I turned on the television to check the Queen's final score yesterday afternoon, fully expecting it to have gone into a deciding set, only to find Marin Cilic wandering around with the trophy. This puzzled me, since he'd just lost the first set the last time I checked the score and there was definitely something going on - for one thing, he was booed when Sue Barker tried to get a comment from him. It took a few more minutes to decipher what was going on but it eventually transpired that his opponent David Nalbandian had overreacted to being broken by Cilic and had kicked an advertising hoarding beside the court. Unfortunately, that hoarding shielded a line judge: the hoarding struck the judge, causing him to fall off his chair as the wound on his leg started bleeding fairly heavily. Nalbandian was disqualified, handing the title to Cilic. The Telegraph article includes the video of the moment Nalbandian lost his temper.
What astonished me, however, was not the actual kick but the reaction of the crowd to Cilic. I honestly can't believe they booed him for the fact his opponent ended the match in a sudden and rather violent manner. Yes, they felt deprived of their tennis final; yes, some of them didn't realise the severity of the line judge's injury. Still, wanting a match to go on when someone outside of the two players has been hurt feels selfish beyond belief on the part of the crowd. More than that, it seems like they wanted to reward Nalbandian for his antics. In fairness to them, though, they did boo Nalbandian himself when he waffled on live television and tried to blame the ATP's hectic schedule for his reaction.
All this got me thinking. As a collective, humans are very selfish. We boo if something unexpected goes wrong in a tennis match; we boo if a band doesn't perform the song everyone wants to. What about authors? I would imagine the criticism they receive online is akin to crowd booing. If you write a series which people become invested in and then make an unpopular turn I'd imagine the crowd can be fairly harsh: what were the reactions, I wonder, to the killings of Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series?
Step back another inch, to somewhere in-between writing and spectacle: television drama and soap. These combine writing with performance and therefore any 'blame' can be spread around a large group. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that actors are criticised in the streets for the actions of their characters - this is a nice way for writers to avoid criticism!
Of course, I don't think there's anything wrong with debate. The recent Alzheimer's storyline in Coronation Street provoked a lot of debate, most of which seemed to shy-away from outright 'booing'. However, the actions of the crowd at Queen's yesterday edged away from polite irritation at the rules (and the right of the line judge to work in relative safety) and moved into outright hostility. What happens if you start listening to the crowd's demands to be entertained? I don't know. But I do know I'm not keen on trying it.