I used to have some strong opinions about when it’s OK to boo or not OK to boo. And I still think that some instances of booing are worse than others depending on the circumstances. But I’ve changed my mind about booing pretty substantially over the past couple of years and refuse to get all that worked up about it anymore.
Personally, I rarely if ever boo someone — or if I do, I do it somewhat ironically — but I’m mostly done caring if other fans boo someone. When you compare it to the intensely personal things about players and their character that some fans will say in comment threads, some sports writers will write in their columns or some talk radio guys will bark over the air, booing looks like a pretty minor act. It may be worth noting with amusement — I expect to continue to write amused “[Team’s] fans booed [Person]” posts in the future — but seriously taking fans to task for booing or not booing someone seems kinda silly to me now.
Booing is not nearly as personal an act as it’s often portrayed as being in the sporting press. Look no further than the Robinson Cano/Jimmy Fallon bit from last night. Fans booed a cardboard cutout of Robinson Cano and then immediately changed their tune when the real Cano came out. It was pretty inspired, pretty funny and it gave us a bit of insight, I think, into the nature of booing. Maybe it’s not the most polite thing ever, but a given fan’s investment in booing is so fleeting and minor. I’d guess 90% of the people who do it at a ballpark do it because other people started doing it and group activities are fun. I’d also guess that the negative impulse to boo someone is gone before the guy in question has taken his first pitch. It’s just a thing you do at the ballpark sometimes. Like the chicken dance.
Which brings us to tonight’s Mariners-Yankees game. Cano is back in New York for the first time since signing with the Mariners, and the topic of whether or not Yankees fans should boo him is floating around on talk radio and on the web today. If I was a Yankees fan I’d probably not because, like I said, my baseline is generally not to boo and Cano didn’t do anything wrong or evil that would make me change my feelings about that.
But I expect he will be booed and I really don’t care. If it happens it’ll be a generalized “you don’t wear the same laundry” boo that runs about as deep as an Arizona creek. It won’t be based on real animus or a set of misguided ethics. It won’t be aimed at a person who is fragile or a stranger to big crowds and intense feeling. It’s Robinson Cano. I suspect he can handle it.