by Kent Sterling
In a perfect world, professional athletes would be smart enough to avoid watching ill-informed knuckleheads dissect their every move on TV, listen to music in their cars, and ignore the easily agitated fans who boo or tweet about what they perceive to be failure.
Jerry Seinfeld heckled a heckler at her work on “Seinfeld,” and she didn’t care for it. I wonder what would happen if Roy Hibbert followed fans around during the course of their day and booed when they made an error. Speak out of turn in a meeting, and Hibbert bellows from the corner about what an idiot you are. That would be entertaining for the rest of us, but unpleasant for the target.
Last night, Hibbert answered critics with a season high 28 points, but also removed all doubt that the donuts in scoring and rebounding in Game One were behavior based and not the result of a physical malady. Those elevated expectations make him an even bigger target.
I get booing. I like booing. Professional athletes are reasonable targets for boos. They are adults, and should know that beer soaked tools are likely to indulge in voicing their frustration when disappointment occurs. It’s usually reserved for opposing players, but home fans occasionally yelp at mental farts and poor effort.
But booing Hibbert seems a cruel response to an emotional young man prone to taking personally his own failures. Hobbert trying to put the ball in the bucket has been like a blind man feeling for a doorknob, and fans have become irritated when his efforts prove futile.
If fans of a team hope to have a positive effect on a player’s performance and their favorite team’s result, jeering a player seems counter productive. Despite Hibbert’s 28 and nine last night, I’ve never seen an employee respond well over the long term to harassment and embarrassment.
In no way am I saying fans shouldn’t find a reason to rain down hell on players once in awhile. If a baseball player fails to run out a ground ball, or breaks into a home run trot on a hit that fails to reach the wall, turn it loose. If a basketball player is obviously dogging it, let the guy have it.
Hibbert has been uneven in his play for months, and clearly has been troubled by the level of production he has exhibited.
The point of communication should be to enlighten or alter perception. Hibbert was already well aware that he sucked, so the booing and constant din of criticism has been nothing more than self-indulgent piling on.
Sure, Hibbert is paid more than $14 million per year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a sensitive guy being hurt by fans ripping him to shreds every time he falls down trying to establish post position or missing a point blank shot.
Zero points and zero rebounds is an unacceptable result for an all-star in a playoff game, but unless he appears not to own his poor play, what’s the point of hammering the poor guy?
The players try more often than not to be the best version of themselves while of the floor. Fans in the stands and on social media should do the same.