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. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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!

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