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D.C. Home Crowd Booing: A History

This extremely misleading photo is of a Maryland fan booing the opposition. (By John McDonnell - TWP)

After a week of Greivis Vasquez saying unhappy Terps fans should shut the [expletive] up, and Karl Hobbs saying he doesn't pay attention to what fans say, I wanted to read some more highlights from D.C.'s recent history of the athletes vs. the fans vs. the athletes. (Sadly, Gary Williams says Greivis vs. the Fans is now over, and that while "there was some really bad things said besides the booing from the still can't respond, and Greivis understands that, and I think you will not see that again." Boooo.)

Regardless, the history of the athletes vs. the fans vs. the athletes in D.C. seems like a pretty rich vein. I've only been here for a decade, so let me know what I'm missing.

(By Joel Richardson - TWP)

* Most notably, in my memory, was the Juwan Howard experience, when the Bullets/Wizards forward was heckled every time he did anything, including breathe. Here's a Steve Wyche story from November, 2000.

Washington Wizards forward Juwan Howard will never get used to the booing. It starts when he is introduced at MCI Center and increases with every missed shot or turnover. In fact, there have been times this season when Howard has been booed every time he touched the ball. To him, it's a home-court disadvantage.

"Personally I don't like it," Howard said. "It gets to be annoying. I just have to find a way to block that out of my mind and play through it. No player would enjoy getting a reaction like that."

Howard also was disappointed when, during a Nov. 16 game against San Antonio at MCI Center, the fans booed Washington Redskins cornerback Deion Sanders.

"He's a guy who plays for your home team, the Washington Redskins, and he sits down to watch a sporting event with his wife and his kid and you give him that type of welcome, greeting him with boos," Howard said. "This guy hasn't done anything wrong but play hard."

* The Wiz have also been booed at home this year, and I'm guessing it might happen again. They've yet to lash out at the fans, though. Here's what Antawn Jamison said in December:

"It's embarrassing when you get booed at home in front of your crowd, and that's something we don't want to ever happen again."

* Redskins from Matt Turk to Durant Brooks to Mark Brunell have been booed by the FedEx crowd this decade, but the Marty booing in October 2001 seemed particularly well-intentioned. From Liz Clarke's story:

The team that once owned the hearts of Washingtonians was booed off the field as the Redskins lost, 45-13, to the Kansas City Chiefs, with a half-hearted effort that sent many in the crowd of 76,573 to the exits before the end of the third quarter. Fans showed their disgust well before that, jeering Schottenheimer's image, which was projected on the stadium's giant scoreboard, as the coach solicited money at halftime to help victims of the attack on the Pentagon.

(By Jonathan Newton - TWP)

* Dozens of WaPo stories have discussed the home crowd booing the Caps, but almost always it has been focused on the team rather than specific players. From a Tom Boswell column in May of 1998:

As the Capitals skated off the MCI Center ice last night after being drubbed, 4-0, by the Boston Bruins, the unfaithful in attendance booed the hometown club, even though they still lead this first-round series, 3-2. That's a tough crowd.

History weighs heavily on the Caps and their fans. They're quick -- probably too quick -- to think the worst of each other in these postseason situations that have turned so ugly for them so often. The Caps admit they'll actually be happy to hit the road to play Game 6 and escape the home "advantage" they supposedly fought for all season.

"Maybe we can play with a lot less pressure on the road. We won't have that fan pressure behind us," said Washington goalie Olie Kolzig. "If we put too much pressure on ourselves, we're not going to do well. Maybe home-ice nowadays is overrated."

* D.C. United has been booed here and there over the years, especially after the Raul Diaz Arce departure. Steve Goff reported:

Just before the end of the first half last night, thousands of spectators sitting behind the north goal at RFK Stadium sprung from their seats and roared their approval as the ball zipped into the net in front of them. But this was no celebration for D.C. United.

The goal was scored by Los Angeles defender Ezra Hendrickson and the people celebrating were the thousands with Salvadoran roots who still have not forgiven United for twice trading their former countryman, Raul Diaz Arce....

"I hope next time they will support us," [Abdul Thompson] Conteh said. "They booed me out of the stadium."

* Abe Pollin has apparently been booed here and there over the years, including when he retired Wes Unseld's jersey. From Dave Kindred:

I was stunned Tuesday when the crowd booed you. It had to hurt to be booed by your paying customers in your own building while you did a classy thing for Wes. You must wonder what happened.

I think they booed because they don't understand what you're doing with the Bullets. They don't understand because you have given them no explanation. You have adopted the worst possible public relations strategy. You're not talking to customers anymore. Sports owners talk to customers through the media. You have refused all interview requests for six months.

* As for the Brunell booing, he wasn't too fond of it. From Mike Wise:

"The boos, that was the hardest thing," Brunell said. "You know, my kids were up in the stands, hearing all that." Two of his four children were old enough to grasp the venom. "They understood what was happening with their dad."

At least they were spared cruelty in the classroom.

"We home-school them," Brunell said. "It's a good thing, too. Can you imagine the abuse they'd take?"

* Virginia Tech Sean Glennon had much experience dealing with home boos, and discussed the issue with The Post's Steve Yanda, saying the booing "doesn't bother me."

"They're going to do what they're going to do," Glennon said. "I threw a touchdown three plays after they booed me so hopefully that shut 'em up a little bit. But, you know, it's not the whole crowd and I realize that. A lot of people try to say 'the Hokie fans.' It's a group of Hokie fans that are anti-Sean Glennon. I'm going to keep playing football whether they're booing or cheering."

* Third-base coach Tim Tolman also discussed his booing with The Post, in this case after not sending a runner who would have been safe.

"You're infuriated with yourself, because it's an easy play for the fans to see how it transpired and that it was the wrong decision," he told Barry Svrluga. "It's right there in front of God and everybody. You don't really even want to explain it to them, because it was the wrong play. You wish it was like in Japan, where you could go and apologize for making the wrong call. It's fine that they boo something like that. You just get infuriated at yourself."

(By Joel Richardson - TWP)

* Tom Boswell wrote the definitive piece on Heath Shuler booing back in 1995, comparing him to quarterbacks past.

Heath Shuler joined a long and distinguished tradition of Redskins quarterbacks yesterday. RFK Stadium shook from the volume of the boos at the very sight of No. 5 coming onto the field. Like Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann and Mark Rypien before him, Shuler heard the crowd chanting for some body else to play quarterback -- anybody, actually, but this $19 million person named Shuler.

"We want Gus," bellowed the crowd in the fourth quarter after Shuler replaced Gus Frerotte with the Redskins trailing by a touchdown. Frerotte had thrown two interceptions in 34 passes. Shuler promptly threw two interceptions in his first three passes -- both picks coming on ugly balls thrown directly at defenders. Before this 27-20 defeat to Seattle was done, the boos had become genuinely memorable, even by RFK's tough-love standards.

Afterward, Shuler seemed hurt, but composed and quite mature. "It's tough. The fans pay {for} their ticket. They can do whatever they want," said Shuler, who completed eight short passes against a prevent defense for a late window-dressing score. "But from a team point of view, we'd like to have more support. . . . You say, Oh, block it out.' But let's get realistic. You really can't. . . . I've been a fan of the Redskins all my life. Being from North Carolina, that was the team to root for. It's tough to listen to them boo you when you've always rooted for them. . . .

"Of course, they're being unfair. But everybody likes an underdog. Gus has played well. And I'm not going to take that away from him....If they are being unfair to anybody, they are being unfair to our team."

* Sonny Jurgensen has frequently talked about the booing he received, including in a 2005 Mike Wise column:

Jurgensen was once booed heartily as he walked onto Franklin Field for the Philadelphia Eagles in a game against Dallas. "It was so bad my teammates were booing me when I came into the huddle," he said. "I threw two interceptions on my first two attempts. It got so ugly, people were coming out of the stands, fighting with the trainer. Before it was over, I threw five touchdowns. I think they cheered moderately."

* Apparently the Redskins were also frequently booed at home in 1978, when I was 2 years old and the over-the-hill gang was way-over-the-hill. Leonard Shapiro talked to Brig Owens, who wondered "why everybody keeps tearing these guys apart?"

"Look, they've got new players, they've had key injuries and they still have a great shot at the playoffs," Owens said. "Instead of giving them support, people jump all over 'em. Oakland's 8-6, Denver is struggling, a lot of teams are in the same boat.I just don't think it's fair.To come into RFK Stadium, your home field, and to be booed like they were last week is ridiculous. Teams used to hate to come to RFK. And when we were on the road, that was our tactic -- get the home crowd booing their own team. George [Allen] always talked about that."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 13, 2009; 1:59 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Nats , Redskins , Terps , Wizards  
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Boooooo vinny

Posted by: jonthefisherman | January 13, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Juwan deserved every boo he got times 100. When you demand and receive an astronomical contract -- still one of the worst contracts in NBA history -- and then perform with consistent mediocrity, never working to improve your game, you deserve serious criticism. Some of these guys want the big checks, but don't want the responsibility that comes with them.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | January 13, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse


United fans don't turn on the players often, but when they do, it can be hideous. Chris Albright got booed on, off, and all over the field when he became a symbol of United's late Rongen-era plight. Rongen himself had a plane hired to circle RFK with a message saying that he should be canned. But I am not sure any United player will ever face the barrage of home like Albright did.

Posted by: aaronstol1 | January 13, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

1. Very surprised the Nationals didn't make this review of home town booing.

2. I think next to New York, Washington might be the most fickle city when it comes to booing its own teams regularly.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | January 13, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Maryland booing, Maryland had a 7 foot guy, Mike Mardesich, back in the late '90's who was terrible. His choices were some Ivy League school (Harvard or Princeton I think) and Maryland. I bet that guy missed more dunks than he had points in his entire career. And by the time he was a junior, the students were really tough on him. It wasn't so much booing all the time, but everytime he'd come in the sound of 4,000 student's hands slapping their foreheads in disgust. It got to be so bad that I think Gary Williams ended up addressing it in one of his postgame interviews and asking the students not to be so hard on the guy.

Posted by: grimesman | January 13, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Philly and New York boo their teams all the time. Philly fans booed McNabb at the NFL draft for Chrissake (and still boo him). They wanted Ricky Williams instead, those blockheads.

If anything, DC is on the tamer side of fan booing, in my opinion.

Posted by: ThisGuy | January 13, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

A history of DC home crowd booing without a Larry Murphy reference?

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 13, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I'd argue that the DC United example would be like citing the Steelers fans at Fedex as an example of home fans booing. The people that turned up to boo United for trading Diaz Arce were fans of the player alone, and never had any real allegiance to the club. They were also there to cheer for LA's Mauricio Cienfuegos, another beloved Salvadoran star.

aaronstol1 cites the 2 best examples of actual United fans turning on the team or a player. Rongen's teams had a habit of playing competently for long stretches, dominating possession, only to give up goals that would be unforgivable in your local pickup game. Even amongst bad, infuriating teams, they were particularly adept at making one angry. I don't know how many times I found myself half an hour in thinking "You know, we're not playing too badly today, no stupid mistakes...maybe we'll actually win!" only to be crushed soon thereafter.

Albright, meanwhile, never came across as likable (despite being close with Ben Olsen, whose approval rating is higher amongst United fans than babies, puppies, and ice cream). He basically told MLS that he was only interested in playing in DC, and he also had dubious hair (don't underestimate how big a factor that was). He then made it much worse by routinely getting into promising positions only to miss in an embarrassing fashion. I also recall him scoring a goal against the Miami Fusion, in a game DC was losing and being badly outplayed, and celebrating as if he'd scored the winner. By all accounts, he was a classless idiot who was also a bad soccer player.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | January 13, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

My favorite example of hometown booing was in the 2004 BB&T Classic. GW had just upset Maryland to win the tournament title. When it came time for the trophy presentation, this was what was heard in the Verizon Center:

Announcer: "And now, here to present the Colonials with the championship trophy, BB&T Classic Board member and columnist, Robert Novak."

Every Person in Attendance: "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Posted by: MaxWass | January 13, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Juwan didn't demand anything. It was his market value at the time. Contracts are about players percieved potential. Miami was prepared to give him a similar huge contract as were other teams. He didn't put a gun to Pollins head and force him to give him the contract. He worked hard, he just wasnt an alpha dog talent but at the time of the signing everyone thought he could be. He worked hard and it certainly appeared he was maxing out on his talent, its just unfortunate that his talent was not that of a superstar.

Posted by: jcalar | January 13, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I've been waiting for someone to bring up this issue. Out of all these teams mentioned, how many championships have been won this decade? DC United won the MLS Cup in 2004 and the Terps won the NCCA tournament in 2002. Out of those, there’s only 1 the DC Home Crowd can brag about. This isn't a great sports town, opps did I say that out loud... Look the fans are idiots for continuing to go to these games and boo the home team. If they suck so much, why do you continue to go to the games? Why do you continue to renew your season tickets?

Out of the 4 major sports, the Caps are the only serious contenders for a championship. Hey I don't blame the fans for booing a lousy product, but if you know these organizations don't have a clue on how to build a winning franchise then stop financially supporting these teams. That's the bottom line.

I would love to see in my lifetime the Wiz, Redskins, Caps and Nationals all be serious title contenders in the same year. Only then will the booing of the DC home teams stop. Keep up the good work Dan.

Posted by: wizfan81 | January 13, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Does booing George W. Bush at Opening Day 2005 and 2008 count?

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 13, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Chest Rockwell,

What you described in your second paragraph:

"Rongen's teams had a habit of playing competently for long stretches, dominating possession, only to give up goals that would be unforgivable in your local pickup game. Even amongst bad, infuriating teams, they were particularly adept at making one angry. I don't know how many times I found myself half an hour in thinking "You know, we're not playing too badly today, no stupid mistakes...maybe we'll actually win!" only to be crushed soon thereafter."

I'm reminded of something. Not sure what though.

Posted by: B_A_ | January 13, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

A jeep?

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | January 14, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

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