To borrow the vernacular from the business world, fans are customers. Professional athletes are a product. Customers have a right to express their displeasure and disappointment in a product. Some A’s fans have chosen to boo reliever Jim Johnson to convey their frustration. If Johnson had 20 saves with a 1.25 ERA, most A’s fans would celebrate and cheer him. Don't misunderstand me. I’m not endorsing booing a professional athlete as a way to express your disappointment, but some media and even some players need to understand that fans don’t have access to players like they do. For most fans, watching them perform on the field and observing an occasional interview is the only exposure they have to a professional athlete. If some fans met Johnson for coffee and got to know him, I’m sure they would be more considerate to him as a human being. But most fans don’t know Johnson, the dad, husband, friend and son.
Being a closer in the big leagues is a high-profile gig that draws an emotional reaction. Johnson is aware of that, I’m sure. Most of the time, closers are the bridge to a win and euphoria. When a closer fails to seal a victory, they are sometimes perceived as the villain. When they seal it, they’re perceived as a hero. Booing is a part of baseball, a part of professional sport. A’s fans booed Jose Canseco a few years after his MVP season in 1988. A’s fans are some of the most radical and passionate in baseball, and some express their passion through booing.
I’m not judging them for that.
When they choose to convey their passion through cheering, I’m not judging them for that, either. When Johnson performs better, fans will undoubtedly cheer him. To be fair, even during Johnson’s struggles, some fans refuse to boo him. In fact, some have rooted for him. That’s their choice. As long as fans do not exhibit behavior that is unruly, disruptive, or illegal in nature, they have a right to express their fandom how they want.
I refuse to try and tame an A's fan.