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