Don't be like Auburn, don't boo football players when they are injured

Mark Hammontree

As an Alabama fan and a University of Alabama student, it’s not hard for me to hate pretty much everything about Auburn football. I never have to look very far to find something that the Tigers’ players, coaches or fans have done that annoys me on a spiritual level, and, never failing to disappoint, Auburn’s loss Saturday against Texas A&M was particularly hate-worthy.

Auburn’s offense under Gus Malzahn has a national reputation of being fast. Much of their success is rooted in running plays in quick succession, snapping the ball before the defense has a chance to get fully set. It’s a simple yet amazingly effective game plan that has translated Auburn’s talent into success on the field and took them to the national championship last year.

Of course, this high-speed plan relies on the offense’s ability to snap the ball as soon as possible, and few things can slow that short of a touchdown. When a player gets injured on the field, though, the referees typically call time so the injured player can receive treatment.

This is what led to Auburn’s loathsome action Saturday. Despite getting out to an early lead, by the fourth quarter Texas A&M was struggling to stop Auburn’s offense from scoring. On a promising drive, an Aggie defender didn’t get up after a play and even though he was in obvious pain and trainers jogged out to tend to him, Jordan-Hare Stadium erupted in boos from many members of the Auburn family 
in attendance.

The booing Auburn fans presumably suspected the player to be faking his injury as a cheap tactic to slow down Nick Marshall and company from their hurried march down the field. It’s certainly not unheard of for players to pretend to be in pain to get a breather for themselves and teammates without having to burn a timeout. Alabama has repeatedly been guilty of this less-than-savory tactic, as has Auburn and most other teams at one point or another.

But no matter how many times it has happened or how obvious the insincerity may be, it is never acceptable to boo a player who may be injured. The possibility for serious harm is all too real, and there’s no possible way of telling the difference at that moment.

I can understand the frustration, and certainly Alabama fans have been guilty of booing opposing players under similar circumstances. I don’t mean to suggest those Auburn fans are the only culprits or they’re any worse, but it did happen and 
it’s inexcusable.

As fans, we need to hold each other accountable for the way we behave and the way we treat the players who are putting their safety on the line for our entertainment. How on earth would a person feel if the player they booed turned out to have a season-ending injury? It’s easy to point at Auburn’s example because it’s always easy to hate on our rivals, but I suffer no delusions that members of our fan base would have reacted any differently under the same circumstances.

Be better. In that situation, booing does absolutely nothing except make you look like a jerk. So to all fans, but especially to Tide fans, remember that these players are our peers. Have empathy, and show them respect and praise. Never boo them when 
they’re down.

Mark Hammontree is a senior majoring in secondary education – language arts. His column runs weekly.