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The people versus the athletes: are Toronto fans incessant boo-birds?

When former Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay returned to town this weekend, the sold-out crowd at the Rogers Centre showered him with cheers. That reaction probably came as a shock to another former Jay, Lyle Overbay, who didn’t mince his words when he was in Toronto last week, saying that he expected “the normal” reaction from Toronto fans—boos. “They’re gonna boo the other team. That’s the way they are,” said the Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman. “I’m assuming [it’s] just because of their values”. Now, Overbay was nothing but a class act in his time in Toronto, so we’re going to assume his comments aren’t just sour grapes. Still, we can’t help but wonder if there’s any validity to his statement. After all, Toronto fans seem to be notorious boo-birds: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, Chicago White Sox GM Ozzie Guillen and former Toronto Raptors fan favourite Charles Oakley are among those who appear to think so. With that in mind, we look at five recent case studies to try to understand if the city’s sports fan really do boo too much, after the jump.

Case #1: Raptors fans vs. Vince Carter
The Particulars:
For a few years, Vince Carter was Toronto’s most popular athlete, and with good reason. But Carter eventually soured on the club and his efforts waned accordingly. He even went so far as to announce that he wasn’t going to dunk anymore, and then did this after being traded to the New Jersey Nets. And this. Sigh.
Our verdict:
You know the booing is well deserved when it’s commemorated forever and always in a video game.

Case #2: Leafs fans vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Particulars:
After getting owned by the newly extinct Atlanta Thrashers in Toronto, Leaf fans let their disappointment show, raining boos—and waffles—onto the ice.
Our verdict:
Booing your own team is normally taboo, unless that team hasn’t made the playoffs in years and is losing 5-1 to the woebegone Thrashers. Plus, wafflegate led to this, so we can’t complain.

Case #3: Blue Jay fans vs. Alex Rios
The particulars:
Despite his signing a seven-year, $70 million contract in 2006, a disappointing 2009 season saw Rios placed on waivers and eventually signed by the Chicago White Sox (with the Jays still responsible for the bulk of his contract). Then, last year in Chicago, Rios had a resurgence, batting .284 with 21 home runs and 99 RBI.
Our Verdict: Booing a player for poor decisions made by management (paging J.P. Ricciardi) is unfair, sure, but nobody ever said sports fans are the most rational bunch.

Case #4: Toronto FC fans vs. David Beckham
The Particulars:
This one seems pretty simple: Beckham plays for the L.A. Galaxy, who were Toronto FC’s opponents on the night in question.
Our verdict:
It’s just a corner kick, so what’s the deal? This is probably the result of jealousy over the fact that Becks married the hot Spice Girl, or that he’s a gazillionaire, or that the Galaxy is in much better shape than TFC. In other words, we don’t really get it.

Case #5: Leaf fans vs. Mats Sundin
The Particulars:
Sundin led the Leafs to a series of deep playoff runs and was a local legend thanks to his proclivity for coming through in the clutch. With the team entering rebuilding mode, Sundin postponed retirement to chase the Cup one last time, signing a one-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks in 2009.
Our Verdict:
While many applauded Sundin upon his return, the boos were still audible. For that, we hang our heads in shame. If Mats Sundin can’t get a warm welcome from the Toronto crowd, who can?

Overbay expects boos in Toronto [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]