The No Boo Zone

I’ve had an ongoing debate with a friend of mine for about 20 years now on the place for booing in sports. The topic came up again recently in light of the story I wrote for Sunday’s paper about former Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob.

As most of you know, Ayoob was booed by Cal fans for some of his poor performances in 2005. He had some forgettable games in which he didn’t help put the Bears in position to win.

My rule of thumb has always been this: As long as the player is giving his maximum effort, he doesn’t deserve to be booed. If he simply isn’t good enough, so be it. But if the player is trying his hardest and just not getting the job done, what else is he supposed to do? Maybe he’s just not good enough, despite a good work ethic.

The discussion between my friend and I usually was in the context of professional sports. But I think my golden rule is even more applicable in the college game. The athletes aren’t getting paid huge sums of money. Granted, many of them are on scholarship, but that’s not a fair comparison. Either way, if he is trying as hard as he can to do the best job he can, he shouldn’t be booed.

This is true especially in college. Joe Ayoob was a 21-year old college student who the previous year was playing in front of a couple hundred people each week in junior college. He was going to classes, working toward his degree, going to practice, doing everything asked of him by the Cal coaching staff.

His one shortcoming is he wasn’t a good enough quarterback. Certainly, he shouldn’t have been the target of boos.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Calfan

    First, love the blog and reading about Cal sports in the times. Please expand on what has been written in the recent past with even more insight and info that the general public can’t get anywhere else.
    Second, good story on Ayoob in the times. It was good to see him get recognized in the paper for coming back the way he did in 06. But, I hope we let him fade away now. Don’t mention him in the blog again please. That whole episode was a terrible situation and he was stuck in it. I know it is an attention grabber but we should be talking about Longshore and the other young bucks behind him now. Tedford has recruited enough QB’s that one won’t be stuck in the situation Ayoob was when Longshore went down. I think Cal fans are overall very decent fans and it’s good to educate the many that don’t understand sports as well but still those fans don’t usually read a blog on Cal football. The ones that do and still boo won’t change. Keep up the good work, looking forward to reading more this summer and into the 07 season.

  • milo

    Thanks for the article on Joe Ayoob. Indeed, he showed what he’s made of by graduating from Cal, on time and despite a bad experience on the field.

    Ayoob hit some bad circumstances, played poorly and came up short…like that never happened to anyone else? On that level, booing has no part in college sports. Not the kind that Joe Ayoob experienced. Cal is better then that because Cal always understands it’s a just game even if you want to win every game.

    On a side note, frankly I think Joe Ayoob might be the kind of player to do well in the CFL and come back to the NFL. As great as Jeff Tedford has been for Cal, his offense doesn’t suit everyone.

  • RickySanchez

    Were they booing, or were they just chanting “Ayoob”?
    Go Bears!!!

  • I couldn’t disagree more, although there is one caveat I’d make to my disagreement.

    Every football player loves to hear cheers for their performance. It’s one of the many reasons they desire to play. When they decided to step on the field, just as much as they were striving for success, they were risking failure. Should we not cheer either and just sit silently because it’s wrong of us to judge their performance on the field? That’s patently ridiculous. I think it is completely reasonable to both cheer and boo a player’s performance.

    But here’s the caveat: booing should NEVER lead to personal attacks or any criticism of the person (as opposed to the player). While I was fairly critical of Ayoob’s on the field performance in 2005, it disgusted me some of the names I heard him called and the profanity hurled his way. He is just a college kid trying his best and I was impressed with his composure despite his on the field struggles. That he was able to rebound in 2006 and is graduating this spring, confirms that notion regarding his character. But a good D-I college football player he was not and I feel completely comfortable booing him in the stands and shaking his hand afterwards and telling him that he shouldn’t beat himself up about it, that life is bigger than football.

    In summary, cheering and booing is part of the game, personal attacks are not.

  • paul

    Maybe it’s just my age creeping up on me, but now that my kids are getting older and that I have friends with kids in college, booing just feels wrong.

    The Chronicle interviewed one of the Cal women’s bball players after the, “nappy headed….” incident. She put it into perspective by reminding us that, “they’re still just somebody’s kids”.

    Sure, they get a lot of perks, a scholarship, and sometimes a golden ticket to the NFL, but can’t we just let them stay kids until they’re done with college?

    Boo the coach, the university, the refs, but leave the kids alone. Trust me, they know it when they’ve messed up.

  • NWBear91a

    Completely agree with your take. That’s pretty much been my rule of thumb as well — at least with respect to booing my own team. Sometimes I’ll boo the other team, especially when they have the trappings of privilege and superiority, such as the Yankees, or USC, etc.

  • Fred Mueller

    Appreciated the article about Joe Ayoob. As for booing him, I never did or would. First of all, he’s a Cal player and he was trying his best, I’m sure. Many are saying he wasn’t a very good QB. How so? Because he didn’t win every game? Neither did Nate Longshore, or Aaron Rodgers, for that matter! Ayoob was doing really well last summer. Tedford admitted it was going to be difficult to pick a starter. I think Ayoob should have been given more of a chance, especially when Longshore was struggling in the last 3 or 4 games. As for when is it okay to boo? I would say when the referees make a really bad call (or non-call), when someone takes a cheap shot at a player or when a player obviously gives up and isn’t trying! Other than that, pipe down and back your team.

  • CalCam

    Thank you, Jonathan. I was horrified and embarrassed in 2005 to hear boos from the stadium. I was so fearful that we were becoming “Football U” a.k.a. $C-like in terms of performance expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I love winning, but not at all costs.

    Last season, I attended the CAL/Oregon game and was dismayed by the two couples seated behind me. After we were up by four or five touchdowns and I had been frustrated by uber-critical comments by the group throughout the game, I finally turned around and uttered, but he’s a true freshman (Syd’Quan had “failed” to make an interception)! One of the wives narrowed her eyes and replied, “this is big time football, if he can’t compete, he shouldn’t play.”

    One of your readers is right, they are kids; I will never forget that and I hope the Cal Community doesn’t either.