Scott’s Turf: Unacceptable Behavior

View from the West End Zone

Last fall, during a game at Autzen Stadium, I witnessed a moment I am most embarrassed about; the booing of a college player. Has there ever been a more maligned player in Oregon history than Alejandro Maldonado?

Criticism of players is fair game in my opinion; it is what we do. But as George Wrightster told me last week, it’s okay to criticize the performance but not to insult the person or his family. Booing a college player, to me, extends beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.

While there is scholarship money provided and I will be the first to say the money is close to sufficient compensation for their work – I think that the scholarship should reflect true cost of attendance – these are still not professional athletes.

The common theme is that “he (Maldonado) cost us (Oregon) two shots at the National Title in a row.”

First, no he didn’t. Sorry to say, but anyone who thinks that Oregon was going to get a rematch with LSU in 2011 is drinking a really spiked kool-aid. It would not have mattered had the Ducks beaten USC in 2011, the perceived manner of their defeat to LSU, combined with Alabama’s positive perception would have kept Oregon out of the title game, regardless. Stop using the green goggles; it just wasn’t happening.

Alejandro Maldonado kicking during the Fiesta Bowl vs Kansas State

Courtesy of the Fiesta Bowl

Alejandro Maldonado kicking during the Fiesta Bowl vs Kansas State.

As for 2012, why don’t people blame Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (who dropped a sure fire pick six); or De’Anthony Thomas (whose missed block stopped a would-be touchdown)? Either play would have changed the outcome of the game.

We could also blame Chip Kelly, whose refusal to try anything new resulted in repeating the same situation, hoping for a different result. As is oft repeated, that is the definition of insanity.

The difference from a fan perspective is that each of those other players has dozens of opportunities, so one mistake seems less important. A kicker, meanwhile, is in for so very few plays that any mistake is magnified.

I get that.

It’s just too bad that Oregon fans feel the need to belittle someone who committed to playing football as a student-athlete and simply came up short in a couple of magnified instances. I think many fans forget just what it takes to be an elite athlete. I don’t. I played at a small college and worked my backside off after college to become a world-class power lifter.

The next season, Mark Helfrich ended what is perhaps the most over-scrutinized two plays in college football since the words “wide right” were etched into the psyche of Florida State fans.

It takes a team Win The Day

Kevin Cline

It takes a team to Win The Day.

With the promotion of Matt Wogan, Maldonado’s placekicking career was virtually over, barring injury.

I want to thank Maldonado for his efforts and perseverance. It takes a strength most of the boo-birds cannot muster, to keep coming back from failure and continuing to make an effort. It takes the kind of strength few know and to do so without fear. It takes the kind of strength the boo-birds do not possess, to become a scholarship athlete in the Pac-12 Conference. Maldonado had much more strength than any of those boo-birds.

A counterpoint can certainly be made that the ever increasing cost of attending a football game gives fans the right to boo a player, coach, referee or anyone else they choose. Even in college. There is some merit to that thought from the intuitive concept. Sometimes, though, intuition is wrong.

Having the right to do something, however, does not mean that it is an action we should undertake. Fortunately, the one thing I can take is that which the great Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: ”If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

Take solace, though, as there is some relief for those of us who were disgusted by the actions of the few. After all, the best way for someone to show their ignorance is to allow them to speak – or, in this case, boo. We saw your ignorance. So did the whole world.

Nonetheless, for those of you who booed him – well, just be glad I wasn’t sitting next to you.

 

Top Photo by Scott Reed

 

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Scott Reed

Scott Reed

Scott Reed has been a fan of the Ducks from his first days listening to Wendy Ray in 1974 on a scratchy AM radio from Oakridge; forty long years of fandom. He has been a long time contributor to Duck Sports Authority and stumbled into formal writing about the Duck program in 2011 when he looked at the “other side” of the Will Lyles investigation. Long known as “Ducks39” on message boards, he branched deeper into writing for Duck Sports Authority covering games and recruiting for the last four seasons.Scott works for Roush Industries in Portland as the Operations Supervisor. He received a Bachelor of Science in Management from the University of Oregon in 1994 with honors. Scott is also a long time power lifter who spent time as an Assistant Strength Coach at the University of South Dakota.He and his wife live in Beaverton. Scott has two grown sons and two step-sons. In what spare time he has left, he likes to read philosophy and lift weights.

  • Trevor Westerdahl

    I agree that booing a player for nothing other than not being as good as you want them to be can be considered rude and typical of “drive-by” fans. There are the true fans of the Ducks that have been with the team whether they win or loose. These fans were not likely to be booing Maldonado.

    Then there are the “fans” that join a team as the team becomes successful. They aren’t really part of the group because of loyalty to the team… that is not why they are wearing the jerseys or are screaming in the stands. These are the “drive-by” fans… the fans that want to be associated to something successful. The fans that somehow extract some form of self-greatness in themselves by being associated to a winning team. When the team they are rooting for does well, their association somehow makes them great as well. There aren’t any better examples of these type of fans than Miami Heat basketball or LA anything. Those fans leave if you let them down in any way. Those fans can’t handle the full gamut of emotions. They love the high and can’t take the low. That is why I define them as “drive-by” fans. The moment things don’t go their way, they express dissatisfaction and go away from they team they were supporting when its down and seek out or drive-by the next winning team and stick with them until they fall short.

    I feel for Maldonado. I don’t feel sorry. I do respect (greatly) that he never quit. Imagine the pressure the first time he was attempting one of those key-moment field goals. Once he missed, the pressure was ever-greater. Those are the moments that make sporting events popular. Most of us sit there watching, captivated by what we see, wondering by what might be, as the moment passes by in real time.

    Let’s also be real: there are players that thrive in those high-pressure moments and players that succumb to the pressure. That difference defines players, their record, and their future. All reports indicate that Maldonado came through in practice after practice (better than any alternate). Anyone watching actual games knows that Maldonado struggled under pressure and didn’t kick as well as in practice. He had the ability: proven in practice, but struggled in high-pressure moments.

    That is why he was singled out.

    Everyone knew he was walking onto the field, again, under-pressure in yet another “key-moment”. All people watching knew the pressure and knew what it meant. Most of us wanted him to break-through, to overcome, to finally perform under-stress, as he did in practice and to finally be a “clutch-player” going forward.

    I think the booing was in response to so many people believing that the coach should have moved on and put another kicker on the field much earlier. The booing comes from those “drive-by” “fans” who just felt themselves be let down. The fan who love the high, but hate the lows. They leave when there are too many lows. They have little strength. Every one of the boo’rs are announcing their own weakness. Also…I’m not so sure the booing was really directed at Maldonado. I think it was just as much, if not more, directed at the coach for putting him out there in a similar situation, yet again. At some point, fans can rightly claim that the result was predictable.

    It was a tough call and a tough situation. These moments are drama. Those situations are what makes sports so entertaining. There are movies that drive people to cry, to laugh, to feel angry, to yell in fear, and to laugh out loud. The emotions are why people love movies. Sports also invoke emotions and without them, there is no entertainment.

    Sports drive people to sit in silence, to jump in the air rooting players on, and to hold heads low in disappointment. Its the stress of yelling happily n moment, only to be silenced and disappointed in the next. Without the risk of the negative, there isn’t the same reward for success. It is that stress of coming through or falling short that fuels the drama. What would the drama be like if fans weren’t allowed to boo? What if we were only allowed to cheer? What if there was major pressure to hide any display of any disappointment? Wasn’t it ABC sports that so eloquently captured the whole concept with the line, “…he thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat…” when referring to sports moments?

    I’m not going to boo Maldonado or any other player in a situation like him, but I’m also not going to be foolish and believe others won’t. The “drive-by” fans help fuel the emotions, but they aren’t really there for the team, they are there for themselves and they cannot help find blame when the happy high moments they expected instead turn to disappointing, agonizing moments. They are part of the mix with nearly any sports crowd. The lash-out is expected and frankly is reasonable. Maldonado is a talented man with great inner strength worthy of great respect, but he wasn’t (thus far) a clutch player.

    I see why you want to call the booing unacceptable, but I think you are wrong… it is part of the risk that comes with sports. To believe that booing should be removed is to deny the reality that real emotions are involved. Booing is an expected result that comes with that “agony of defeat”. Those fans that only really want to be there for the good times show themselves in these moments and their reactions make the moments even more dramatic.

    So long as the fans don’t resort to far-worse, truly unacceptable name-calling. So long as the fans aren’t actually violent, then it is normal and to be expected that certain fans will boo. Categorizing booing as unacceptable in those situations is just wrong. Fans cheer when players succeed and many boo when they don’t: get over it because even though I wouldn’t have booed him, I knew full well others would and I knew why. That made the moment all the more captivating. It was emotionally charged, and unfortunately for Duck fans like me it was a great disappointment. For the opposing team’s fans, they got the high they wanted.

    Again: fans cheer when players succeed and many boo when they don’t. get over it!

  • hoboduck

    Nice job here Scott. Your wisdom and insight is beyond reproach and I should now reference you as Mr. Reed. You have consistently elevated your musings to a level that cannot be reached by most.

    As for Trevor W.: I would guess he is younger than 30 years of age. I sense the acceptance of unacceptable practices are the “neo-norm.” That in itself is sad for a boomer to accept. Booing your own team is never acceptable. Fans have the right to do so, however, it is unacceptable. Sorry Trevor but you missed the boat and the point but thanks for the novelette.
    Go Ducks WTD

    • Trevor Westerdahl

      I think you missed the boat. No, I am not under 30 (you misfired on that judgment call too). I wrote based on what life is and what I think really transpired, not based on some philosophical assessment that is really just a figment of imaginational reality, which is what I believe you did. I stated pretty clear that I would not boo Maldonado, but basically booing the “booers” isn’t really helpful either. That is what you are doing: booing them with a strong aura of self-righteousness in some “neener-neener” moment.

      I accept the truth that immature people fill sports arenas (young and old). NOTE: Older does not necessarily make wiser and younger does not necessarily result in immature.

      The words that triggered my response are “unacceptable behavior”. I suppose you are an idealist that imagines a world where nobody will boo in scenarios like Maldonado’s. I still challenge the idea that Maldonado was the person that was really booed at all. I believe the majority of people were booing the coach for putting him on the field.

      I say that because I was in a sports bar at the time and the crowd erupted in disbelief and shouted out all sorts statements of frustration when Maldonado strutted onto he field (before he kicked the ball) where I heard:

      “OMG!”

      “What is Helfrich doing?”

      “Seriously, at what point does another kicker get a chance?”

      Those are the typical comments I heard people cry out. They made their comments because there is significant passed performance available to judge future expectation. Maldonado is a guy with great physical ability. He proved in practice he was capable of the kicker role, but repeatedly fell short when needed most on the field in a key moment. There was a long history involving multiple seasons. The crowd was frustrated.

      You tell me… should he be picked again, in the next game? If so, what should the crowd do? If he failed on two more attempts, during that same game, should he be put in again for a third attempt? If so, what should the crowd do? And after a game like that, should he play in yet another game? If all that happened and he walks on the field again, what would you expect the crowd to do?

      There is a tipping point that crosses over into something wrong just to put him on the field. A great many people strongly felt that line was already crossed. If my previosu paragraph transpired, at some point, it okay to boycott such “cringable moments”, right? At that point, the crowd can boo, yes? Or they always must react in silence? You tell me, oh master of all things ethical.
      The people around me at the sports bar were not stating any negative comments about Maldonado. They weren’t yelling idiot or loser or anything like that.. as you seem to have concluded is all that could have happened. This article and your accompanying post indicate that the booing was nothing but people yelling their dissatisfaction at Maldonado. I suppose people can only see or imagine what they truly feel inside. Perhaps, that is what you saw. I don’t recall a single comment directed at Maldonado. I heard many comments about the coach and “Why?”… “Why?” … “Why was he put on the field… again?”

      I get why you think its beyond rude to boo a player, but I think your assessment that a player was being booed is just wrong and not factually accurate… that is not what I witnessed. In my observation, the reasoning and basis for booing was completely different than the article described. I saw people booing the coach for what they thought was a decision that made them cringe. I thought they were booing for not giving some other player a chance. I thought they booed because passed results predicted he would miss. I thought they booed because it was painful to watch… really painful.

      I meant it and still do: get over it. Those drive-by fans are going to be there. They’re going to react without much thinking and, in this case, it really wasn’t much about the player as much as people cringing about the decision itself and not being happy about it. Now that I realize the two of you have summarily directed all that booing at Maldonado and only Maldonado and can’t see the whole picture that really transpired… now I get it. Wow!

      I think you owe the crowd an apology. I truly don’t believe that even a fraction of those that booed did so in the purely speculative and awful way you imagined. You judged and sentenced the crowd drawing only one simple-minded conclusion, and then you react instinctively, and again inaccurately, by painting me in a box where you think it is people like me that influence “Unacceptable Behavior”.
      Maybe you should turn on the radio or watch TV. Perhaps, you can take in a few episodes of Jersey Shore, Breaking Bad, and/or throw in a twist of Game of Thrones. I didn’t boo and its not people like me that are causing bad behaviors. Yep, you’re off target in your assessment of me too. There are far too many “real” sources of influence.

      Seriously, in your opinion, I missed the boat. In my opinion, you need to tone down your self-righteous sense of the world, realize what really transpired, and finally allow the fog to fade away so you can start to realize you keep talking about boats when nobody is in the water.
      The two of you need “chill pills”. You need to open your eyes to the full “true” picture… and.. get your high horse and stop acting so superior. Right now, I bet there are thousands you miscategorized and judged. I bet that nearly none of the crowd ever sank as low as you imagined them

      • hoboduck

        Ha Ha……I could not bring myself to read your novelette # 2. Bottom line Trevor, you just don’t boo your own team.
        I’m sorry that is so hard for you to understand.
        Go Ducks WTD

        • Trevor Westerdahl

          No surprise there… you couldn’t read my response because you are a legend in your own mind that passes quick judgments and has already deemed yourself mentally superior. To actually read my response would damage your fictional image of yourself.

          Yep, I get why you “can’t read” the response. It would mean you would have to remove your prejudice and your previous conclusions and actually think about what I posted. You would have to possibly consider that maybe your simple-minded conclusion that everyone was booing at Maldonado, and for no other reason, just might not be accurate.

          You announced pretty clearly that there is no point in debating or making arguments because once YOU draw a conclusion, there is no other conclusion possible. Isn’t that exactly what you announce when you wrote, “I could not bring myself to read your novelette #2″. Oh and, yes, you had to toss in the “novelette” as means to state your smugness and infer, yet again, your superiority.

          Unfortunately, you prove incapable of opening up your thought process, of actual intelligent consideration, and incapable of considering alternatives… whatever you conclude… that is instantly fact and instantly the righteous… the morally superior choice (in your own mind).

          So sad. In reality, the only thing you proved is that you don’t listen to others, are condescending, and are unable to be properly civil. It is ironic that the whole article was about passing judgment on the behavior of people in a crowd and then passing judgment on those individuals in a lecture directing on how to properly behave.

          The irony is how rude, condescending, and uncivil of a response you provided.

          I get it: us bottom dwellers should just move on and stay away from the likes of you. Sheesh!

          Let me know when you learn how to read and interpret what people actually say/write, and then we can discuss what is hard to understand.

          I guess.. Ha Ha… Yuk it up. What a jerk and how embarrassing to be you.

          • hoboduck

            Trevor this site is much different than other sites wherein we do not attack others for their opinions. I did not say anything different tha Mr. Scott and you are not attacking him. (???) Please keep it civil or go to another site. Again, it is unacceptable to boo your own team.
            Go Ducks WTD

      • rpowell

        Is winning a football game really that important in the scheme of your anno – second life? OMG!!!

  • Scott Reed

    Trevor and hobo, first I want to thank you for taking the time to respond through comments. It is nice to see people care enough about any particular topic to voice their opinions as well. Editorial commentary such as I write for this site is supposed to elicit that kind of response.

    As for the specifics Trevor, while I agree with many, of not all of your points… my only beef is that these are college students taking a full course load… AND they have significant limitations placed upon them for becoming better at their sport. I have never found it acceptable to boo “one of your own” college players; regardless of how poorly he may have performed.

    Until this year, these were starving college kids…

    And, while we may have to understand that “it happens” if we simply stand by and allow it without speaking our minds, we are tacitly approving the action. It may be spitting into the wind to complain, but as long as I do; as long as other reasonable fans voice THEIR displeasure over this type of activity, we continue to attempt to set a better tone.

    We must always strive to make Autzen better. Do fans at Hayward boo kids that fail? No. Why should we expect less of football fans!