Recently, the subject of booing at sporting events — National Football League games in particular — has been in the news. Last weekend, fans of the new England Patriots — a team that has won SIX SUPER BOWL TROPHIES since 2002, is currently in first place in its division, and currently has the second best record in its conference — booed during and after the team’s loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. The headline in the New York Post read:
Patriots linebacker Klye Van Noy told NBCSportsBoston.com that booing the team was “disrespectful.”
In October, Deadspin featured this headline about the Chicago Bears:
So which is it? To boo, or not to boo.
My wife and I have season tickets to Chicago Bears football. We don’t boo our team if it isn’t playing well. Here’s why.
Sports fans are passionate. I get that. I’m passionate about the Bears. Fans invest a lot in supporting a team, especially if one is a season ticket holder. Game tickets, parking, food, team gear, to say nothing about the time spent — it’s a real commitment. There’s real money involved. We all want our team to win. It’s easy to cheer when the team wins. When the team wins, we stand around the water cooler at work and talk about the game, saying, “We won!”
Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka being carried off the field after the Bears won Super Bowl XX (January 1986).
But when the team loses? It’s always, “They lost.”
Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey after missing what would have been the game winning field goal in the first round of the NFL playoffs (January 2019).
Winning feels good. Losing doesn’t feel good. But when your team is having a rough time — some poorly executed plays, a losing streak of a few games, or even a few years — I don’t think booing is the right response.
Think about it: When you‘re having a rough patch, when things aren’t going well for you, what kind of response do you like to get from your boss, your family, your friends? It’s easy for them to pat you on the back and say “attaboy!” or “attagirl!” when everything’s coming up roses. But when you’re going through a rough patch? You’d appreciate some encouragement. You’d appreciate people coming alongside you and letting you know that they are still with you. That they’ll keep supporting you. That they’ll pray for you. That they’ll be there for you. That’s sure what I’d like from friends when I’m in trouble. Those that beat up on me when I’m down —or just disappear — show that they were never really friends in the first place.
The Bible reminds us of this. Proverbs 17:17 says:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Friends should love you at all times. But a brother (or a sister)? He’s/She’s there for you especially when things are not going well. I think that’s what real fans are — people who cheer for a team when things are going well and those who stand by it when it’s going through tough times. Don’t support the team when it’s down (like when the Bears had a four game losing streak earlier this season)? Then don’t jump back on the bandwagon when things go well (the Bears have won their last three games). We go through this together. We won. We lost. Boo the team when it’s down? Nope. You’ve probably heard the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12):
Do to others as you want them to do to you.
I love it when my team wins. But when they don’t win, or don’t play well, I’m also aware that the players feel it even more deeply than I do. They want to win ever more than I want them to win. They know when they didn’t perform well before I even noticed. Their livelihood is on the line. If they don’t perform well, they could get cut from the team. Theirs is a far greater investment in the team than what I put into the team.
So, I don’t boo my team. I may throw up my hands in frustration, put my head in my hands and shake it back and forth. But instead of booing, I’ll shout words of encouragement. Exhort the players to make a play, to make a stand, to do better. Pray for them. I never leave the stadium before the last play, win or lose. I want the team to know I’m a fan, a friend, a brother.
Don’t boo your team. Unless you love to be booed when you’re not doing well. Live the Golden Rule.