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. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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