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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]

  • Paul D

    The Blue Jays were not responsible for any of the Rios contract when he went to Chicago. That’s why it happened, because Chicago could pick him up and the Jays let him go since they didn’t have to pay anything to him.

  • Jim Borwick

    Hey TL, don’t let the facts get in the way of a story. Overbay’s quote about Toronto fans’ values was about small crowds at the SkyDome/Rogers Centre post baseball strike, not regarding how he expected to be treated. Nice job taking quotes out of context and painting us as petty and vindictive.

  • Mark

    Obviously your research into the Sundin situation didn’t take into account the fact that fans were livid with the fact there were other teams willing to give up significant assets to the Leafs for Sundin as a rental player.
    Sundin knew his time was up with the Leafs, regardless, and if he felt he would tarnish his reputation for becoming a rental player, over making a sacrifice to help the Leafs, stating he did not want to win the Cup, if he didn’t play for the entire season.
    Yet he had done this anyway when signing with the Vancouver Canucks three months into the season, thus in the eyes of Leafs fans, Sundin did exactly what he said he didn’t want to do, and that was contend for the cup without playing the whole season.

    Tomas Kaberle will never get booed in Toronto for the rest of his career, as he knew his time was up with the Leafs, and for him to realize that he gave Leafs fans reasons to hope for the future with a return of some promising assets. Doesn’t hurt that he won a cup (the only way to cheat to win a cup is to take performance enhancing drugs imho), and still gets a decent salary playing for a team that still has a better shot than toronto to make the playoffs.

    So that explains why Mats Sundin won’t get a warm welcome in Toronto, possibly even ever, because current Leafs fans will remember Sundin could have given Leafs fans hope for the future, but instead, almost hypocritically did exactly what he said he didn’t want to do, leaving the Leafs.

  • matador

    was just at my first jay’s game since recently moving here and the crowd booed all the time, after plays you normally never boo. it was a bizarre experience (im longtime player and been to a number of games in la, dc, baltimore, seattle, florida, etc). the boos were particularly unwarranted when the jays’ pitchers were doing a great job, like throwing low and away for a ball in a 1-2 count, or sawing off ryan howard, the phillies’ cleanup hitter, even if he gets on base with a bloop in the shallow outfield.

    my guess was people here are used to booing crappy leafs and raptors performance, and the fans obviously dont understand baseball. its like watching a hockey game with americans in the states, with a knee jerk reaction to boo.

  • Nancy

    Overbay’s comments seem complimentary to me…Toronto fans are passionate and adhere to their values, nothing wrong with that.