In the middle of last season, after the treatment of Jobe Watson at the hands of West Coast fans, I suggested that booing was for morons.
Booing has become slightly topical once again after Adam Goodes was treated to a chorus of the same treatment whenever he had the ball in Saturday’s grand final.
It wasn’t quite as malevolent as that meted out to Watson, but more of a gentle background noise by certain sections of the Hawthorn crowd.
Nothing has changed my mind about it from last year, but the debate around it this time was interesting.
In my mind, all you’re doing by booing is letting people around you know that you’re of severely diminished capacity, even if it may just be for the two and a half hours you’re at the football.
Enough respected people argue that booing is simply part of the theatre of sport and fan engagement, so I take on board their point, albeit disagreeing with it. There are so many better ways to engage with a sport you supposedly love.
A lot of the commentary this time around was the lack of grace and class in the targeting of Goodes.
One of the reasons offered was that it was wrong to treat him in this manner because he has been a champion of our game, and if this was to be his last match as many have surmised, he deserved to be treated with more respect.
Others suggested that he should be above such treatment as the Australian of the Year, or that there were racial overtones in the chorus. Many more would simply say that Goodes’ recent instances of staging have turned people against him, and they themselves demand more of someone with his glittering array of honours.
Either way, assigning motivation to the acts of the masses is a tricky situation.
Yet here’s the thing. If you have actively booed at any sporting event, or even have no problem with it taking place as part of the ‘theatre’, you’ve forgone the right to hold these opinions.
No one is above the reproach of the crowd, for better or for worse, and it doesn’t matter if the target is a legend like Adam Goodes playing the last of 351 games, or Jake Lloyd in his first year.
Australian football crowds treat retiring stars with amazing respect. If Adam Goodes had announced his retirement pre-game, which wouldn’t be his style as a team-first player, he would have been given a standing ovation from every person in the ground.
Many of us rail against the AFL for hijacking our match-day experience with their incessant white noise, never letting the breaks before and between play settle into a natural rhythm.
The same people can’t then complain when a crowd behaves organically, even if they find the circumstances and target distasteful.
You’re either all in or all out when it comes to booing. Morons or theatre. You don’t get to straddle both sides and pick and choose when it suits you.