Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was booed by his hometown fans yesterday after another poor outing and he was not happy about it. He criticized the fans in a post-game interview and promised that he would remember their behavior, and presumably hold a grudge against them. I agree with Zambrano completely. Booing your own team is insane! Fans who boo their home teams generally get what they deserve: an underachieving team.
Some fans believe it is their right to boo the home team, a right guaranteed by virtue of holding a valid ticket. They boo when the athlete fails to do his or her “job” as defined by the fan. However, the fans who boo the home team are not doing their “jobs” either.
In most team sports, there is a demonstrable home field advantage. Teams typically play better and win more in their home facility than they do on the road. This rule is so consistent that Las Vegas odds makers give the home team “credit” in point-spreads simply for being at home.
Why? This advantage is not created by the rules of the game or the particulars of the playing surface but the energy the players receive by playing before supportive fans. Conversely, the less support a team receives from the home crowd, the less likely the team is to play well and the more likely fans will be motivated to withhold support or worse, to boo. How ironic?
By “hating on” the home team, those fans are more likely to get more of the performance they hate. So, why boo?
Fans that boo their home teams not only hurt their teams that day, but they damage the prospects in the future as well. New York Yankees fans may feel the sting of their own bad behavior this winter. Yankees fans did their best to destroy the confidence of their third baseman Alex Rodriguez last season. For committing the unpardonable sin of hitting “only” 35 home runs and driving in “only” 121 runs, and in their opinion under-performing under his big contract, A-Rod was booed mercilessly in Yankee Stadium last year. The impact? Rodriguez, who has returned to his former Unquestioned-Best-Player-in-the-Game status, will likely either opt out of his contract and take his game to the competition after this season or hijack the Yankees for an even bigger contact that could limit even the Yankees’ ability to sign other players. There will be no “hometown discount” for the Yankees.
The bad taste of last year that most certainly lingers on A-Rod’s taste buds will ultimately be a lose-lose situation for Yankee fans. However, they will have earned any misfortune that befalls them.
Booing the home team never helps that team play better. Is it a coincidence that Philadelphia, home of the most notoriously non-supportive sports fans, has one of the worst records of success in professional sports? Philadelphia has a representative in each of the four major sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey) and plays in a major television market. Yet Philadelphia-based teams have won no championships since 1980 and only nine in their nearly 300 seasons of competition in the four major sports. Most athletes are not begging their agents to send them to Philadelphia — and with good reason. Those athletes know that in a city where Hall of Fame third baseman and former Phillie Mike Schmidt can be booed, anyone can be booed. There the Philadelphia teams sit, mostly undistinguished.
Cubs fans, and any others who follow their example, can boo the home team all they like. It is perfectly within their rights as ticket holders. But they will only succeed in encouraging more of the poor play that caused them to boo in the first place. Even a child knows that good consequences don’t come from bad behavior. In sports, as in life, you don’t get dessert by refusing to eat your dinner. However, maybe Cubs fans are already enjoying their dessert. Now that the White Sox and Red Sox have won World Series titles recently, Cubs fans have no competition for at least one title, “Longest World Series Drought Suffered.”