NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05:  Fans watch as the New York Rangers take the ice for pregame warmups before the home opener against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on October 5, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Fans watch as the New York Rangers take the ice for pregame warmups before the home opener against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on October 5, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

To Boo Or Not To Boo

by Lynn J. Berman

Theatrical plays began over 600 years BC. Opera drew crowds in the 12th Century. Both were judged – applauded or booed. Until the year 1927, all movies were silent. However the theaters were never that; as audience members would fill the room with laughter, cheers, hisses and boos.

Still today, we judge our entertainment. Stand-up comics are often booed from the stage. Moviegoers walk out on lousy films. Singers have items thrown at them at concert – bras or tomatoes. However, when did we decide to start judging the very team that we love?

I remember as a child walking into Madison Square Garden wide eyed and overwhelmed as the crowd was rhythmically chanting “Let’s Go Rangers” before the puck even hit the ice. Once the visiting team’s door to the ice was opened, the entire 18,200 began to boo no matter who the opponent. Any other team was the enemy. The thick cigarette smoke that loomed in the middle of the ice would swirl, as the booed skaters would circle in their pre-game skate. The crowd would roar as the New York Rangers made their way to the 8th Avenue side of the Garden. This was our team. No matter what.

Madison Square Garden was our home. The Rangers were our team. The fans were all part of the team. Other teams feared our remarks, our chants, our cheers. We were the best fans on earth.

But for some reason, the unsuccessful 2003-2004 season was completely different. Our team was being judged from day one. They were not cheered before they hit the ice, but rather only if they performed well while on the ice. Last season, the fans of New York became just members of the audience, judging a show.

Perhaps not making the playoffs seven consecutive years will turn fans into judges. Perhaps the taste of the champagne in 1994 was so good that nothing else would be acceptable. Perhaps ticket prices have gotten so high that paying top dollar makes losing unaffordable. Perhaps, the fans themselves are just now different.

As the playoff-less 2002-03 season came to a close after a home loss to the Devils, the Blueshirts Off Our Backs ceremony followed the game. As each player was called one by one to give their game used jersey to a dedicated fan, the crowd either booed or cheered depending on how he had played during the season. At the end of last season, the organization decided to conduct the ceremony in the locker room, away from their fan’s evaluations.

Glen Sather even went to the point of issuing a statement last season. “Well, that’s the way it works in sports. You cheer and help the team get better. You boo them, they get worse,” he said. “It’s the same as your children. If you have a child who is having trouble in school and you berate him every day he’s never going to get any better. You encourage him. … he’ll get better.”

Whenever the next season does start, I hope the entire Garden will be shaking. Not with boos and “Fire Sather” chants, but instead with cheers and “Let’s Go Rangers” chants. Not because we are there to judge the team; but rather because we are a part of the team. And we should act like it. No matter what.

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