I think booing players is never acceptable. These are student athletes, not paid, to entertain you. Booing them for fighting for their school or trying to play to the best of their abilities is irresponsible. They're kids. And most of the fans are adults and should know better. Booing refs is ok to a point. Unfortunately, too many fans think the refs control too much of the game and take it to the next level by throwing things on the field/court, or making death threats to refs after the fact (Oklahoma anyone?).
Fans have always been a major part of any sporting event. No one knows this better than Duck fans who get to enjoy all the benefits that Autzen Stadium and Matthew Knight Arena provide. The raucous sold old stands, the sunken field with the crowd basically on top of the game, the knowledgeable fans who know to cheer and scream until their throats are raw for 3 days afterward. But at what point do fans cross the line?
It could be completely harmless like chanting overrated, or booing the officials, or it could verge on the ridiculous when you're talking about fans interrupting a game or booing actually injured players. Let's take a look at a couple of situations: booing players, booing refs, chanting overrated, chanting obscenities, interrupting play by being on the field and rushing the field after a win.
Matt: Personally I think fans need to know their place. You're there to be fans. That means cheering on your team, screaming as loud as you can to distract the other team and make it difficult for them to perform, and helping sway opinion to the home field. That means you need to boo when calls don't go your way. That means you need to cheer when your team scores. That means you need to be as loud as possible when the other team has the ball (both in basketball and football) so that it makes it hard for the other team to communicate in such a noisy environment.
Chanting "overrated" or obscenities is just childish. It's demeaning to the fans and shows just how immature they really are. "YEAH!!! You weren't as good as others thought you were and we're now better than THAT!!!" Or my favorite "BULLSHIT - BULLSHIT!!!" Great, you have nothing more useful to do than make me spend the next 5 minutes explaining to my kids why 4-5k college students think that cursing together will be helpful.
As for rushing the field. Are you kidding me? Act like you've been there before. If it's during the game, I hope no one would try and defend that (I'm looking at you Arizona fans). If it's after the game? It better have meant something. If you rush the court after beating OSU to prove you're not the worst team in Pac 10 history, that's just embarrassing. If you rush the field because you just beat OSU to go to the Rose Bowl... that's something different. That's unbridled joy welling up and expressing itself in uncontrollable physical exertion and trying to find the nearest large patch of earth to run around on.
Anything other than that is disruptive and doesn't a shine a positive light on the fan base. Think about the list of the worst fans, and I'm sure some of the things I mention are consistent through each.
Gorbachav5: Fans do need to know their place. They need to know that their place is at a sporting event being entertained. And if that entertainment involves yelling things, so be it!
I will concede that there are lines fans shouldn't cross. Obviously, illegal is illegal. It's a crime to punch the Husky fan sitting next to you (as much as we wish it weren't). It's trespassing to run on the field during the game. After the game though? Rush the field! What's all this sanctimony about "acting like you've been there?" I HAVEN'T been there. I'll NEVER be there. That's why I'm an accountant who watches talented people play the game. At the very least, let me feel good about celebrating on the very field where my team just won a game. I do agree with you about obscenities. Sports are entertainment for children as well as adults, and I'd appreciate if my kids weren't bombarded with foul language. Don't throw things at other people. Don't get so blindingly drunk that you forget all tact and propriety and do something ridiculous. When you start impeding other fans' enjoyment of the event, that's when you've taken it too far. Otherwise, knock yourself out!
Matt: Booing isn't harmless. I understand that this is entertainment, but so is my daughter's 3rd grade basketball game. I would never think about booing anyone on her team. They'd probably break down in tears and I'd have to deal with big angry Daddy for why I booed their daughter. And rightfully so. Why is it different in college? Because the players are bigger? Would it be ok at a high school game? How about Junior High? It's never right to boo in amateur sports (exception: Unless you're booing the refs. They're paid professionals and should be held to a standard and if they violate that they should be held accountable by the fans).
You see, I relate chanting overrated to the same thing as chanting obscenities. It's childish and unnecessary. It's also incredibly unoriginal. For how terrible "Your-Son-Hates-You" was to chant at Mike Bibby's dad, "overrated" is just as terrible on the opposite end of the spectrum. One was too original, too poignant, too hurtful. The other too unoriginal and too boring. I'm sorry if being an expressive fan that wants to chant things at games is going to take some thought and creativity. That's what makes the Darryl Strawberry chant so great. It was simple, yet at the time really original and got in the head of the player and effected his performance. It wasn't obscene and it also wasn't demeaning to your own team's performance.
If you're going to be a fan and feel like you just can't enjoy the game without chanting something, or screaming at an individual player, at least put some thought into it. Otherwise, you're just another neanderthal idiot fan in the same category as the guy who gets too drunk, or the cursing at the field behind me. Both impede my enjoyment of the game.
Gorbachav5: I think you're trying to cram all fans into a one-size-fits-all Nike brand, athletic fit Oregon t-shirt. I hate to break it to you, but we don't all fit that particular model. At least not any more. It's the damn baby weight I put on.
There you have it. What is the line of appropriate fan behavior? Are fans a part of the game for both sides and have the right to chant, berate, and disparage a player, team or referee? Or should they be more subdued and realize their place is to enjoy the entertainment being provided to them?