Friday, September 12, 2008

On The Tunney Side of the Street #194, Sept. 15, 2008 (

After Further Review… Does fan behavior determine the outcome of a game? Does it influence the performance of an athlete? Should fans only cheer (read: Encourage) their team and not ‘boo’ or cast disparaging remarks towards a player or team? Is there a limit as to how far fan behavior can or should go?

Many of these questions arose with the recent announcement that Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback #10 Vince Young ( was “hurting inside and out” and doesn’t want to play football anymore. Young, in his third season with the Titans after being the third pick in the 2006 Draft, was expected to lead the Titans to the Super Bowl. What happened?

Late in the Titans’ ( opening game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Young scrambled, was tackled, and sprained his left knee. Before the injury, Young was booed loudly after throwing two interceptions, even though the Titans eventually won 17-10. That emotional damage appeared to affect Young more than the revelation that the MRI on his knee showed a “sprained medial collateral ligament.” Young has since reconsidered and rejoined the team, pledging his full commitment to the Titans (,19528,12118_4135869,00.html) .

Some athletes handle booing/jeering, etc. better than others. Fans have always expressed their dissatisfaction with performances that they feel are not in keeping with their expectations (read: Winning). Fans don’t want to lose. Neither do players. Players always want to give their best performance. Someone has to lose. Fans don’t accept that, thus the booing.

As an NFL referee for 31 years, I have been booed many, many times. Whether it was on a foul called – or not called – fans took out their displeasure by booing. On more than one occasion fans have thrown bottles, cans, snowballs, etc. venting their displeasure. Fan behavior became so violent a few years ago at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium ( , where the Eagles play, that a Civil Court Judge was placed in the bowels of the stadium and out-of-control fans were adjudicated and sentenced right on the spot.

Actually, I have found that a team playing ‘on the road’ away from home has less difficulty with booing than playing at home. A team on the road may get booed during player or team introductions, but often no one player is singled out. If a visiting quarterback throws an interception, the home team crowd doesn’t boo – they cheer!

So how does any player rebound from the booing of fans? Coaches and teammates play a vital role, at any level – Little League to professional – to help an athlete bounce back from abhorrent fan behavior. Thus, the word T.E.A.M. means just that -- Together Everyone Accomplishes More.

Will you be supportive of a teammate who is having a bad day?

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