Editorial: Booing our student-athletes is counterproductive

Our student section represents MU just as much as the athletes wearing our colors on the field do.

Late in the second quarter of last Saturday’s football game against Connecticut, quarterback Maty Mauk received a symphony of boos from his own student section following an overshot pass attempt to sophomore wide receiver J’Mon Moore. The boos came shortly after freshman quarterback Drew Lock led a seven-play, 29-yard march into field-goal range, only to have senior kicker Andrew Baggett smack the right upright with a 40-yard kick.

Mauk shot back at the booing student section in a postgame interview.

“It’s whatever, honestly,” Mauk said. “If that’s how they feel, that’s how they feel. I’m not going to worry about them. That’s why they’re up in the stands and I’m down on the field.”

Now, while Mauk's response may have been somewhat blunt, that doesn’t change the fact that booing our own starting quarterback is neither an productive nor an OK thing to do.

After all, what is the purpose of booing anyway? If the goal is to improve your players’ performance by informing them of their own errors, chances are they are already well aware. If you’re trying to light a fire under a particular player’s ass, in this case Mauk’s, odds are you’ll only send them into a deeper funk.

And students shouldn’t hold some bad games against Mauk. After all, this is the quarterback who saved the 2013 season, helped Missouri to two consecutive division titles and nearly concussed a Minnesota cornerback to win the 2015 Citrus Bowl.

Some say the boos were directed at coach Gary Pinkel for taking Lock out of the game in the first place. However, even if you’re only booing one person in particular, you might as well be booing the entire team. The team operates as a unit, and from their point of view, all they hear is an irritated student section.

So why boo at all? Well, some would argue that these players are, in a way, professionals. This group argues that if MU treats its students like customers and refers to the team as a product, then what do they expect when they perform poorly? Essentially, it's our time and money they've wasted when they perform poorly.

But these players aren’t professionals. They’re amateurs, which means they are students first, athletes second. They are receiving access to a college education through their participation in sports. A collegiate sport is not a career or profession — it is these students’ vehicle to the college experience.

Our student section represents MU just as much as the athletes wearing our colors on the field do. This in mind, students should hesitate before ragging on the leader of our nationally ranked football team in full sight of so many parents and alumni. Doing so paints an ugly picture of our university and gives rise to the notion that MU does not stand behind its athletes.

Some might say that applauding and cheering your team becomes kind of pointless if that's all you're ever allowed to do. This is a fallacy. Do you know what is even more powerful than booing your own team? Dead silence. Silence speaks volumes, and being greeted by a silent student section sends a more powerful message to our players than booing can ever do.

The next time you watch an MU football game, we urge you to look at the players representing our school on the field as students — just the same as you or me.

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