It was sometime in the early 90s, Sanford Stadium in Athens, the Tennessee Volunteers beating the snot out of our beloved Dawgs - again.
Some in our section of the stadium were in obvious dismay. The mere mention of Georgia coach's name over the loud speaker prompted a chorus of boos. Among those engaging in this impromptu exhibition was a friend of mine sitting to my left. I was articulating my disappointment by moping.
In the middle of my friend's lusty parade of "boos," a man sitting two rows ahead of us turned around and said, "You shouldn't boo. They're our team and our coach no matter whether they win or lose."
I was sitting down. I looked over at my booing friend, who was standing, to see if he had heard this person's rebuke. He had.
In fact, glancing at him proved something I had wondered about for years. I had always thought that steam coming out of someone's ears was a myth perpetuated by cartoons, and such an act wasn't possible for real human beings. I was wrong. I actually saw smoke coming from his ears.
My friend - who, for the sake of this exercise, we'll call Stan - then told the guy, and I'm paraphrasing for publication in a family newspaper, that he paid for his seat and gave money to the university, and that he'll boo or say anything he wants, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.
The anti-booer two rows down cowered in fear, and hunched down silently in his seat.
Fast forward to Opening Day, 2008, in Washington, D.C. President George Bush is throwing out the first pitch of the major league baseball season for a game between the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. He is greeted by some applause, but mostly booing from the crowd at the Nationals' new ballpark.
This episode became a topic of debate on the Internet and among the punditry the following day. Many said it was "disgraceful" that a crowd booed a sitting president (who was actually standing when he threw the ball) and that he deserved more respect.
I beg to differ and point to my friend's crazed logic of over a decade ago for my argument. Boiled down, that argument is: If you are a customer, you have a right to express your opinion, and convey your satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
In college football, the fans in the crowds are the customers. In this country, the taxpayers are the customers. They are supposed to work for us.
Sometimes, with public figures in public settings, the only way you can convey a message of approval or disapproval is by yelling or cheering or clapping or booing. It's very unlikely they're going to come over for dinner later to discuss their performance with you.
And with elected officials, average Americans really have little recourse in a non-election year. It's not like getting poor service at a restaurant. In that case, I just don't go back and give them my money. If I do that to the government, it's called income tax evasion, which, from what I've heard, is illegal.
What isn't illegal is free speech. And if political contributions from lobbyists are considered free speech, then booing is too.
That said, I'm glad I didn't type this in front of an audience.
Len Robbins is editor and publisher of The Clinch County News.