Regulars will notice this site has become dormant of late, a case of poor timing given the buoyancy of the sport. In a bid to maintain currency and to showcase a broader range of opinion pieces I invited submissions from those contemporaries for whom I have respect and who I believed would provide entertaining and challenging copy for the growing readership. The first of these Guest pieces is from Andrew Mullinder, taking up the thorny and topical issue of booing National Anthems.
From Boos to Boo Hoo
By Andrew Mullinder
The boos that reverberated around the MGM Grand during Tyrese Gibson’s rendition of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ on Saturday night won’t have come as a shock to those familiar with the rituals of a certain section of English sports fans. But even for those of us numbed to the toe curling embarrassment caused each time our football fans drown the opposition’s national anthem with a torrent of boos, Saturday night was a particularly painful own goal.
The English sports fan hardly has the best of reputations. Certain groups purporting to be supporters of the England football team have exported thuggery and loutishness to such an extent that English football fans have an almost universally negative reputation and the word ‘hooligan’ is instantly synonymous with the words ‘soccer fan’ for many Americans. It is against this backdrop that the warm-hearted reception Hatton fans received from the American press felt like a drop of pride in a sea of shame. It appeared English visitors to Vegas, with their good humored and unswerving devotion to drinking, partying and Ricky Hatton, had won over the American public in the same manner that Barmy Army (the England cricket team’s merry band of followers) manage to leave their host nations with memories of high-spirited fun rather than high cost bar repairs.
But as soon as Tom Jones’s rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ had been scrupulously observed by the American section of the crowd, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ was met with mindless insolence by the British section, appalling the Americans watching and in attendance. Those who argue that the booing was simply part of the ‘banter’ integral to international sporting occasions, or that the insulted Americans were being too precious about their national pride, are surely missing the point. Of course, one may hold the opinion that Americans can appear purblind and humorlessly patriotic; but, notwithstanding the fact that it is not the place of others to judge another person’s views of his or her nation, the national anthem of any country is sometimes held as an almost sacred symbol of national pride, and disrespecting that symbol is tantamount to insulting the nation as a whole.
However, much as booing the opposition’s national anthem is shameful in its monumental disrespect, it also exposes an uncouth ignorance that reflects shabbily on Britain. Perhaps, along with our unwillingness to learn a foreign language, steadfast suspicion of the EU, and palpably discourteous holiday behaviour, it says much about the insular, ill-founded superiority with which we view the rest of the world. Or perhaps it is merely moronic rudeness from which we can draw no conclusions other than that a sizable portion of English sports fans are rude and moronic.
Whatever it was, a golden opportunity created by some sparkling press was swiftly sullied by the grimy smudge of the Hatton fans’ anthem antics. I don’t prescribe to the theory espoused by the Daily Mail’s Jeff Powell “that the hard core of traditional boxing followers have been infiltrated latterly by elements of those [football] hooligans”, which is no more than slothful journalism. To successfully argue this, one must accept that all those booing at football matches are hooligans, and then ignore the regular, if infrequent, episodes of ring-side violence in Britain and abroad. If hooligans started watching boxing, it happened a long time ago.
The sad part about Saturday night’s performance was that the fans probably thought about as much about their booing of the American anthem as Roger Mayweather does when he uses the word ‘motherfucker’. Booing anthems has simply become a part of an international event for some, and they have no clue how their jeering reflects on their heroes or their country. Surely the time has come for a coordinated campaign with integral and vocal support from those stars the fans profess to follow – not so much to spare another nation’s patriotism from the pantomime onslaught, but to spare fair minded British sports fans their blushes.