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Banning Boobirds

What a wonderful lesson young folks learn these days: If you don't like something, ban it. Words, ideas, sentiments, emotions--they're all just pesky little problems that can be made to go away simply by deciding that they're not allowed anymore.

We have now seen the sad attempt in New York to eradicate the "n-word" by passing a resolution against it in the city council (non-binding, but still.) If you want to see what creating legal taboos does for a society, take a look at Germany, where rebellious kids relish displaying banned Nazi symbols, made far more enticing because they are illegal. And now, in Washington state, there's a move to ban booing at all high school sports events.

"I don't know why people think it's acceptable to boo in the first place," the executive director of Washington's Interscholastic Activities Association, Mike Colbrese, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "It's a pretty novel concept to me."

Impolite, certainly. Ugly, perhaps. But "novel?" What planet does this gent hail from? Booing is every bit as much a part of being a sports fan as memorizing stats and obsessing over people you will never meet. Sure, booing is more appropriate in the pro game, where the players are paid to provide entertainment, and the fans are encouraged to root both for and against the folks on the field.

But colleges are heavy into the theater of fan participation too, as a Wall Street Journal story reported over the weekend. The story detailed how colleges move the rowdiest of fans into prime seats to create a decided disadvantage for visiting teams. There's even an architecture firm that specializes in the art of maximizing crowd noise (some of you suspect that this is the firm that's been hired to design some local restaurants, too.)

At the other end of the spectrum, however, it's clear that fan excesses are a real problem in youth sports, where too many parents and coaches become way too abusive, spoiling the game for the kids and teaching awful lessons about proper behavior.

So high schools are perhaps some sort of middle ground. The wild overemphasis on athletics at some schools encourages the same kind of aggressive fan behavior that's perfectly routine at the college and pro levels. Yet these are generally just kids playing the game, not pre-professionals learning how to gird themselves against the fan abuse they will accept in later years in exchange for megabucks.

What's the right way to handle extreme fan behavior, then? Surely some fan excesses are totally unacceptable at high school games--throwing stuff on the court, foul language, fighting. But what's wrong with booing, or clever chants aimed at the other team, or the petty little distraction routines that fans use to try to steal a player's attention away from his moment on the charity stripe. Booing and jeering are hardly expressions of some contemporary decline in manners; they have been with us since the Roman circuses and they are an honorable part of the spectator's role in any public exhibition of sporting rivalry.

Let 'em boo.

By Marc Fisher |  March 7, 2007; 7:37 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Sieg heil, comrade. This country is turning itself into a police state while waving flags under the guise of freedom. I was at a Nats game last year when a woman told a cheering fan to sit down, screaming at him like he had just killed her child or something. He wasn't doing anything but cheering.

Posted by: Capt America | March 7, 2007 9:44 AM

This is true, I have attended Redskin, Wizards and Caps games and caught up in the excitement of the game, I stood up and yelled to support my team. I was threatened, call the N-Word, and continuously chastised,however the cowards never let me see who called me names, or none of them approached me, so I considered them weak little wimps who grew up with trying to hurt each other with words.

It just seemed people wanted to sit as if they were at home looking at tv enjoying a movie or something...hello it's sports people!

Well, for safety reasons, I've cancelled my Redskins, Wizards season tickets, before someone gets hurt.

I'll enjoy screaming and yelling for my teams at home.


Posted by: Boo-man | March 7, 2007 10:01 AM

Pretty soon farting will be banned! Someone will say it's rude and it pollutes the environment.

Posted by: Brian Ford | March 7, 2007 10:06 AM

Farting contributes to global warming. Beano for all!!

Posted by: Putt | March 7, 2007 10:52 AM

Theyre not saying Boooo! Theyre saying Mooooovers!

Booing hurts the kids self-esteem after spending 15 years building it up you dont want it torn down just because they, like you know, have no talent, aptitude or ability.

Posted by: Stick | March 7, 2007 10:59 AM

While I don't condone the harsh response you got, how tall are you, Boo-man? Maybe they just wanted to see.

Posted by: short people | March 7, 2007 11:41 AM

It is a strange trend in today's society--an endless parade of new "epidemics," brought to the public's attention by a credulous, shallow media eager to promote the findings of activist groups armed with studies. The groups' recommendations for "fighting" the societal ill du jour boil down to, inevitably, more and more government regulation of private life and restrictions on personal behavior.

While the government deals courageously with the mortal threat of trans fats, the nation hurtles towards insolvency, our public schools and roads continue to crumble, and global threats such as nuclear proliferation, overpopulation, environmental devastation, terrorism, etc., continue unabated.

I guess it's human nature to sweat about the little stuff when it's inconvenient / impolitic / too hard / too scary to deal with what really matters. It's also a sign of a sick society.

Posted by: Claudius | March 7, 2007 11:45 AM

That's a personal question, how short are you.

You missed the point, I wasn't saying I was standing all the time, I said I stood up when things got exciting and stood up to yell in support, just as many others did, once the game went into regular play mode I sat, just as everyone else did, but the whiners kept insisting on calling out names.

The point isn't if you're short or tall, its the insults that are unecessary.

Again, it's not an Opera, its a sports event.

Posted by: Boo-man | March 7, 2007 11:45 AM

To Claudius, you are so right.

America is definitely going backward, it's so sad to see all this great intelligence going to waste.

Posted by: Boo-man | March 7, 2007 11:49 AM

short people, what does Boo-man's height have to do with people calling him a "n"? I don't care if someone is eight foot tall - no one needs to call anyone a "n".
At any sports event, when the plays become heated, you have to expect fans to stand up once in a while.

Posted by: Whitey | March 7, 2007 12:18 PM

What are the odds that Philly ever passes a boo ban???

Posted by: Boooo | March 7, 2007 12:45 PM

To all those whining about the government taking away your right to boo, I say boo-hoo!

(And booing that joke will really, really hurt my feelings.)

Posted by: Boo-B | March 7, 2007 12:53 PM

Once again we drift farther to the left in this country. Can't hurt the little ones feelings so we won't give out grades A-F anymore. Don't want the tiny tykes to get a complex so let's ban any discouraging sounds from the fans at sporting events.

Let me clue some of you folks in: College sports and amateur sports are not related in any way, shape or form. Colleges bring in millions every year from their athletic teams. High School students are being scouted by colleges as young as their freshman year, maybe even in middle school if the athlete is skilled enough. Sure, the colleges are not allowed to have direct contact with High School students but 'cmon, how naive can you get. They always find a way around the rules.

Methinks Mr. Colbrese had to console his little tyke after a game 'cause the fans informed him/her as to their true athletic ability. Hey Mr. Colbrese: have the little one concentrate on an academic scholarship if the sports thing isn't working out.
Don't institute another knee-jerk reaction that oppresses free speech. (It's in the U.S. Constitution - as a professional educator you might want to read it).

FYI: Washington state has a Democratic Governor, Senate, & House of Rep.'s so this is one time the Republican's don't deserve the blame.

Posted by: SoMD | March 7, 2007 12:59 PM

What next? Golf clapping at a Skins game?

Posted by: Shhhhhh | March 7, 2007 1:02 PM

Whitney, I said I didn't think the name-calling was appropriate. And yeah, people are going to stand up every now and then - but if they *stay* up while you're trying to enjoy the game, too...well, tempers might flare a bit.

Posted by: short people | March 7, 2007 1:28 PM

I wonder what would happen if a chorus of booing broke out? Would they stop the game until the booing stopped? Or do they usher everybody out the stands until the staduim is empty? Will they encourage those that are outraged by booing to turn those that decided to boo in the booing police? Security people in the stands to drag the boo birds out one by one? Seems like this rule would be so difficult to actually apply thereby rending the rule pointless.

Do people really boo at HS sports? I don't remember that every happening. Smart alecky chants at b-ball games but outright booing? Maybe things are different in Seattle, I never witnessed that kind of behavior in MoCo.

I'm glad all the other pressing issues around student athletes resolved so they can finally root out those boo birds

Posted by: Juan | March 7, 2007 2:02 PM

I recall an incident a number of years ago in which a college president thretened to revoke the charter of a fraternity whose members rountinley expressed their displeasure with calls of basketball referees by chanting B---S---! B---S---!

Thre fraternity got the message and lampooned the threat of the college president in the very next game by chanting "We beg to differ!"

It was hilarious.

Posted by: Mister Methane | March 7, 2007 2:08 PM

Booing is educational.

How else can our young people learn the fine art of traditional American profanity?

Booing prepares the so-called student athletes at our colleges for the future, when a few of them will be itinerant millionaires in the pro leagues and most of them will be pumping gas. Man, can you believe those prices?

Posted by: Mike | March 7, 2007 2:15 PM

How about just banning Robin Ficker? :-)

Posted by: Gary | March 7, 2007 2:37 PM

Marc, do you remember how gadfly Robin Ficker had seats right behind the visitor's bench for NBA games at Cap Centre? He would razz the opposing players non-stop, including about stuff like recent arrests or drug problems. That was master-class booing.

Posted by: Tom T. | March 7, 2007 2:54 PM

I'll just have to teach my kid to bust some haters in the mouth if they don't like it.

Posted by: 23112 | March 7, 2007 3:35 PM

And why should they bother keeping score when, after all, everyone's a winner. I hate scorists!

Posted by: Paul | March 8, 2007 11:01 AM

Here's the problem--Americans take sports waaaaaay to seriously. High schools now regularly appear in mainstream national publications and there are national publications devoted solely to high school athletics. Kids now are told to specialize in a sport as early as 11--long before they have even finished growing. And to join club teams or travelling teams in addition to, or in preference of school teams. When I was in school good atheletes could play multiple sports in their seasons and still have time for other incidentals like extra-curriculars, schoolwor, eating dinner with family. As a people we need to get a grip and start establishing some priorities. It's healthy and good to particpate in sports, playing an instrument, singing, acting, dancing, etc. even if you are not world class. I think the Washington law is misguided, but there are too many people who are way to invested in childrens games.

Posted by: Chris | March 8, 2007 2:03 PM

pls excuse the multiple typos.

Posted by: Chris | March 8, 2007 2:04 PM

PC nannyism run amok. Pretty soon these same bozos will be trying to ban all athletic competition because it encourages competitiveness among impressionable children. Heaven forbid children learn the realities of life. Wake up people, in the real word there's booing and there's competition out there. Get used to it.

Posted by: Give me a break | March 8, 2007 3:26 PM

Oh the irony. Marc laments that Germany bans Nazi symbols, and Capt America joins in with Sieg heil and police state. Just FYI - there isn't even a word in German for political correctness, you people here have invented that one yourself. Now deal with it and leave others alone.

Posted by: cpw | March 8, 2007 3:36 PM

In general, I found people who object to protecting children from some of the harsher realities of life have never reached adulthood themselves. Banning booing is excessive, but drunken idiots screaming obscenities at high school kids--children--should be considered unacceptable just as it should be unacceptable for children to be exposed to sexually explicit propositions. I have heard both at local high school events directed towards the atheletes and the cheerleaders. I imagine it was this type of behavior that spurred the misguided and excessive Washington law.

Posted by: Chris | March 8, 2007 4:09 PM

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