Editors note: This is the third and final part of the feature where TJ13 is looking at why fans are booing Vettel.
In the final part of our look at the Vettel booing phenomena, there are certain facts which appear to have eluded those who lecture and belittle the F1 fans choosing to express their displeasure towards Sebastian and his team.
TJ13 is for the fans and of the fans, and the reason for this extended reply to those who have been criticising the Vettel jeers, is because it is only because of the fans that these self appointed voices of decorum have a platform from which to preach, judge and moralise.
The fans have been suffering for some time now. The price to go and watch their heroes in the flesh has grown astronomically in recent years, as struggling race promoters scramble to find the cash required to pay to the sport’s commercial rights holder.
Then in many countries, fans are being forced to fork out hundreds of pounds a year if they want to watch live TV broadcasts of each of the seasons events.
Further, and this is something I’ve heard from fans too numerous times to remember this year, the abolition of FanVision has significantly diminished the experience of attending a Grand Prix weekend. There may be payback for this act of Ecclestone’s in the attendances in 2014 unless a replacement solution is delivered.
So whilst TJ13 is at times highly critical of those inside the F1 circus, we will defend the fans to the hilt because without them – there is no F1.
Derek Warwick commented following the Singapore GP that at times those in F1 ‘take themselves too seriously’. Yet, they live in a world of extreme privilege and have riches and jobs beyond most mere mortal’s wildest dreams.
Natalie Pinkham when discussing the issue of the podium jeering described it as a ‘Pantomime’, and surprisingly this may be one of the more astute observations I’ve heard her make.
For those of you non-British readers, who are now 70% of our readership, I can’t explain to you the concept of Pantomime here, a Wikipedia introduction and link will have to suffice.
“Pantomime (informally, pinto) – not to be confused with the theatrical medium of mime – is a form of musical comedy stage production, designed for families, developed in the United Kingdom and mostly performed during the Christmas and New Year season.
Modern pantomime includes songs, slapstick comedy and dancing, employs gender-crossing actors, and combines topical humour with a story loosely based on a well-known fairy tale. It is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers”.
Pantomime is not exclusively sourced in British culture and has roots in the 16th century commedia dell’arte tradition of Italy along with other European court entertainment traditions broadly known as ‘masques’.
Characters and actor’s are cheered and booed equally for their heroic actions or dastardly deeds. This is all good humoured and part of the expected show, which see’s adults participating at times more vigorously than the kids.
Since the introduction of the podium interviews by Ecclestone to ‘improve the show’, the fans now have the opportunity to hear from the F1 main players directly, and within minutes of the curtain falling on the race.
They cheer and jeer as they interact with the actor’s as they deliver their broadly scripted sentiments. When they hear something noble and worthy, the audience expresses approval, conversely they are equally eloquent when remarks made are not believable.
However, just as at the Pantomime, the assembled onlookers join as one to jeer and boo the villain of the story – which if for no other reason than he fits the bill best at present – is Sebastian Vettel.
The nature of the Pantomime may lead the critics of those jeering Vettel to surmise that it is a frivolous and unimportant response, yet this would be to misunderstand the history of booing.
Here is the Collins dictionary definition of booing. “A shout uttered to express disgust, dissatisfaction, or contempt, especially at a theatrical production, political meeting, etc”.
This definition was not selected for any particular reason, and a range of sources defining the act of booing suggest similar sentiments.
The first written record of this public act is found in ancient Greek culture. Playwrights competed at the annual Festival of Dionysia in Athens, and it was the audience who determined which tragedy was best. Jeering and/or booing being the measure
Apparently, “when the democratic reformer Cleisthenes came to power in the 6th century B.C., audience participation came to be regarded as a civic duty. The audience applauded to show its approval and shouted and whistled to show displeasure”. (Slate.com)
Jeering and booing was not intended to be unkind and was in no way unsophisticated, but it served to ensure the level of public performance was maintained at a high standard. It kept the players honest, by emotionally rewarding the good and punishing the bad.
Of course there were times when the audiences had mixed feelings, some jeered whilst others applauded.
So the Ancient Greek cultural code of conduct was not so civilised after all – well in fact it was – because it was not merely acceptable to jeer, but a duty of its citizens.
We can trawl though the centuries and find booing and jeering an most societies, maybe the most brutal was in the Roman gladiatorial games where the cheers or otherwise from the crowd determined whether the gladiator lived or was executed.
One of the oldest institutions of democracy which takes immense pride in its code of conduct has a fine tradition of jeering and even heckling.
There are strict rules on what may and may not be said in the British Houses of Parliament debating chambers. Should a member be in breach of these, the speaker will name them and they will be forced to withdraw from the debating chamber, escorted by the Sergeant at Arms if necessary. In ye olden days, miscreants could be held in their custody.
Entertainingly, expulsion is less frequent in modern times. This may be because words deemed to be ‘unparliamentarily language’ – as defined by the rule book Erskine May – have fallen into disuse such as Pharisee, pecksniffian (cant), swine, jackass, hooligan, blackguard, cad, ruffian and insulting dog.
Murderer, criminal and liar are all banned, as they are seen as inconsistent with an MP’s most important right under parliamentary privilege – to speak freely without fear of legal action on grounds of slander.
In reality, MPs are more often suspended for persistently challenging a Speaker’s ruling, not for calling William Hague a “foetus” as did Tony Banks who then later described the enormous Nicholas Soames as a “one-man food mountain”.
Jeering is a daily collective sport. There is rarely a debate where the speaker does not have to respond to such partisan barracking of the opposition with his gavel and the cry of ‘Order, order!!’
There have been examples in most sports of disrespectful and reprehensible behaviour (see part II definitions) where fans cross the line and are most specific and probably slanderous in their description of a sports star.
We are not seeing in F1 organised football-esque chants such as, “Vettel is a…. [German Banker]”; neither is the legitimacy of Sebastian’s parentage being questioned.
During the research for this piece I found it amusing to discover that Philadelphia grid-iron fans are considered to be notoriously vocal. They have apparently booed Santa Clause (though I couldn’t find the details of the occasion).
However, the Eagles fans following a defeat to the Falcons in 2012 were lambasted by their own defensive end Jason Babin. “During the game there was a good section of fans chanting some of the most vile things I’ve ever heard. Not just at a football game, but in life, in general. Talking about attacking Coach [Andy Reid], talking about people’s wives and kids and chanting about them”.
Babin was clearly affected deeply by this as he continued, “But if I could say just one of the things they were chanting, it’s way past bad, it’s foul. I’ve never heard — listen, I don’t want to even repeat what I heard, it was that bad. And I’ve got a pretty high threshold for adult jokes, to give you an idea of what they’re saying.”
Clearly those who are jeering and booing Vettel are in no way comparable to this kind of crowd abuse. They add to drama of Bernie’s final curtain call after his ‘show’ has ended.
Even better are the amusing responses from those who take F1 too seriously – as Derrick Warwick suggests to be the case. Morality lectures and belittling comments directed at the jeering fans merely appears to be soliciting a sniggering style response which simply serves to incite the fans to poke back with renewed vigour and a growing following.
Our journey is now complete. Red Bull must share the responsibility for this fan reaction and it is not merely directed at Vettel.
The media moral outrage entertains us all, and maybe someone will eventually help these people understand they are fanning the fire with the oxygen of their criticism. Brundle’s own observations turned inward appear remarkably ironic. “They would be better served… silent”.
And I’ll leave the penultimate word to the [at times] sagest of F1 commentators who has seen most things F1 over some 25+ years of traipsing around the world with the circus, Mr. Joe Saward. He identifies what appears to be the tipping point for all the previous Red Bull management and PR bungling.
“Although Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing have attacked fans who have booed Vettel on the podium for much of this season, even trying to suggest that it is the same people going from race to race, or that it is the fault of Ferrari fans, no one has yet answered the very simple question: Did this happen before the Malaysian Grand Prix?
The answer, of course, is no, and that probably answers the question about why there is booing…
So before attacking the fans about the question of sportsmanship, perhaps it is wise to ruminate a while on the subject…”.
Vettel’s public image needs to be improved, yet this does not require silly marketing or more ‘meet the fans sessions’, The F1 public just need to see who Sebastian really is. My advice would be for him to get on social media pronto. His clever wit and humour will shine brightly even if in a mere 120 characters at a time.
If you missed the previous two instalments they can be found here: