Esports fans should be booing more, but not like this

This past weekend, League of Legends esports fans’ collective need for more international matches was satisfied, with defending world champions T1 marching into Berlin and beating four of the five European challengers who dared stand in their way at the Red Bull League of Its Own exhibition event. T1’s opponents included a gauntlet of LEC mainstays such as Karmine Corp, G2 Esports, and others.

But, while placing the reigning world champions in the center of a slate of showmatches was a victory for League esports this offseason, the event was sullied before it even started, with fans in the stands booing legendary T1 superstar Faker during an introductory pre-match interview. 

The clip of fans in Berlin booing Faker immediately went viral, and off the bat, the League community attributed the source of the booing to the attending fans of Karmine Corp. KCorp co-owner Kamel “Kameto” Kebir condemned the booing of Faker on Twitter, but ultimately dismissed it as a non-issue. 

I was not aware. I’m happy they did & you condemn the booing. I thought I could voice my feelings on Twitter since I respect Faker a lot & I felt sad to see him get booed at. He’s one of the driving forces why I do what I do. Thanks for reaching out & I’m happy to talk in private

— Fabian Mallant (@SheepyLoL) December 10, 2023

But when the greatest player your esport has ever seen makes a friendly appearance in your region with nothing to prove and nothing to gain, the last thing he should be met with is a chorus of boos. 

Esports needs more booing, but at least read the room

Having a bit of vitriol and pettiness—especially between League regions—can be fun. It adds an extra layer of fan interaction to sporting events, and it’s something the relatively milquetoast, “we’re-all-friends-here” esports industry has been missing for a while. 

In 2020 and 2022, it was honestly refreshing to see Chinese and Korean League fans give each other’s representatives the “library” treatment when they won titles in their home regions. When DAMWON Gaming won the 2020 World Championship, hometown Chinese fans rooting for Suning that day were deathly silent during the celebration. Korean League fans returned the favor when Royal Never Give Up took home a trophy over T1 in Busan less than two years later. 

At last season’s World Championship in New York City, there was a strong contingency of LPL fans who packed the frontmost section of the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and more often than not, their chants were the loudest. When LCS teams played them against the Chinese squads, though, the real war was in the stands—and that war was loud. North American fans in attendance would boo the LPL fans whenever their chants became a bit too prominent, and the LCS diehards in attendance would attempt to start up their own. That dynamic is almost always present at traditional sporting events and would be welcome in esports. 

On Saturday, the conduct tossed in front of T1 and Faker was decidedly unwelcome, and nothing short of venomous. 

“We don’t boo legends”

Faker competing with T1 in the LCK Summer Split 2src23
Photo via Riot Games

While booing (or at the very least giving the cold shoulder to) the opposing team when they’re on your home turf can be fun at sporting events, there’s little to no reason to bare your teeth at the opposition during a friendly exhibition; especially when they’re there for no reason other than to give you a good show. It’s not every day the greatest esports pro of all time steps foot in your home arena. Booing him when he speaks after an ultimately meaningless match is a surefire way to make sure he never wants to come back. The only ones who lose out are the fans.

One of my most distinct sports memories stems from a baseball game I attended with my father when I was 11 years old. I’m a diehard Mets fan, and that night, we were playing one of our biggest rivals: the Yankees. So, naturally, my adolescent brain thought it was only right to viciously boo Mariano Rivera when he entered the game to pitch for the Yankees. My dad gently tapped me on the shoulder and shook his head. “We don’t boo legends,” he said.

That line from my father has always stuck with me, and at every sports game I’ve been to throughout the years, it always rubs me the wrong way whenever I see some knucklehead booing a legend of their respective game for no reason other than the fact they’re wearing the other team’s jersey. 

When an athlete has given everything to their game, the least you can give back in return is a bit of respect.


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