Expressed Opinions

Paul Balm explores the right to boo or not

If reading social media has taught me anything it’s that not everyone is going to agree with everyone else and it’s highly unlikely that anything anyone can say will change the other person’s mind. I’m talking in general here but it’s as applicable to ice hockey as it is to anything else and nothing polarises opinion like booing. If you put those two things together you will probably, like me, come to the conclusion that this article isn’t going to solve anything. It’ll probably end up raising more questions than it answers but I want to try and shed a bit of light on both sides of the argument and look at why it happens (or shouldn’t depending on your point of view).

I might have said booing earlier but I’ve just realised I should probably clarify what I’m talking about (I’m learning that it helps to state the obvious even when you think it should be obvious to avoid confusion in these articles, I mean someone thought I was making positive comments the other week! Imagine that). I’m talking about booing your own team. Booing the opposition is different. There’s a certain satisfaction that can be taken by a club or player if the opposition fans are booing you, it might well mean you’re doing something right, doing something to wind their players up. Ask yourself how many times did we boo Ryan Finnerty, Kevin Noble etc. OK, it’s not all good, I’m sure Joe Grimaldi got booed the last time he was in Nottingham as well but that just goes to show that there are two sides to every coin and that’s sort of what I’m trying to say.

The whole question of booing has raised its head again after the last two home defeats. Personally I expected the boos to be louder and more widespread than they were after both games but that’s by the by, it certainly ensured that there was some noise after the game because there would have been precious little without it. I’ll say here and now that I didn’t boo the team but I can see why those that did chose to and I can see that there might be reasons why those that didn’t didn’t. They’re probably not the same reasons as mine, I was just so deflated (think Panther Bear, it really needs a name, as it exits through the Zamboni entrance) that I simply couldn’t be bothered to make a noise, no booing but no clapping our cheering either.

Some people don’t like booing, they don’t like to hear it, they certainly wouldn’t do it and that’s all fair enough. Others on the other hand want an immediate and noticeable way to show their dissatisfaction. It seems to me that you can describe the two sides and their opinions of the other fairly simplistically:

For booing: You pay your money, you have the right to an opinion. I want to tell the players what I think

Against booing: If you’re booing you’re not supporting your team, you should get behind the team regardless.

Like I said that’s an extremely simplistic view and I’m pretty sure reality isn’t exactly like that but by the same token (or maybe it’s the other side of that coin again) I don’t think it’s that far away either. In a lot of ways it comes back to those entrenched opinions I was talking about at the beginning of this. The booers will always argue that they have the right to express their opinion. They’re right and that’s exactly how it should be. My opinion isn’t worth any more or any less than any of you. I may write it down, you may or may not agree with it but it has as much worth as anyone else’s, that’s democracy.

There’s one argument for booing that I, personally, think makes a lot of sense and that’s how will the team know we’re displeased with them if we don’t let them know. They’ve got a point. I know a team of ice hockey players isn’t a business but the analogy still works. If a business is never told what it is doing wrong or if none of its customers tell it that they don’t like the services it provides then they’re going to be in trouble pretty quick because they’re going to think that everything is wonderful and people are happy with their output. That leads to complacency – I’m already number one so why try harder. If you clap and cheer a team off the ice after a performance as poor as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks (and don’t forget that it’s you’re right to do so as much as it is to boo and vice versa) then there’s a chance that the team will think that level of performance is acceptable.

So booing can, in my opinion be helpful but having said that a stony silence can be just as effective. The boos ringing out around the arena certainly registered but just think what the place would have sounded like (if that’s the right word) if Panthers fans met their team’s performance with total silence? People tell us that the NIC is quiet at the best of times, imagine it after the Edinburgh game if the only sound had been the shuffling of feet, the muffled thuds of seats returning to their vertical position and the sound of one man clapping from the away block. I know it’ll never happen, there are too many people their purely for a night out and a bunch of flowers and remember if that’s what they’re there for then they’re paying their money and taking their choice as well.

If that paragraph sounds like I’m coming down on the side of the booers then this one is going to make it worse. It seems to me that there’s an argument from the anti-boo faction that those that do boo are against their team but I don’t really think it’s as clear cut as that. I’m pretty sure no one wants to boo their own team. No one walks in the arena with the intention of getting on their own team’s back. I’ve seen people say those that boo don’t care about their. I’d argue that it’s the complete opposite. They boo BECAUSE they care, they moan because they care. They don’t like what they see their club doing and they feel they need to voice their displeasure. If they didn’t care why would they boo?

On the other hand I’m not saying those that cheer and clap the team whatever don’t care, far from it. It’s not even that they care differently about a team. The only real difference is that they show how they care differently. Perhaps they see their role differently, they see their role as getting behind the team through thick and thin. But again that’s simplistic.

So, what of the rest of us? Where do those that didn’t clap but didn’t boo stand? Well, unsurprisingly, we’re somewhere in the middle. We might side with one or the other side of the argument but I think we can also see it from the opposite side too. I was talking to my one of my son’s the other day about this fan divide and he summed it all up in a way that I haven’t been able to. I’m going to have to paraphrase this because I can’t remember his exact words but basically he said “I’m optimistic but I’m also realistic”.

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