By Connor Thomas
There has been a lot of talk over the past couple days about booing, and the etiquette surrounding it. Just writing about the “etiquette” around booing seems oxymoronic, but questions have been raised recently around the station and around the city in general about whether or not booing certain players/coaches/teams is still acceptable. Most of this talk over the past couple days seems to have been centered on the Philadelphia Phillies, some of their players, and a returning manager. Here’s the answer on when it is acceptable to boo: whenever something bad happens. Regardless of who the player is, how good the team has been, or how long an unlikable former coach or player has been gone from the city. Let’s take a player like Bryce Harper for example. He’s been the consummate professional and a diehard Philly guy since the second he first donned the red pinstripes. By MLB standards, he has been a well above average player since signing with the Phillies, and though some may have had MVP expectations for Harper, he has played hard and played well for a large majority of the time he’s been in Philadelphia. So does that make him boo proof? Absolutely not.
There are a choice few in sports who have outrun the constant need for production. The all-time great players and coaches, think a Tom Brady, a Michael Jordan, a LeBron James, a Scotty Bowman, a Willie Mays. Guys that have accomplished everything there is to accomplish in a sport and then some over a lengthy and successful career. An off night from one of those generational great players is allowed, and they have elevated themselves above the every-day criticism that 99% of those in sports are held to. There might be one or two of those players for a generation, and one of them does not play in Philadelphia right now. Therefore, everyone can get it from the boo birds when it comes down to it. If Harper was to go 0-4 with 4 strikeouts and leave 6 or 7 men on base, costing the Phillies a game, that last at bat could absolutely be met by a chorus of boos from the seats at Citizens Bank Park. This does not diminish our love for our star right fielder, rather this is our way as saying how much we expect from him.
There are three types of boos. One is the drunk idiot who boos just for an excuse to make noise at a sporting event, those instances are inevitable, but should be considered for what they are, stupid noise-making from people who don’t know or care how annoying they’re being. The other two types of boos are in the soul of Philadelphians, and have always and will always be reasonable in the right situations. Harper receives the boos of a player that we expect so much from, the same that Joel Embiid shushed the crowd for last year, the same that the Eagles got in the year following their Super Bowl win. It is the fan base’s way of saying we have huge expectations for you, and we are as invested in you meeting them as you are. The 3rd type of boo isn’t all love, but is just as important and just as warranted. These are the angry boos, the bad player or coach returns to the city boos, the Dallas Cowboys are in town boos, the Mets fan at a Phillies-Rockies game boos. There’s not as much sophistication behind the reason for these, but they are equal part to the loving boos when it comes to the makeup of a Philadelphia fan. There were really people questioning whether or not former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler would be booed when making his first return to Philadelphia since being fired after the 2019 season. Seriously? The robotic-seeming, late season collapsing, booed in his home opener in his first year as manager of the Phillies Gabe Kapler? Of course he is going to get booed, and rightfully so! He was an underachiever his entire time in the city and the fans owe him absolutely nothing. He’s not ours anymore and he brought us nothing, so boo away.
The same applies to those who are new to a team and haven’t given us anything yet. Many are saying that young call up Mickey Moniak, who is being forced into a rough center field situation for the Phillies, deserves some relief from the ire of the fan base. I don’t understand it at all. He’s a former number one overall pick who has underperformed his way through the minor leagues and does not have a hit in 14 plate appearances since being called up. He has struck out in 8 of his 12 registered at bats this season. He has looked shaky in the field and nearly misplayed a routine fly ball yesterday against Kapler’s Giants. There’s a difference between being understanding with a young player who is showing potential but going through growing pains, and just ignoring the fact that you’re lineup is being plagued by a player that flat out doesn’t belong at this level. Mickey Moniak has not showed an ounce of ability since being called up last week, and his .000 batting average deserves every B.000 that he gets.
It is a tough situation for the young ball player, but this is a tough city. It always has been, and always will be. The boo is a mark of love, and a mark of passion. It’s always been part of the fabric of this city’s sports fandom, and always will be. So Harper, Kapler, Moniak, and everyone else are perfectly eligible to hear it from the fans when the moment warrants it. Don’t back down from the boos, Philadelphia. It’s what makes us who we are. Except for you, drunk idiot who’s a few too many Yuenglings deep and is booing the Phillie Phanatic between innings, you can shut up.