I planned on going to Wednesday’s Brewers game, sitting in the air-conditioned press box and quietly watching the Crew go for the sweep against the Pirates. But at the last minute, a colleague offered Bobby Tanzilo and me a chance to use his 13th row, third base side seats. It seemed like a good time to take the temperature of fans on this most peculiar 2013 season.
After sweating through the four-hour affair, I can say the temperature was hot. But not in the way I expected.
The Brewers should’ve won this game, but John Axford blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning. It was the first time I’d seen and heard the vitriol from fans around me. They booed him. A lot.
One of the most vocal boo birds was sitting two rows behind us. As Axford walked slowly back to the dugout, having just coughed up three runs, this fan screamed loudly, a wild look in this eyes. I shot back a glare, as did the group behind us. He just screamed more loudly. He invoked the name "Turnbow."
I wonder what fans think will come from booing their own guy. Do they think Axford will be shamed into pitching better? Do they think that skipper Ron Roenicke will hear the booing and decide to demote his former closer to an ever lesser role? Do they think that General Manager Doug Melvin will cut or trade the player who was spectacular two seasons ago, then scuffled last year and this year, too?
I’m not sure, but I don’t like it. I threw this out on Twitter, and several people agreed with me. A few didn’t, and I thought this reply was the most interesting:
Oh please. This ain't Little League for chrissake. RT @andytarnoff: Brewers "fans" booing Axford just got my in-person stink eye.— Ted Zahn (@iTed) May 1, 2013
Are players affected by booing? On the road, probably not so much – ask Ryan Braun. But if there’s a such thing as home-field advantage, they must be moved negatively. Axford was clearly disappointed after Wednesday’s game.
"Fans are fans," Axford told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. "I know what I can do, I know what I've accomplished here, even if they forget about it. I've thrown well recently, and put together with the last few years I've been here -- I don't mean to toot my own horn, but it's better than a lot of other relievers around in the league.
Think Axford is upset? Me, too.
He continued, "It's a short-term memory for a lot of fans. Obviously, they forget what I've done in the past, and it's easy for them to do. Right now, I'm just going to keep trying to get the job done."
Bottom line, it’s easy to get down on a player. At home, at the sports bar, on Twitter. But if you think you’re doing your team any favors by booing its players at the game, you’re not.
Sure, the players can take it, but why make them? Put the advantage back in home-field advantage. Save the booing for your living room.
Buying a ticket to a game implies no rights except admission to watch the game. Any cheering/booing is purely a choice-not a "right." Apparently some "fans" believe money spent on a ticket is some kind of contract that guarantees a flawless performance and a win. When this does not happen, they are offended-if you are upset about the money, don't buy a ticket! I abhor boo birds & think of them as fair-weather fans. Booing your hometown player shows a lack of class, and if Axford is lacking in anything right now it's definitely not class.
I understand completely why people boo. Like other posters said, it's the only way the fan (in most cases a paying customer as we don't have press passes to write fluff pieces about the Crew) can show displeasure. In our regular jobs if we fail to perform our bosses will boo us in their own special way or our clients will boo us.
Like it or not, the fans pay a lot of the bills for the Brewers. So they get to show their opinion if they choose. I think it would be poor form to boo someone who had one lousy game, but Axford has been bad for a loooong time now.
I don't think Axford has any reason to toot his own horn. He had an outstanding 2011 and solid 2010. But Mariano Rivera he is not, so he's not afforded the luxury of avoiding boos for what has now been one+ seasons of simply dreadful pitching. He blew 9 saves last year. Take away 6 of those, leaving him with a reasonable 3 BS, and the Brewers would've been a playoff team. I'm not saying last year's disappointment was all on him, but he seems to be missing the point. If I had a great 2011 at my job and followed it up with a couple years of suck, well, I'd expect to hear about it. And I wouldn't be falling back on "these people have short memories about how great I used to be." Come on.
Heaven forbid that passive aggressive Midwesterners finally recognize a string of lousy performances when they see it in person. After a season and a month of blowing lead after lead, I'd say this boo-ing was overdue --- and probably not loud enough. Only in Milwaukee, or the Midwest in general, could this be a story...
So after blowing yet another game for the Brewers, what should fans do as Axford walks head-down to the dugout? Cheer for him? Sit in silence? We all get "booed" in some way when we don't do our job, we usually get chewed out by our boss or are on the receiving end of a rant from a disgruntled customer. This is merely the way frustrated, paying fans express their derision. Yes, Axford has no doubt provided some great memories for fans...but at what point do fans get to be vocally upset with his performance as a professional athlete that they're paying to see?
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