Should College Athletes be Booed?

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

So I’m staring at pictures of 3-4 defenses, trying to dissect what exactly to expect from next year’s defensive them, when Hydrotech comes along and troutslaps me with these nuggets from the San Francisco meeting.

*Tedford emphasized that no player on the team should ever get booed. The players are giving their best and have enough to deal with between school, practices, and the games, than to deal with negative, malicious, and non-supportive fan behavior.

I wrote about this idea in their comments, but I’m going to expand upon it here…

To think that Cal alum who have to travel from across the country to visit some of these games, who shell out ticket packages are at $100-$1200 now this year for big seats, will support their teams throughout the rough times unquestionably and dutifully regardless of the team’s continuous struggles (and unlike in previous years, the struggles were not aberrations), is a little far-fetched. Booing is usually reserved for opposing teams, but in college we often reserve our frustrations for our own athletes. Not because we don’t like our team, but it’s really hard to identify who we’re facing and who we’re playing on any given day. Can the casual fans name any of the players from the teams we faced outside of their QBs? Exactly.

I like the idea behind it, to keep sports positive to help the athletes work, but fans at Cal are pretty fairweather. There are a plethora of sporting options handed to them–Giants, Sharks, 49ers, As, Warriors are available to the locals, and others from across the country can turn to their sports. If one team fails, they move to the next one or they bemoan the time they’re wasting watching Cal. It’s not like USC/UCLA or the Deep South–Cal is in a region where pro sports trump college sports. The relative positivism of college sports fans is dissipated by the skeptic realism of pro sports fans. Whenever we suffer they take out our frustrations on the players. Sometimes it’s deserved (the last two games of the season were paaaain), but oftentimes you can’t really tell who to blame. So we boo hoping it’ll motivate the team, when often it has the opposite effect.

Now, I do think there are ways to solve this, although none of the solutions I offer are going to make Tedford very happy. The first thing I’d do is start opening up practices. As it is now, Cal fans only get their taste of the team through the 12-13 games we play every season, and the squiggles of info we grab from the Bear Insider or the Golden Blogs. Our team is a blank slate to our fans, so we learn what we know from ESPN Monday Morning Quarterbacks.

So open it up. Give access to everyone. Let’s see how hard these guys work, give them an audience that they can grow accustomed to and develop from. How much easier would it be for Cal players to handle pressure situtations if they had a crowd behind them in practice? Performing for a thousand diehards might not be the same as performing for seventy thousand, but it’s a step in the right direction for positive player development. The team needs to know the fans have their backs, rather than being an implacable mass that shows up on gameday to cheer them on.

USC holds open practices. Florida holds open practices. They haven’t done so badly have they?

Speaking of positivity…

Tedford acknowledged that the media, fan chat boards, and bloggers must remain positive because it does and has had an effect on recruiting.

Now I agree about this…for the most part. I think sometimes we get carried away by terrible spins, because then our passion feels like a labor, a job, a painful job. I even got sick from it last year. It’s even worse than being the casual fan who boos, because you have to try to write about it with a level head. And it’s hard.

However, to say that media, message boards and bloggers have had an effect on recruiting probably has some faulty reasoning behind it. Are recruits really saying no because Blogger Madmen like me wrote up on unconfirmed (and I emphasize “UNCONFIRMED”) rumors of players quitting on Tedford back in November? Or are recruits saying no because Cal let Washington run up 340 yards on them, never put up more than 23 points in the last six games of the season with some of the best offensive talent in the league, and stumbled from #1 in the country to the Armed Forces Bowl?

A 1-6 collapse speaks for itself.

I don’t have much of an opinion about the question above (I only get disgusted when players do something stupid), so I turn the discussion over to my readers: Should college athletes be booed? Why or why not?

(Image from Play in CA)

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