normal life – was the loudest and most savage booer in our area of the stadium. You couldn’t take your eyes off Tiki, who smiled gamely throughout.

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  43. doorite says:

    My booing story begins with Tiki Barber”s last season..for me Tiki is a walking dichotomy..as a Giant player he was an absolute warrior .. he worked extremely hard to become one of the top backs in the league ….during his last season he let it be known that he would be retiring at end of the year( a little too self promotional for my liking) when Tiki retired it seemed that Coach Coughlin was one of Tiki’s favorite topics(never anything positive) . It was Coach Coughlin that worked with Tiki on protecting the football (tiki had been fumbling a lot). Tiki’s other favorite target was Eli Manning and Tiki’s belief that this timid soul needed to become a stronger leader. I understand that you need to make a name for yourself when you enter the world of reporting,but I think as a Giant Fan who thinks Coughlin is a very good coach(and he’s OUR coach) and who believes that Eli , though young , will one day be a great Quaterback (year after Tiki retired Giants win the Super Bowl led by ,yes, Eli) I was so mad at Tiki (maybe i am being a bit sensitive ..like a parent protecting his kids) for what i perceived as a lack of loyalty , that i could never look at Tiki the same way again.. My gut reaction when seeing his glib,smug smile on NBC was to curse at the screen.. so when in public I think my booing ( which is like steam thats building inside) is a healthy way for me to do proper venting. Iwant him to know you cant get away with that s*&# and just expect us Giant fans to cheer.. Booing is very healthy..its a release of venom that is building inside and yet the result is a better alternative to cursing and causing collateral damage to the innocent fans(kids..women) nearby..So boo your heart out , you will feel much better and sometimes get you messagE across at the same time

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  44. Simone B says:

    I am a non-traditional booer. My family was always involved in many sports and I had many friends involved in performance arts, so I think I became sensitive to the booers in the crowds. I do now throw an occasional boo at a referee, but it’s pretty half-hearted.

    My experience with the boo has been as an emotional response to replace a swear or to lighten tension when you’re pretty sure you speak for more than yourself in a situation. For example, in a rush and hit a red light? That gets a boo. Everyone in the car with me knows what I’m booing, agrees with the sentiment, but conversation doesn’t stop.

    I’ve used it in meetings where the tension is starting to build in the room and I can tell some people would like to behave somewhat unprofessional. To reduce the tension, and maybe so everyone won’t take themselves so seriously, I will announce a boo to the cancellation of an initiative or to extra work. I think it’s so unexpected that it provides a release, a feeling of empathy and allows a little break in the flow.

    My boos are pretty much never long, loud or drawn out. So in the car it’s just, “oh, boo”. At a meeting, I might say “well I’m calling a boo on that decision” and if I spill coffee down the front of my shirt for example, I’ve been known to exclaim “10,000 boos on that!”.

    I imagine I’m an unusual booer. I use it as a tension release, emotional expression and never to hurt someone else or shut them down. Good question. :)

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  45. Tim says:

    I rarely boo at anything or anyone, however based on principal I boo NHL commisioner Gary Bettman whenever I see him, on TV or in person. Watch footage of any recent stanley cup presentation and you will hear thousands of disgruntled NHL fans booing Mr. Bettman. This is because of his unpopularity due to the way he has run the league over the years.

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  46. Anonymouse says:

    I boo constantly. I boo myself if I misplace my keys or get all the way downstairs and realize I’ve forgotten to bring the trash down with me. I boo my friends if they have to leave the bar early so they can “get up early” the next morning. I boo the grocery store not having an item I want or need. I boo people in traffic who cut me off. I boo my DVR when it doesn’t record that final 20 seconds of a sitcom. I booed someone wearing the campaign shirt of an opposing political camp out as we crossed paths on a run at Town Lake in Austin, near the end of the campaign.

    I never, never, never boo my own team, though, at football/basketball/etc. games. I rarely boo the opposing team. I save that for refs.

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  47. Chris says:

    Consider the Bluecoats drum & bugle corps from (I think) Canton, OH. When entering the field for competition, it is tradition for the audience to “blue” them, although to the uninitiated and unprepared it sounds like “boo.”

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  48. Xavier says:

    Heres something different,

    I boo because my “athletes” want me to boo them. Yes I am a fan of pro wrestling. In pro wrestling you have your heroes (Faces) and villains (Heels) and the faces work off of crowd “pop” (clapping and cheering) while the heels thrive from the “heat” of the crowd (boos, obscene comments, thrown objects, etc)

    A heel knows he/she is doing their job by gauging the boos. If I like that particular heel character, I throw them some heat and proudly boo as loud as possible. If I don’t like that character, I usually stay silent. A silent crowd is a dead crowd and the promoter should get a clue that something is wrong with one of those workers and book them differently.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_(professional_wrestling)

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  49. Rachel says:

    The booing I don’t understand at all but see quite often is booing your home team when they make a mistake. I think it’s completely rude and ruins team spirit. Recently I was at an Indianapolis Indians game, our home town minor league baseball team. The wasn’t much action in the first 8 innings therefor not much booing, but in the bottom of the ninth as we were down, one of our players struck out. Two rowdy fans started booing and yelling at him. I felt so bad for the guy I instinctively yelled “that’s okay you’ll get ‘em next time”. Just like I used to yell for my own teammates in high school. I did this completely without thinking, but everyone started laughing because encouraging our home team when they are down is apparently they weird thing versus booing them.

    One thing I thought was really cool about my high school sports teams was that the fans wouldn’t boo the visiting team when they were introduced. They would bring newspapers and turn their backs to the floor and pretend to read the paper instead. I guess this could be considered worse but it was funny.

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  50. jcwez says:

    A running joke in my family is how, in baseball, attempted pick-off plays almost routinely get booed loudly. Why? No show of disrepect, almost the opposite. Minor hold-up to the game, unlike walks to the mound or pitching changes. I’ll bet you never even noticed it. My sons and I always chuckle when it happens.

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  51. SJMP says:

    You want a good insightful 4second boo clip. Watch John Malkovich – “In the Line of Fire” – during one of the presidential speeches, he is watching though binoculars – its great.

    His “boo” actually got me thinking the same thing. His boo was to remain indubious, it was great.

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  52. bstew says:

    My boos are arbitrary. It’s simply an inarticulate form of disapproval. I will boo at the television when necessary ie Republican debates, Sarah Palin appearances, and any unsatifactory shenanigans. However, in most circumstances I boo as lighthearted way of displaying my unhappiness.

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  53. Formiga says:

    I go to a lot of performances, and very few sports events. I associate booing with vaudville-type performances (often aimed at my kids), where the performers coach the audience to boo and hiss at the villain in a melodrama, and cheer for the hero. The crowd usually gets into it, and enjoys getting to participate loudly in the show.

    I can think of times when my dad (raised rural and poor/working-class) has booed to show his disapproval in a crowd — times when someone has made an announcement that an event is starting very late, or the crowd otherwise feels abused (kept waiting, or in the hot sun, or without directions). He definitely thinks of it as a way to let the “official” person in the situation know that the crowd has a justifiable complaint. We’re usually in middle-class crowds, and so nobody joins him, and my mom looks embarrassed and shushes him. I have learned to feel free to voice my disapproval, though I usually yell words; my reflex is not to boo. And even when I’m not precisely booing, I can tell that those around me, even though they are grumbling profusely, consider it in bad taste to yell at the speaker, even using inoffensive language.

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  54. Jardee says:

    Yes, I boo at sporting events, especially at live soccer games. I will boo the referee if I feel that he has made a particularly bad call and I will boo if the players exhibit particularly bad behavior. On the flip side I will also jump up and down and scream if they perform well, like scoring a goal. I like that at sporting events this seems perfectly acceptable to the other fans, and I’m never the only person booing or cheering.

    A few years back, there was a player for the Miami Fusion soccer team that was particularly reviled by my fellow San Jose Earthquakes fans. After a particularly bad tackle on one of our beloved players, we soundly and actively booed him. Then we booed again each time he touched the ball for the rest of the game. Even the TV commentators noticed. And the next time his team came to play, we did it again, each time he touched the ball. It got to the point that he would play it up to the crowd and bow if we were especially loud. It felt like we were in a secret “fan” club when we would all boo in unison and new fans didn’t understand why.

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  55. Renee says:

    Whenever I see Michael Vick playing, I always boo…even though I’m sitting in my living room and only my roommate and dog can hear me.

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  56. Allan Mathis says:

    My boos aren’t out of a need for personal catharsis. Instead, my boos are a vocal form of voting. If I’m attending a football game and the team I’m rooting for runs the ball on 3rd and 15, I will boo to, in a small way, hopefully make the coach think twice about doing that again. If I’m attending a basketball game and a questionable call goes against my team, I’ll boo to make the referee consider favoring my side if a similar call is to be made later. I understand that only me booing does nothing but annoy those around me. But like voting, if turnout is high enough, booing can potentially influence people’s behavior in a favorable way.

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  57. Bob says:

    I do boo sometimes, but generally it is for my own amusement.

    I do NOT boo for poor performance unless the target is clearly loafing. Everybody makes mistakes and people have bad days, weeks and even lives. So I see no point in booing unless the person knowingly fails in which case they deserve my disdain.

    The other exception is a kind of harassment, whether it be of an opponent or an official. But I am typically laughing even as I do it. It is not mean spirited or hostile – - it is just for fun, especially with officials because even if they blow a call, invariably it is an honest mistake.

    FWIW, I find a lot of booing to be offensive and disrespectful, especially when it targets somebody who is making an honest effort. If there was justice in the world, those people would be followed around in their life and be subject to catcalls themselves. It only seems fair.

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  58. Andy Rupert says:

    In my opinion booing has always been a reaction by the fans as what they interpret as a lack of class/duty. I say this because fans boo referees/umpires that they believe are not making the correct call in their opinion, as if by being in a ballpark they should be making calls that lead to the entertainment of the fans. Fans boo because of a cheap shot or something they say is “bush league”. Some teams or programs they see as classless because they don’t want to believe that that organization got there honestly through hard work. In some cases they are right, but most cases wrong. Fans like to boo those that are more successful, because of the heavy lies the crown theory. It is the reason why you see an athlete getting a DUI story on the front page and another athlete doing charity work on page 7. People like to root for the underdog and see the mighty fall. Success comes with a lot of enemies, enemies that boo.

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  59. Kevin says:

    I’d tell you to leave this one to the sociolinguists and conversation analysts, but I know that that’s not what freakonomics is all about.

    I’m a Cubs fan and a PhD student in Linguistics. I try to catch at least one Cubs game from the bleachers at Wrigley field a year. It’s at least arguable that the Wrigley bleachers are the very center of the booing and heckling universe. While there are ample stories of “Bleacher Bums” giving hell to the opposing team’s players, those outside of Wrigley culture are probably somewhat less likely to be aware that Cubs fans (particularly the Bleacher Bums) regularly boo their own players. Perhaps this is to be expected, though. After all, the last time the Cubs won a championship was way back in 1908.

    Anyway, back to the culture of booing at Wrigley field. If you look at the current Cubs outfield, there are two outfielders, in particular, that stand in stark opposition to one another. One is Kosuke Fukudome, a player who seldom (if ever) gets booed. The other is Alfonso Soriano, a player who gets booed all the time. In fact, his getting booed was even something of an issue recently. The sports media wrote several articles about it.

    Currently, Fukudome is batting around .272. Soriano is batting .265. Soriano has more runs batted in and home runs by Fukudome by quite a bit, so offensive production likely isn’t a factor in his getting booed more often. Fukudome’s defense is better than Soriano’s, but Soriano doesn’t lead the team in errors by a long shot. Starlin Castro, the team’s young shortstop has committed 16 errors so far this season to Soriano’s 5, yet Soriano far surpasses Castro in how often he gets booed. Ultimately then, I don’t think it’s his defense either.

    What I think drives how frequently Soriano gets booed is his contract. Soriano is currently under contract through 2014, making a whopping 17 million a year. Fukudome is making less at 12 million a year. Castro is making a comparative pittance: 440K per year.

    Anyway, what I’m getting at is that players are more likely to be booed if their performance doesn’t match to what they’re receiving in terms of pay. Ask any baseball fan and they’ll tell you Soriano’s contract is one of the worst in baseball. Castro, on the other hand, will be the Cubs lone representative at the all-star game this year. A dollar spent on Castro is worth a ton more than a dollar spent on Soriano and Cubs fans know it. We might not know when to stop rooting for a horribly mismanaged, losing franchise, but at least we seem to have a basic grasp of player value.

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  60. BrianM says:

    The only time I seriously booed was at Piston’s game and Cleveland was in town with LeBron. I could really careless about booing the guy but I wanted to live it up in the atmosphere so I joined in during some of the boo sessions. It was fun but not mean spirited in my opinion. I’m sure some other fans were livid with anger though.

    Our seats were 17 rows up so not bad and I’m teacher for a living. I can’t set a bad example now can I?

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  61. Ray says:

    I am the silent type, if a performance is bad enough to warrant booing, I get up and leave.

    I have witnessed a couple of booing incidents I found odd :

    1) 10 years or so ago, I saw the band Bauhaus in Chicago and Billy Corgan came on stage to sing – half of the crowd started booing him, before he even started. Apparently, the goth crowd isn’t big on the Smashing Pumpkins.

    2) Some Indian friends to me to a concert of the famous Indian singer SPB. This was actually both extremes:

    - the adulation that was bestowed upon SPB, many people who came on stage would bend over and kiss his feet or at least appear to
    - when the “corporate” sponsor of the show came out to do a short commercial about what they were selling, (lots in India gated communities, IIRC), the crowd started booing. They quieted down when SPB signaled to them to let the man speak.

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  62. Greg says:

    There’s a story about baseball manager Earl Weaver that goes like this: The Orioles are playing in Toronto and something has happened to upset the normally quiet, mild-mannered fans. They boo and get on Weaver’s case as he walks back to the dugout. Weaver yells at them to “shut the #@!% up” and they actually do! Weaver was stunned and said later that if he tried that in Philadelphia he would’ve been killed.

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  63. Maidomax says:

    The title says “Bleg” instead of “Blog”. That’s not enough to make me “Boo”, but you’re getting closer :)

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  64. Diane says:

    The only sporting events I attend are youth/high school/college baseball and softball games because my kids play. I have learned not to boo!!! I used to boo when the umpires made a bad call. Then I got older and more experienced and realized that the umpires would start making more bad call against your team if your team started booing. An occasional boo now and then for an obviously bad call is OK, but……now if I hear parents starting to boo incessantly I sssssssssshhhhhhhhh them, because I know the umpires will get us back. I have often thought that a funny strategy would be to sit on the opposing team’s side and boo the umpire. He would think the booing was coming from their side and start calling the game against them. I wish I had the guts to try it. Maybe when my kids aren’t playing anymore I’ll do a freakanomics study about baseball/softball umpires. How many games will I have to boo at to do a thorough study to prove that umpires will start calling the game against you if you boo too much?

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  65. Johnnyriggers says:

    Booing in UK Association Football matches (that’s soccer to you) is traditional part of the ‘crowd behaviour’ in our culture.

    Booing occurs only when when a team (or individual) is not perceived to be trying hard enough. It happens more when a team is losing but can also happen even if a team is winning, but not trying. It also happend when the manager (coach) is perceived to have the tactics wrong, with crowd chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” to the tune of a playground insult learnt by all young children from about the age of six plus (which also involves putting one’s thumb on the end of your nose and waggling one’s fingers for dramatic effect).

    The booing at my team’s matches last year increased in intensity as the season progressed, and they not only didn’t try hard enough, but they: lost, played poorly and were tactically inept.

    It often gets to a point though where you get open debates in local newspapers and fan sites about who’s booing and whether the booing in itself is affecting the team’s confidence and results. It never stops it because most people think that they have a right to boo because they’ve paid to watch.

    It’s parallel in UK history would be the Shakespearean theatre experience where people booed and threw rotten veg and eggs at the players (actors). Booing seldom happens in theatres nowadays, because the theatres are patronised by the more educated in our society who feel booing is for the lower classes and something one simply does not do at the theatre. Some of these people (myself included) are more than happy to boo at a football match though as it’s a more feral environment.

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  66. mike says:

    I will occasionally boo at sport’s officials if they have blatantly gotten the call wrong though normally not in any other occasion unless it is in jest. I did attend President Obama’s inauguration and I was up toward the front of the mall when the big screen TVs flashed pictures of ex-Vice President Cheney and ex-President Bush flying off in a helicopter. The crowd started to boo at them and I was appalled by it. I am no fan of theirs but to me there is a level of respect for the office holders of the Country. I was embarrassed at that momentum to be surrounded by that crowd. It was not everyone but it was loud enough to pulse through the crowd.

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  67. Karina says:

    I booed once and will never do it again. Picture this. Invited guest, court side seat and basketball final. Partook in too much liquid hospitality as watched the sponsor’s team lost. Went to dressing room after-match rev talk. When coach walked in to the room, I assumed everyone would boo so I let out a very very loud boo. I was the only one who did so. Coach was so mortified he started to tear up and spent the next ten minutes apologizing to all in the room, the players, the sponsors, their families for his dismal coaching efforts. Meanwhile I just stood there head down looking in to my empty wine glass. (Melbuorne, Australia).

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  68. pudge says:

    Booing is nothing more than feedback. If there’s something you approve of that happens in a game, you cheer. If something you disapprove of, you boo. If you’re silent, you don’t care. The fans that boo their own team the loudest — so long as they also cheer when it’s appropriate — are the fans that care the most (cf. Boston and Philly).

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  69. chirstmaswierdo says:

    I am the student council president at my school. I am also the most popular guy there. One day, during a pep rally, the speakers could not pick up the sound and so all the performances went down the drain. As they checked what was the problem, I tried to lead the crowd in the Cupid shuffle, they “booed”. When I tried to sing, “they booed”. Finally, I announced that we could not save the audio and we had to cancel the pep rally and I got a boo for that, too! Everyone said that they did not “boo” at me, they “booed” at the fact they were sent back to class but it still hurt my feelings.
    The rest of my Student Council officers were crying and everybody thought it was the worst pep rally ever! Everybody seemed to feel sorry for me. I don’t really care that the sound did not work. I’m just upset at the fact that everybody feels sorry for me. I used to get people’s envy and now i just get their sympathy!
    Later that day, I went around the entire school and said “Merry Christmas!” to every individual and everybody replied back to me, warmly. Individually, people are nice but in a large group, things can get pretty ugly!
    A lot of people respect me now because they saw I had the courage to continue the show despite their negativity. Its a strange feeling but I’m glad I had the oppurtunity to feel it!
    A

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