So last Saturday was the home opener for the 2008 edition of the Kentucky football team. And, unlike in previous years, we actually have some expectations for this team. And, also unlike in previous years, they haven't let us down yet. But apparently, for some fans, this isn't enough.
I know that Mike Hartline is no Andre Woodson. I know that he hasn't played all that great in his first two games. But in his defense, the kid has sat behind Woodson for a couple of years and now he is asked to follow one of the best quarterbacks in recent history at UK with very little experience and a receiving core that lost all but one major player from last year (thank god for Dickie). He may not have played brilliantly, but he hasn't played poorly either. He has, in fact, played just about the way you would expect an inexperienced sophomore quarterback with a group of fairly inexperienced receivers to play.
I also know that freshman Randall Cobb played lights out in the first half vs Norfolk State. I was there. I saw the spark he gave coming off the bench and how he had the defense totally off balance as he moved the ball down the field. I saw how he got 3 touchdowns and lifted the crowd out of its stupor. But I also saw his second half interception and a fumble in there as well. He is, after all, only a freshman (and one that was expected to play much more wide receiver than QB this year).
While I was confused at first by why Cobb was in the game at QB (I think I was on a concession stand run when he got inserted) and why he played QB more than just 1 or 2 series, I was also happy about the job he was doing. I was expecting him to open at QB in the second half. I was expecting that Hartline might be a bit upset with how small his playing time was going to get. But what I was not expecting was the chorus of Boos that met Hartline as he took the field to start the second half.
My father taught me that it is great to cheer your team. You should cheer loudly and often, even at the TV. However, it is not okay to Boo. You can choose not to cheer. But you should never boo the opposing team or coaches. And it was just understood that no matter how badly they were playing or what they did, to boo your own team or coaching staff was to give up your right to be a fan. (Ironically, he never mentioned the officials, so I've never had the same aversion to booing them that I do to booing players/coaches.)
So you can imagine that when a percentage of the stadium (less than half, I would say, mostly in the student section) began to boo Hartline, I was flabbergasted. No matter what the kid had done, there was no need to boo him. If for no other reason than at some point this season we will need him and you can't tear him down like that and then expect him to be able to come up big when you need him to. And because he hadn't done anything all that bad! It was one of the worst shows of sportsmanship I have ever witnessed from UK fans, and I was ashamed to be a part of that crowd. Maybe we all just need to take a step back and remember that it is just a game and these are just kids. And save the boos for the refs. We haven't gotten to SEC play yet, that's when you will need them.