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What does booing in the NFL say about us?

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12 11:00 AM ET

Fans in Philadelphia have been frustrated this entire season, and they are not alone.

Last Sunday, after the Chicago Bears almost blew the game against the Carolina Panthers, quarterback Jay Cutler said to the media, "I told those guys [in the locker room] it was a boo-worthy performance."

Also Sunday, after the Dallas Cowboys lost to the New York Giants, quarterback Tony Romo told the Dallas Morning News, "I would have booed us, too. We deserved it."

Even Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined in on the act, saying, "Well, I've been to boo school. I'm sure the fans had the same feeling I did."

What is it with all the booing, especially in pro football this past week? Maybe Halloween week was on everyone's mind?

We're halfway through the NFL season and frustration is settling in for many underachieving teams like the Cowboys, Eagles, Jets and Chargers, among others.

"I do think booing affects a player's psychology," said Dr. Patrick Cohn, mental health coach at Peak Performance Sports. "It's a distraction for the players, who now are focusing on the crowd instead of their performance. And, athletes are entertainers, so that means they are not entertaining their fans."

Booing has been around long before sports.

According to, "The first written record comes from ancient Greece. At the annual Festival of Dionysia in Athens, playwrights competed to determine whose tragedy was the best. When the democratic reformer Cleisthenes came to power in the sixth century B.C., audience participation came to be regarded as a civic duty. The audience applauded to show its approval and shouted and whistled to show displeasure."

One Philadelphia sports fan, Charles Welch, created a website in 2003 devoted to booing.

"Booing does let the players know they need to improve their performance and pick up their game. I do think it's a motivator," said Welch, who at 13 bought season tickets to the Eagles with money he made on his paper route. "No matter how much a player says booing does not bother them it does have an effect. Everyone has a basic need to be liked and appreciated, no matter how 'mentally tough' a player is."

Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb agreed, saying booing has an effect on starting quarterback Michael Vick, who this week kept his job even though the Eagles are 3-4.

“I think you get in a situation where once you start hearing the boos and hearing the radio stations talk, and people on the outside begin to bring your name up of being benched, then you begin to lose focus, and now your play begins to fall and you begin to focus on other things,” McNabb told “I think it’™s important for him to feed off of what he did last week: not turning the ball over, protect the football, give his guys an opportunity to make plays for him, and good things can happen.”

And, if not, Welch has the answer: Boooo!!!!

Here are some of his rules and it's not just for football:

1. Never boo or cheer when a player is injured. (Case in point: Kansas City Chiefs fans cheering when quarterback Matt Cassel was injured.)

2. Yelling profanity or racial/ethnic/homophobic/sexist remarks is completely unacceptable behavior.

3. It's unacceptable to have fan interference, including running on the playing field or throwing things on the field.

4. Fighting, violence and spitting are not acceptable.

5. It's unacceptable to boo the family of the opposing team.

But that doesn't mean Welch doesn't want you to have fun out there.

1. It is acceptable to boo an anthem singer if he/she doesn't know the words or he/she performs an "artistic interpretation."

2. It is acceptable to boo the team management/owner if they draft poorly or make bad trades.

3. It is acceptable to boo the team mascot if the mascot continually gets in the way of your view of the game -- or steals your girlfriend.

"On Mondays after the Eagles lose, everybody is miserable," Welch said. "If they win, everyone is in a happy mood. I think the game affects the psyche of the whole city."

Alex Smith, starting quarterback of the 49ers, understands why fans in the San Francisco area occasionally boo.

"For us at the Niners, these are fans who have seen five championships and have seen great quarterbacks playing here," Smith said. "You can't really fault them for that. They want to win and they want the team to succeed."

Herm Edwards, who coached in the NFL from 2001 to 2008 and now is a broadcaster for ESPN, has an interesting notion on booing. He thinks it actually helps the opposing team.

"When you boo someone, especially the home team, the other team is thinking, 'We've gotten in their heads,'" Edwards said. "That is now their motivation."

Dr. Cohn agrees.

"Is it the best way to lift your team? No! There is no way that it is a motivating factor. I don't see a coach calling a different play or the players working any harder," Cohn said. "It's really only an expression of frustration."

And super fan Welch thinks the high salaries of the players is the reason fans are booing even more.

"With the Internet and media today, athletes have been transformed into celebrities more so than they were 25 years ago," Welch said. "Sports have become more than a contest or game. They are multibillion dollar big businesses with more exposed athletes. I think fans should be allowed to vent frustrations at games, players and life in ways they can't anywhere else!"