Take me out to the boogame!
I'm in the midst of a vigorous Facebook discussion about the behavior of patrons at public events, when it's right to applaud, when to remain silent, and when, if ever, it's appropriate to express disapproval. Concerts? Opera? Nope. Baseball!
It started when a delightful friend who's also a long-suffering Baltimore Orioles fan took my fellow New York Yankees rooters to task for not filling Yankee Stadium for game one of the American League Championship Series last Saturday, as well as for booing Yankees rightfielder Nick Swisher after a crucial misplay late in the game. Well! I wasn't about to let my pinstriped brethren and sistren be thusly chided without replying with my own (polite) Bronx Cheer. Besides, I've been in the presenting business, both radio and concert, long enough to know that criticizing fans for lack of support or poor deportment isn't going to do anything but earn their wrath.
But back to the questions in my first sentence: 1. Do fans owe their support to their sports teams, orchestras, opera companies or (gasp) public radio stations? 2. When and how should they applaud? 3. Is it ever OK to boo?
My quick answers to the three questions are: 1. No. Support is not owed, it's earned. Your time and money are yours to spend as you please. If the team or equivalent isn't doing enough to draw you in, you're within your rights to stay away. As Yogi Berra might have said, "if the fans don't want to come, no one's going to stop them." Of course, if you don't support the home team and it folds up or goes away, you have no one to blame but yourself, so it works both ways. 2. Basically, whenever they want, within the established and always changing norms of the setting. 3. Yes, with the same caveat. Booing has been part of the ol' ballgame since Abner Doubleday (according to legend) drew it up. But booing is not limited to baseball, or even sports. Ever been to an opera performance in Italy, or been in any opera house when the director of some stupid Eurotrash production comes out for a curtain call? It's not a pretty sound.
Besides, praise is meaningless without the possiblity of criticism. Players who sign on with the Yankees know what's in store for them if they underperform. They also know they can turn the jeers into cheers with one swing of the bat. This also goes at the opera house. The same fans at Milan's Teatro alla Scala who booed tenor Roberto Alagna so loudly after a poor rendering of the aria "Celeste Aida" in a production of Verdi's Aida that he walked out in mid-performance also cheered tenor Juan Diego Flórez so loudly after his performance of "Ah mes amis!" in Donizetti's La fille du régiment that he did something that hadn't happened at La Scala in over a hundred years: an encore. Each gesture on the fans' part gave more meaning to the other. My for-what-it's-worth advice to Mr. Alagna, the aging tenor, Mr. Swisher, the soon-to-be ex-Yankee, and to anyone else who find themselves in their situation, as I have on occasion: If you don't like being booed, don't blame the fans. Instead, give the fans something to cheer about. If you do, you'll be theirs forever.