Is It Ever OK to Cheer When an Athlete Is Injured?

Also, rules for when you can and can't boo Jimmy Rollins.

A lot of ethically questionable things going on in the Philly sports world lately, from Philly fans cheering when Joakim Noah got hurt to, uh, Philly fans cheering when Jayson Werth got hurt, so it’s a great time to check the mail bag. And by “mail bag,” I mean “questions I’ve written to myself and will attach fake names to.” I’ve brought along a special guest to help me answer the questions: Jason Weitzel, who runs the excellent Philles blog, Beerleaguer. Let’s get to our first question.

JaMarcus from Jenkintown asks: “Is there a code of conduct that sports fans should follow when watching a live event, and have people’s morals gotten worse at sporting events in the past couple of decades?”

Jason: Are we less moral now than the fans who shouted obscenities at Jackie Robinson? We generally dress and behave more like the cast of Jersey Shore than we do Mad Men now, sure, but we’re also paying $40-$50 a pop for a seat, on average. I’d say a good rule of thumb is to respect the people around you and adapt to the situation. Don’t spend three hours shouting profanity at Bryce Harper when you’ve got a family of kids in front of you.

JGT: Ugh, the only people worse than virulent racists are those who look and behave like the Jersey Shore cast. And sadly, a recent visit to Xfinity Live made it obvious that Pauly D wannabees are pretty much who they’re trying to cater to at the ballpark complex. These are the types of people who cheer for injuries and still take pride in all of that 700 Level nonsense. Yes, in my mind, there is a simple code of conduct for a sporting event. A few quick tips for those of you who don’t understand basic social cues: It is never OK to puke on a child. It is never OK to cheer a serious injury for anybody. And, if you run onto the field of play, don’t expect my sympathy when you get tased.

Lance from Landsale writes: “Sixers fans cheered when Joakim Noah went down a few night ago with a serious ankle injury, and Werth claims Phillies fans mocked him when he broke his wrist. Do you think it’s ever acceptable to cheer for an opposing player’s serious injury (as Eagles fans memorably did with Michael Irvin as well)?”

Jason: I cheered when Michael Irvin went down because I hated that son of a bitch. It’s always a weird juxtaposition when hated villains like Irvin suddenly become flesh-and-bone human beings with a family who loves them. Some people just can’t unplug, so no, I don’t have a major issue with this. Sports is supposed to be an escape from cancer, loss, pain, etc.

JGT: Pretty blown away by Jason’s answer to this one. No, it is never OK to cheer for a serious injury. It really does become a gladiator situation when you can’t realize that the person writhing in pain is an actual human being. Not sure I get how a good escape from pain is cheering for other people’s pain. Seems kind of karmically imbalanced.

I also hear a lot of people ask, “The players get paid so much, why are they deserving of my sympathy when they get hurt?” Well, if you’re an accountant who gets hit by a bus, should poor people nearby ignore you writhing in pain, since you make so much more money than they do?

As for booing Jayson Werth, he hit .444 in the 2008 World Series. If he wasn’t on the Phillies then, they probably would not have made it there to begin with. To boo him because he took a huge contract (kind of like Aaron Rowand, who gets cheered every time he comes back to Philly, did with the Giants) is just obnoxious. To cheer when he gets hurt? You probably were offended by those Geico cavemen commercials because they struck a little close to home.

Phil from Phoenixville writesA few weeks ago, I was at a Phils game at CBP and Jimmy Rollins grounded into a double play. There were a fair amount of boos from the crowd. Is it ever OK to boo Jimmy Rollins? Is it ever OK to boo anybody on the home team for anything having to do with results and not effort?

Jason: Philly fans don’t want to admit this, but they’ve spent more time booing and grumbling about Jimmy Rollins than cheering him. It’s always OK to boo the home team. Always. Unless you’re a Penn State fan, in which case everything is always hunky-dory.

JGT: Disagreed on “always OK to boo the home team.” I sometimes wonder if part of the reason that Philly sports teams are so unsuccessful (one championship in past 118 combined seasons* for our four major teams) is because of the negative vibe at the ballpark/stadium, and the fact that sometimes players aren’t only battling the opposition, but battling their own fans. My home-team boo rule is this: It’s always acceptable to boo lack of effort, but not lack of results. Most pro athletes are furious at themselves when they fail. Why pile on? If you want your team to succeed, why would you want to make one of your own players feel worse about failing than he already does?**

Marty from Mount Airy writes: Jimmy Rollins is one of the greatest players in team history. Hasn’t he earned enough political capital to never get booed? Also, Jimmy famously said that Philly fans are frontrunners. Fair or foul assessment?

Jason: He’ll never get booed from me, because he’s earned that capital. No question he’s the top SS in team history. Fans as frontrunners? For sure. How packed were the seats in 2002-2005-ish?

JGT: If you boo Jimmy Rollins, go back to being an Eagles fan, frontrunner. You don’t know baseball.

Nancy from Narberth writes: There seems to be a certain segment of the population that wears its “700 Level Attitude” like a badge. Is that mentality something the city should hang its hat on, or is it time to evolve a bit?

Jason: It’s gone out of style, hasn’t it? Kind of went out around the time Limp Bizkit broke up. That was a culture bred from a) a venue people loved to desecrate b) teams that fans also loved to desecrate, and c) the “did it all for the nookie” ideology marketed by NFL.

JGT: Not so sure it’s gone out of style, but I do think it’s evolved. I do think the fans are nowhere near as vicious as they were at the Vet, but I also think there’s a certain segment at home games who still act obnoxiously and make the rest of us look bad. You know, the types of people who cried when Limp Bizkit broke up and cheered when Joakim Noah went down with an injury. These people are mindless goons and borderline sociopaths, and there really is no place for them in modern society. But, judging by my first visit there, there are plenty of places for them at Xfinity Live.

* Give or take one or two. I’m not going to sit here all day and do math.

** These rules do NOT apply to Rod Barajas, should we ever re-acquire him. I encourage you to boo him at every opportunity.