Phil Taylor of SI.com had an interesting column last week on "Boo-Bird Nation" - the increasing amount of booing going on at sporting events. No longer the specialty of Philadelphia, "[b]ooing has become almost a hobby for the American sports fan, no longer just a way of expressing displeasure, but a form of pleasure in and of itself."
People used to boo because they were mad -- at their team, at the opponent, at the refs. Now you get the feeling that many of them boo just because they like it.
Perhaps that's what opera star Roberto Alagna had in mind when he stormed off the stage at La Scala Sunday night after being booed by a portion of the audience. His stunned co-star was left to sing alone; the understudy, dressed in jeans and a black shirt, was hastily thrust onto the stage to fill the role. The managers at La Scala say Alagna's finished there; he says he'll sue to be allowed to return. I'm not sure whether this act - many of us might consider it unprofessional - will hurt Alagna in the long run; in the opera world, such are the makings of legends.
It does conjure up some wonderful images, though. Imagine Allan Iverson stomping off the court the next time he gets booed by the hometown fans (wherever his new hometown may be), or Rex Grossman throwing his hands up and leaving the stadium when the Bears fans get on him after he throws his next pick. Try to picture Barry Bonds saying, "Screw you! I don't need to take this," the first time people start yelling at him about steroids next season. (Actually, that's something I would like to see.) If Alagna's gesture catches on in the sporting world, we could be treated to entertaining clips on SportsCenter for years to come.
At least Placido Domingo didn't walk out when he was booed at the Met earlier this month. Of course, in this case it was for his conducting, rather than his singing. And I suppose there are some musicians out there who would have welcomed the opportunity to show the audience that the conductor's role has always been overrated, anyway. Still, Domingo, the consummate pro, kept his cool and his baton, and the show went on. And if I had to guess, I'd say that Alagna's probably a better role model for the modern professional athlete, anyway.
On second thought, perhaps it's the pro athlete who should be the role model for opera. After all, the arrest last week of the Cincinnati Bengals' Deltha O'Neal (for DUI) marked the eighth time a Bengals player had been busted this season, and it doesn't seem to have hurt the NFL's popularity one bit. Opera, like all of classical music, continues to struggle to increase its audience. Maybe Alagna's on to something at that.