A couple of weeks ago, I told the third grader I mentor my philosophy on booing etiquette. I rehashed much of that conversation today, at the boy’s elementary school. Except this time it wasn’t Ernie who listened to my discourse, but his Principal.
My mentee had raised the subject of booing when I saw him after the Super Bowl. Having caught the game for the first time, he couldn’t get over the stream of invective leveled at the Patriots by his mother’s new boyfriend, who’d watched the event with them. Since Ernie’d been taught in school to treat people with respect, he wondered whether calling athletes bad names constituted an exception to the general rule. He also questioned whether other exceptions exist.
As I explained, certain situations require spirited booing, sports being one of them. Athletes expect fans to root for one team over another, to curse at the opposition, and to hiss at their chosen team’s players who mess up.
After hearing my view, Ernie asked: “What about the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’?” As he proceeded to explain, after Kelly Clarkson sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl, his mother’s boyfriend had exclaimed: “At least she didn’t screw it up, like some of these singers do.”
“So, what’s your question?” I asked.
“If the lady got the words wrong, would it be okay to boo her?”
In answer, I opined that everyone performing the national anthem in front of an audience should take the time to learn the words. If they don’t, then they deserve to be jeered for dishonoring the symbolic song.
I reiterated my belief to the school’s Principal this morning, much as Ernie had done this past Friday. In response, the Principal gave me the same lecture he’d imparted to Ernie: “Booing a pop star at a professional sporting event might be acceptable, but calling a fifth-grader ‘stupid’ and ‘moron’ when she forgets the words to the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ at an elementary school assembly certainly is not.”