Booing debate is just “outrage porn” gone wrong

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In an Easter period where the AFL dominated both the front and back pages of all major newspapers – with 18 games in 11 days and only one day’s break between rounds – booing, of all things, has become the talking point from rounds five and six of AFL action.

For those who’ve been living under a rock, two incidents took place during two marquee games for the AFL, firstly on Easter Monday where Gary Ablett Jnr was booed by Hawthorn supporters, and then on Anzac Day when boos rained down on Scott Pendlebury as he accepted the Anzac Day Medal for best on ground.

While the booing of Ablett created an interesting breakfast radio topic for a day or two, the booing discussion really took hold of the news cycle when Pendlebury was booed intensely following the Magpies’ four-point win over Essendon.

The booing was described as “disrespectful” and “distasteful” and, given that it occurred while presenting a medal meant in part to commemorate the Anzacs, perhaps these criticisms were well-founded.

The debate truly took off in the days following the Pendlebury incident. Many football personalities weighed in, with Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge jesting that “we’ve become a bit of a nanny state”, while former Hawthorn and Gold Coast player Campbell Brown dismissed the outrage surrounding the incident.

Perhaps Brown has a point. The ‘outrage porn’ phenomenon that has engulfed the media in recent times meant that the booing topic became front-page news. In essence, Brown and those who condemn the “anti-booers” are correct. To put it simply, people are allowed to boo whatever and whoever they want.

While booing can often be inappropriate and disrespectful, it exudes the passion of sport and is a part of the spectacle, however ugly it may appear.

But is anyone actually arguing that the booing should cease completely?

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and even Pies’ coach Nathan Buckley hardly came out and stated that “thou shall not boo”. Even with Buckley’s strong criticism of the booing both in the moments after the game, and when he appeared on Channel Seven’s The Front Bar, he still did not call to “ban the boo”.

Perhaps, people are just calling the booing out for what it is – stupid.

This is not a case of “the nanny state taking over”, or “political correctness gone too far”. This is simply a classic case of sore loser syndrome.

Yes, the Bombers felt that the umpires’ decisions (or lack of) played a big hand in the final result, but maybe booing constantly for nearly half-an-hour after the final siren isn’t the best look?

Booing a highly respected champion of the game as he receives an accolade? That might not endear you to opposition supporters either, after all, Luke Beveridge is correct, football is tribal.

And one more point to consider; was your team was trailing by five goals in the final quarter? Maybe booing one of the greatest players of all time isn’t the classiest move. I believe that’s what the kids these days call “nuffie” behaviour.

To summarise this already over-blown issue, booing is a part of the game and fans are certainly entitled to boo whatever they wish.

But at the same time, when the booing is just plain dumb, we can call that out too.

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