Monday, September 8, 2014

Is Booing at a Sporting Event Wrong?

A colleague asks (rhetorically?): "So it's OK to boo, if it gets you want you want?"

Answer: No.  I'm not a leftist (that the ends justify the means is false).  Nonetheless, if what one wants is not immoral, then it is morally OK to boo (provided that there are no evil effects caused by the booing which outweigh the good, such as causing the Steelers to lose).

According to this recent item in the news, some colleges are encouraging their fans not to boo at soccer matches, insinuating that booing is always (or at least often) unsportsmanlike.  Are these colleges right?

I will avoid here the knotty issue of defining unsportsmanlike conduct except to say that it is a species of wrong conduct.  Moreover it is a species of morally wrong conduct, understanding the moral and immoral as conduct fitting or unfitting to a free agent (an agent with a faculty of will and intellect) as such.  Unsportsmanlike conduct, though perhaps often not egregiously morally wrong is still the conduct of a human being engaged in distinctively human activities (as opposed to say, mere animal reflexes such as nervous twitches).  Understood in this way, all properly human activity is either morally right (permissible) or morally wrong (impermissible) activity.

So is booing immoral activity? There is surely nothing intrinsically wrong with shouting, "BOOOOOO!!!"  There is nothing in the very nature of the action which makes it wrong.  According to Aquinas, though, an act can be defective in at least two other ways: it can have a bad intention or be performed in inappropriate circumstances.

Are there some inappropriate circumstances when fans boo?  Surely there are.  Here is one example: In football (as opposed to futball), fans sometimes will boo as their kicker is lining up to kick a game winning field goal because of the following circumstance--the kicker has already missed two kicks.  But what the fans are not thinking about as they should be, is that the DIE IS ALREADY CAST.  Their booing will have no good effect.  The only effect it will likely have is to make their kicker MORE nervous.  So booing in such circumstances is inappropriate because it is never appropriate to do something stupid!

Another instance: A freshman kicker who has been struggling a little misses a game winning field goal and gets booed off the field.  Stupid, I say, when he is the ONLY kicker you have for the rest of the season!  Booing will do nothing but increase the odds of your team losing more games.

Having said that there are plenty of times when booing seems to be a reasonable way to express frustration and help shape your team's chances for success. One obvious case in football: Booing a ref who sticks with his call that he and everyone in the world knows (or should know) was a terrible call.  Booing a team of refs off the field who have reffed a terrible game and should get other jobs. Booing a coach who makes millions of dollars for calling the SAME BONEHEADED play that never works.  Booing a player who bites another player. And so on.

But the paradigm case of when it is appropriate to boo: EVERY TIME in soccer when one of those "sissy-men" acts like my 4-year-old when he's had his 'wittle weg scwatched!

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