Column: Missouri players hypocritically condemn fans’ boos

The Tigers have two choices: Play better or take ownership of their shortcomings.

What do a replica Missouri football helmet, a Missouri Tigers Tiffany stained glass table lamp and a flight from Columbia to Chicago have in common?

They all cost approximately $152, the same price as a student season ticket package for Missouri football this season.

Clearly, there are plenty of nice items available for purchase at a $152 price point. Missouri students filling the student section at Memorial Stadium every week chose to spend their dollars on the University of Missouri and its football program, thus solidifying themselves as customers.

But when Missouri fans — many of them students — serenaded the Tigers, and specifically junior quarterback Maty Mauk, with boos during Missouri’s 9-6 victory over Connecticut on Saturday, the team took exception. Senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers and former quarterback James Franklin, Mauk’s predecessor, tweeted their displeasure.

“As Mizzou fans you should never boo anyone on this team,” Brothers tweeted. “Regardless of how the game is going or how someone is playing. That’s not ONEMIZZOU (sic).”

Franklin also took to Twitter to defend Mauk.

“Booing in the ZOU?” Franklin tweeted. “I remember that … didn’t fix a thing. Booing is not a right, it’s a choice that reflects character.”

Unfortunately, Brothers and Franklin entirely miss the point. As fans who pay for tickets to watch Missouri football games, students have the right to make their voices heard. In this case, the booing was targeted more toward coach Gary Pinkel and his staff rather than Mauk. Specifically, many if not all of the fans booing felt Mauk should have been replaced by freshman quarterback Drew Lock.

These players are not professionals, and that fact rightfully plays a role in this discussion. But as long as the University of Missouri continues to charge fans for tickets, it absorbs responsibility for fans’ right to express dissatisfaction with the product they’ve purchased.

And the Missouri football program’s demands of its fans, especially students, go far beyond wallets and time on Saturdays. The team also expects students to arrive early, stay late and make noise on command.

During orientation for Tiger’s Lair, a smaller subset of the student section devoted to the most passionate student fans, senior center and captain Evan Boehm spoke about wanting students in the stands as early as possible to motivate the team when it initially took the field and during warm-ups.

Moreover, the Tigers use students as their personal noisemakers. On “key” third downs, players often hold up their hands in key jangling motions, encouraging students to take out their own keychains and distract the opposing offense with a cacophony of metals.

Yet, when fans decide they would like to seize their humanity as anything more than tools of noise, players shun them as disloyal and counterproductive. When players demand fans’ support, they inherently concede a right of opinion to those fans. There has to be a give and take. If fans serve the players, then players also serve the fans.

For Mauk, the boos are nothing new. He’s been the target of plentiful fan frustration during his Missouri tenure. When asked about the fans’ vocal displeasure, Mauk responded with a brash arrogance that reflects his immaturity.

“That’s why they’re up in the stands and I’m down on the field,” Mauk said postgame.

Such a response has become Mauk’s custom. He responded in a nearly identical manner last season when asked about fans calling for his benching after Missouri’s humiliating 34-0 home loss to Georgia on Oct. 11, 2014.

“That’s why the coaches are on the sideline and (the fans) are up in the stands,” Mauk said then.

He clearly hasn’t done much growing in the offseason, athletically or otherwise. Unsurprisingly, Mauk thinks this discussion is all about him. It’s not. This is about the right of Missouri fans, and specifically students, to make their voices heard.

Short of satiating the boo-birds by starting Lock, the Tigers have two choices: Play better or take ownership of their shortcomings.

If Missouri does neither, perhaps students would be better off investing their $152 in a nice stained glass table lamp. At least it won’t hypocritically demand your silence.

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