Don’t Boo

I hate it when Mets fans boo a Met.  You can boo players on other teams.  That is not booing.  That isn’t personal.  That doesn’t hurt.  That is just part of the fun.  When you boo your own guy, you are trying to hurt him.  Don’t give me any crap about how you boo people to make them perform better.  Booing doesn’t have that kind of effect on people. 

I hated what was done to Kaz Matsui.  It’s not his fault that he was signed, that he was given a job he couldn’t handle.  I hated it when Jeremy Burnitz was booed.   Did the booing help him?  Let’s say we hadn’t booed Burnitz.  Has it occurred to you that he might have gotten out of his season-long slump a little earlier?

I even hated it when Armando Benitez was booed.  I know he was arrogant and childish and blew some big games.  But he was an amazing relief pitcher.  He closed most games down with ease, as you watched the scoreboard to see if he would hit 100 mph.  Closers should never be booed.  Looper shouldn’t have been booed.  And if Wagner is booed at the start of next season for the way he pitched in his last two appearances in the postseason, I’m going to holler. 

Closers need special care.  When anyone else on a team has a bad game, you hardly notice.  When a closer has a bad game, the team loses.  Yet closers have bad games too.  Closers have slumps.  And they have a terrific record of going bad and then becoming good again.  Their work is a mystery.  And booing fouls them up. 

My hatred of booing Mets goes way back.  I hated it when George Foster was booed.  I was disappointed in him too, but I knew the booing wouldn’t help him get better.  I hated it when Doug Sisk was booed.  He fell out of a decent groove.  If a guy gets out of his groove, booing can convince him that he never had a groove to begin with.
The players are normally very gracious about being booed.  They say something grown-up about New York fans having high expectations and that those high expectations are a challenge that they welcome.  Bullshit.  Their feelings are hurt.  The booing means that we want them to go away, not that we want them to get better.  When their feelings are hurt, when they feel we don’t want them, they find it hard to relax.  They press too hard, they can’t find their stride.  In the rare cases when a player does get better, they get better in spite of the fact that they’ve been booed.  Booing is mean and ungracious.  We should be kind and encouraging to all of the Mets all of the time. 

Others will disagree.  They will argue that the booing of disappointments is part of the particular intensity with which Mets fans cheer the successes of their team.  New Yorkers, they argue, can’t help being demonstrative.  They can’t keep their mouths shut for merely logical or tactical reasons. 

I still argue differently.  What I like most about New Yorkers and Mets fans is that they are sentimental and hopeful.  They want out-of-towners and less intense people to feel at home in New York.  They take great pride when a player whom everyone thought wouldn’t like the city ends up liking it.  They are proud of their city and they want its greatness and warmth and tolerance to be appreciated. 

We have the Statue of Liberty, for God’s sake.  We are the golden door.  We welcome and absorb anyone and everyone.  We don’t want to put down the people who stumble when they first come.  We don’t hate failures in this town.  We love underdogs and comeback stories.  We want even the wretched, if well-paid, refuse to know that we are behind them, that we want them to get up again. 

I never boo a Met.  And that’s not because I am an unusual New Yorker.  It’s because not booing your own guy when he’s down is part of what my idea of what it is to be a New Yorker.  I notice, when I’m at the ballpark, that the great majority of Mets fans do not boo Mets.  It’s only a small fringe that does.  Yet in a crowd of forty thousand, four thousand booers will be heard. And so everybody thinks that if you come to New York and don’t perform as advertised, you will be booed.  That is not good for us.

I know it’s not going to do any good to say this, but I think it should stop. 

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