As the Olympic stadium announcer introduced His Right Honourable George Osborne MP (Bringer of Dearth and Despair, to give him his full title) on Monday night for the Paralympic T38 400m race medal presentation, the chancellor’s nervous smile gradually morphed into awkward laughter. As the vast majority of the capacity 80,000 crowd – roughly the population of Wakefield – took part in an ad-hoc opinion poll, roundly booing his appearance, there was little else for him to do short of flipping the bird and slowly circling around. Unsurprisingly, minimal public sympathy has since emerged for the man spearheading the government’s unprecedented attack on the UK’s disabled population through its ruthless, hasty changes to disability benefits. As a couples’ counsellor will always tell you, it’s important to let someone know how you feel.
The events of Monday night (and to a lesser Teresa May's reception on Tuesday night) reminded me of the catharsis gained through booing someone whose presence fundamentally offends you. I personally find it very healthy to boo regularly. Next time your ball-breaking manager gives you unwarranted hassle, give them a good booing and you’ll be amazed at the sense of release (admittedly more likely from your job in this case, but you get the idea).
The music was subsequently cranked up to mask the booing
Booing can represent a spontaneous expression of collective exasperation, but can also signal things are about to kick off. Here’s a look at some classic booing incidents that show the art form in its various guises, both good and bad…
The ‘We disagree With Your Policies’ Boo:
George Osborne was not the only medal ceremony presenter this summer to receive a vocal vote of no confidence from an entire stadium. I know because I was there. At the Olympic women’s football final between USA and Japan at Wembley – a fantastic game incidentally – FIFA Führer Sepp Blatter was given a right earful. As he realised 75,000 envelopes stuffed with cash may exceed his silence-money budget, he just stood there and took it like a man who had been booed at stadia across the world for years. (At 3.10mins in the video)
Concerned that a woman who believes dinosaurs co-existed with man and that Alaska borders Russia stood a genuine chance of becoming vice-president and potentially having access to the nuclear codes, Philadelphia Flyers fans made their feelings known when the ‘ultimate hockey mom’ Sarah Palin was presented to the crowd. The music was subsequently cranked up to mask the booing, as the crowd prayed in unison for a comedy ice rink slip-up.
You try sneaking a pig’s head into the Olympic Stadium on the off chance someone like George Osborne will turn up
The ‘Traitor!’ Boo
Having established himself over five years as a Barcelona hero, Luis Figo did the unthinkable in 2000 by moving to arch-rivals Real Madrid. For those who don’t follow Spanish football, those guys really hate each other. Playing against Barcelona at the Nou Camp two years later, it was perhaps unwisely decided that Figo would take Real’s corner kicks, leaving him exposed to the onslaught of standard crowd projectiles like bottles and, you know, pig’s heads. (You try sneaking a pig’s head into the Olympic Stadium on the off chance someone like George Osborne will turn up; it’s not so easy, trust me). The booing was incessant whenever Figo so much as looked at the ball and the game was delayed for twelve minutes.
The ‘Jesus Hates Such-and-such’ Boo:
A small section of Republican supporters showed their redneck roots during a Republican debate after a Youtube video sent from a gay soldier in Iraq was shown, querying Rick Santorum’s stance on the now-repealed infamous Don’t Ask Don’t Tell military policy. Tellingly, Santorum’s answer pretty much felt like a marginally more articulate version of booing at all the gay and lesbian soldiers protecting his country.
Olivo then found himself being booed by an angry crowd for no apparent reason
The ‘Let’s All Boo At That Guy’ Boo:
It was December 1968; the Philadelphia Eagles were enduring a torrid season, and their fans were fed up. Perversely, they were particularly upset because they had just started to win the occasional game, meaning that they would be unable to recruit now infamous OJ Simpson as first pick from the next NFL draft (the prerogative of the team with the season’s worst record). Amid icy cold conditions, the person booked to parade around the field as Santa had failed to show so a 19-year-old, Frank Olivo, who happened to be wearing a Santa suit was roped into doing the job. Olivo then found himself being booed by an angry crowd for no apparent reason other than they were cold and angry at their failing team. The next thing he knew, he was ducking a barrage of snow balls being pelted at him from all angles. Commendably, the young man even had the presence of mind to tell someone who had managed to hit his target ‘You’re not getting anything for Christmas!’
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