Sunday, January 20, 2019

FN Guest Column: 'Ellen Adair's Rules for Cheering Part I—How Not to Cheer'

Renowned Actress (And Baseball Nut) Ellen Adair
by Ellen Adair

In the unlikely event that you have been guided to this article through your search engine because you are looking for information on the legitimately athletic endeavor of being a cheerleader, let me tell you now, you have come to the wrong place. I am here to discourse today on an activity that really shouldn’t be that hard: cheering as a spectator at a sporting event. 

I say it really shouldn’t be that hard, but most of the cheering I hear at sporting events is seriously lacking in creativity, specificity, positivity, or all three combined. So while I don’t imagine people need to be instructed on how to sit in a chair, if left and right you saw people missing their seats by inches or lying on the ground with their feet on the seat, there would be an even more robust search result for “how to sit in a chair” on YouTube than currently exists. (And yes, I did just now enter “how to sit in a chair” into YouTube’s search engine to see that there are more entries than I cared to view. You thought you were just in for an opinion piece, but I am ready to back up FenwayNation’s solid journalistic integrity with some thorough research.)   

So, who am I to instruct the world on my cheering modality? Only someone who loves to root, root, root for the home team so much that I have to have more than one home team, as outlined in my earlier article about my Complex Flow-Chart of Baseball Allegiances. In “My Rules for Cheering,” however, I’m not advocating you cheer for multiple teams, just that we, together, try to elevate the general level of creativity in sports-fan cheering. 

I have tailored all of this to baseball because, well, this is FenwayNation, and my business cards read “Unhealthy Love of Baseball.” (This is true.) But I encourage you to find parallels in other sports to root loud and proud for your favorite teams or athletes, except for maybe golf, which I have never attended in person but it doesn’t seem like the kind of sport at which it is appreciated for someone to yell out “Yeah, you SINK that shot!” on the ninth green.   

To illustrate, let me show you a real-life example of how not to cheer. At a game, one fan behind me kept repeatedly yelling “Hey Scherzer, you suck!” Let me break down why I think this is an inferior call-out:

1. Factually inaccurate. Max Scherzer is a two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher. Objectively, he doesn’t suck.
2. Let us say, hypothetically, that he did suck. Yelling “you suck” doesn’t sting nearly as much as yelling “Your K-per-nine rate is pathetic!” Again, hypothetical, I am aware that he is tied for the all-time record of strikeouts in a single game.
3. Let us think about the purpose cheering actually serves. If you’re loud or you’re close, the players might hear you. The idea then is to rally your team. But the truth is, they probably won’t hear you. So why cheer at a game? To participate in the group event, to liven things up, to amuse or rally the people around you. Does “Hey Scherzer, you suck” do any of those things? I would argue it doesn’t.
4. Negativity. Everyone’s got their own style, but I prefer a cheer to a jeer every time. The only really unacceptable thing to me is booing your own team. One of the very specific inspirations for me to bring my cheering suggestions to the world was a guy at a Mets game a couple of years ago who kept booing Jay Bruce at every at-bat with the ferocity of that old woman in Buttercup’s dream in “The Princess Bride.” Jay Bruce Boo Guy, wherever you are, I’m here to tell you that’s not cool.

a.       There are a few situations in which negativity is acceptable, and naturally one of them is versus the Yankees. “Yankees Suck” is grandfathered in as an acceptable cheer for its historical and cultural significance and is particularly acceptable when the Yankees are not even on the field (see: creativity).
 b.      Also, there are extreme examples. I have been known to yell “RETIRE!” at Jose Reyes when he bobbled a perfectly fieldable ball. But he beat his wife. My sympathies for him are low.     

Now, since I do like positive suggestions over just telling someone not to do something, I am going to put forward a series of articles with such options, instead. These articles will be peppered with videos of me, at actual baseball games, actually cheering in the manner I describe, because what would a tutorial be without a video? “Nothing at all,” chime in the creators of “how to sit in a chair.” For a taste, in this article, here’s me modeling How Not to Cheer:   

This video was taken several years ago, but I do believe I am yelling at foremost Slytherin Greg Bird while he was in Triple-A with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. But even in this instance, as you will see I editorialize in the last moment, I consider this inferior cheering. How much better to do a little research and cry out “Yo Greg! Your 81 wRC+ is wretched!”   

That example is a taste of what’s to come, but in the meantime, here are a few of my basic principles on how to cheer:   

1.  Support your team, even when they’re down. You may be as aware of a certain player’s K-rate as the team’s analytics department, but when he steps up to the plate, let him know you believe in him. Or let him think you believe in him, anyway. He’s trying to do a really, really hard thing, namely, hitting a 99 mph baseball. I certainly can’t do that, and statistically speaking, you probably can’t, either.

2.  Cheer for more things than a run scored, or your pitcher getting a strikeout. Did your catcher advance the runner? Was that a nice double-play? Did somebody work a walk? Let ‘em know.

3.  Be specific. What does this situation require? Yes, a home run is always useful. But Suzy-Q-has-never-been-to-a-baseball-game could trot in and yell, “Hit a home run!” Are you or are you not a student of the game?

4.  Be creative. If you’re in the third deck, know your audience. Make the people around you laugh, or at least, if they missed out on a sense of humor when those were getting passed out, turn around and look at you. Yes, this happens to me a lot.   

Happy cheering! Join us back here for specificity on the specificity. All of the complaints that you’d like to level at my parents for creating such a weirdo, please send them directly to me. 

Ellen Adair is probably best known as Janet Bayne in “Homeland,” Bess McTeer in “The Sinner,” and Bridget Saltire in “The Slap,” although she has also had recurring roles on “Billions,” “Veep,” “The Family,” and “As the World Turns.” Additional TV credits include “Chicago Fire,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Brotherhood,” “The Blacklist,” “Shades of Blue,” “God in America,” the pilots “Compliance” and “Codes of Conduct,” and numerous PBS films. She is the author of Curtain Speech, from Pen & Anvil Press, and is working on bringing to life a TV series about baseball writers. Visit her website at, or connect with her on Twitter at @ellen_adair or Instagram at @ellenadairg.