Why Do We Take So Much Joy From Yelling ‘Shoot’ At Professional Athletes?

While everyone's been wasting their time arguing over the tactical masterplans of Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone in the build-up to Manchester City and Atlético in the Champions League, a better philosophical discourse has been raging in the bottom half of the Premier League table, where Brighton manager Graham Potter is urging supporters to stop yelling "shoot" at his players while Burnley boss Sean Dyche is playing the devil's advocate by instructing his men to "kick it in the net."

Although the conclusions drawn differ greatly, the clubs find themselves in similar situations. Brighton needn't fear relegation like Burnley, but the Seagulls, after spending the majority of the season in the top half, are now 13th after losing six of seven and only managing a single goal over that stretch. In total, Brighton has scored 26 goals in 30 games (0.87 per match). 

While the Seagulls woes have arrived hot and heavy, Burnley's offensive issues have been a long and steady study in attrition that's led to 19th-place, and the Clarets' recent form shows they've lost four of five and scored only once in that stretch. In total, Burnley has managed only 22 goals in 28 matches (0.79 per game). 

Burnley's performances are largely in line with the statistics. The Clarets have an xG of 24.0 (-2.0), so it's not like they're being exceptionally wasteful. It turns out players like Dwight McNeil and Jóhann Gudmundsson don't really torment Premier League defenses while I believe Wout Weghorst looks like a far superior footballer than he actually is; a sort of Chris Wood antithesis.  

But Dyche doesn't want any excuses.

"Yes – kick it in the net. It's not rocket science," Dyche said Tuesday when asked if Burnley had a plan for Everton. 

For Brighton's Potter, however, it is rocket science. 

The Seagulls have an xG of 33.8 (-7.8), which, for Potter, points to an unease in the attacking third that's being brought on by the old tradition of yelling "shoot" at players when they take possession 30 yards from goal.

"The build-up suggests we're getting there," Potter said. "Of course, the longer you go, you can hear the crowd, 'Shoot, shoot, shoot,' and that sometimes is a challenge for the players. Because sometimes there's an opportunity to shoot – sometimes it's a chance for the block and then the transition. And sometimes maybe one more pass gets you in a better position but, if you miss the pass, you should have shot."

Hmm. That's a lot more complicated than "kick it in the net," but it has proven a difficult season for goalscoring midfielders Jakub Moder and Pascal Groß, so maybe there's some sense in not telling the guys that are usually only good for three or four goals a year to really double down on the pot-shots. Maybe the cry should be "recycle possession and switch the point of attack" or at least "shoot better!"    

Because there's no way you'll ever get fans to stop the cry. If the stadium is our cathedral, then yelling "shoot" is our Lord's Prayer. 

3 Reasons We Love To Yell 'Shoot' At Players

#1. There's a chance you'll get a laugh from those around you. 

This reason breaks down into three categories. (1) You yell 'shoot' at the guy who's just previously scored, even though this next touch is inside his own half. That always gets a murmur of approval. (2) You yell 'shoot' at the guy who never scores. This is irony and people generally love it. (3) The novice. I think this a more common experience in MLS grounds, where two or three times a season you'll be sitting near someone who's getting their first taste of professional soccer.

They'll be cracking everyone up with questions about how the game starts ("Does one team punt it down the field to the other?") and why the goalies wear those big oven mitts, but after they're five tall boys deep in the 60th minute, they'll take up the "shoot" refrain like its "olé!" This usually isn't as funny by the 70th minute. 

But this is especially common in the Northern United States, where many soccer newbies come to the stadium equipped with hockey knowledge, and it's very easy to modify the popular rink cry of "shoot the puck" to something more appropriate.  

#2. Our paternal instinct.  

"Shoot" is the cry from parents whenever their son or daughter receives possession in youth soccer. In every parents mind, the resulting action plays out just like this. 

That's rarely ever the case, but you're still a proud parent that only ever wants the best for your child — bangers from distance.

I think, when watching our favorite teams, these are collectively all our sons or daughters, and we want them to "shoot," to succeed and to make us point one finger at small contingent of traveling fans, screaming, "See, I told! That's my boy frying your little butter balls out there!"  

#3. Nostalgia. 

As fans, we have such vivid and lasting memories of those fleeting moments we call happiness. We love glorifying the good times and playing them over and over again in our mind's eye. 

The example here is my personal experience with Minnesota United midfielder Hassani Dotson. Now in his fourth season after being drafted from Oregon State, Dotson had an incredible rookie year in 2019 where he scored four screamers on seven shots.

In the three years sense, there hasn't been a time when Dotson's been striding forward and I haven't seen this 2019 scene play out in my head. 

"Shoot," says every fiber of my body. Unfortunately, Dotson no longer averages a goal every two shots. 

We've all got our own Hassani Dotson.

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