Now President Donald Trump knows what it’s like to be a professional athlete. And pretty much every one of his predecessors, too.
There was much consternation and even more navel-gazing Monday about fans serenading Trump with boos and chants of “Lock him up” during Game 5 of the World Series. Some saw it as a rightful comeuppance for Trump, who has made similar chants a de facto soundtrack of his appearances and campaign rallies, while others saw it as disheartening confirmation of the polarization of our society.
That’s overthinking it and, quite frankly, overreacting. Fans boo. It might not be printed on the ticket, but fans believe the price of admission includes a right to express themselves about pretty much anything that goes on at the ballpark, stadium or arena. They whistle, jeer and taunt, and no one – players, coaches, other fans, even mascots –is immune.
Philadelphia Eagles fans even booed Santa Claus once, for heaven’s sake. Santa Claus!
To think Trump would be spared that kind of reception, or be outraged that he wasn’t, is either naïve or sanctimonious. To say he was singled out unfairly, then-candidate Bill Clinton was roundly booed at a NASCAR race in 1992. The boo birds were out in force for Barack Obama at the All-Star Game in 2009 – though he might have brought some of that on himself by wearing a White Sox jacket in St. Louis.
And in the very same stadium where Trump’s appearance on the Jumbotron prompted loud and sustained boos, George W. Bush was jeered in 2008, when he threw out the first pitch at Nationals Park.
And to argue fans’ treatment of Trump was mean-spirited or crossed some bright line, it paled in comparison to the worst of the abuse that’s directed at players.
During the ALCS earlier this month, New York Yankees fans mocked Astros starter Zack Greinke about his battles with social anxiety and depression. Indianapolis Colts fans booed Andrew Luck after learning the oft-injured quarterback was retiring. The Utah Jazz banned a fan for life last season after Russell Westbrook said the man had made “racial and inappropriate comments” to him. Also last season, the New England Patriots banned a fan who poured a beer on Kansas City receiver Tyreek Hill.
And two years ago, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones endured what he called one of the worst cases of abuse of his career during a game at Boston’s Fenway Park. Jones said he was “called the N-word a handful of times tonight,” and pelted with a bag of peanuts.
So in the grand scheme of things, Trump got off easy. He’s not the first president to be booed, and he wasn’t even the only person Sunday to be booed. Maybe it is a Rorschach test for our society, but not in the way pundits are trying to frame it. Much like peanuts and Cracker Jack, boos and jeers are just a part of the game.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.