Why boo our best and brightest?
Why do sports fans take such pleasure in jeering their most feared adversaries?
It's a topic I've been arguing about with fans on Twitter for weeks in the face of escalating abuse towards Sam Tomkins. The outstanding young Wigan and England full-back did himself no favours with an ill-advised gesture at Wembley but does he deserve the flak he has been getting?
Sean Long, Lee Briers and now Tomkins. Three brilliant players, all hated by opposition fans. Frighteningly good players whom the sport should be proudly promoting but who are instead booed and heckled at away grounds as much as they are idolised on home soil.
So do they deserve it? Is Tomkins rightly being barracked by fans, some of whom perceive him as a niggly, petulant, arrogant rule bender? Or is he targeted because rival fans fear him. Is it jealousy, pure and simple?
Tomkins attracts attention as a star player, but does he deserve all the fans' abuse? Photo: Getty
I fiercely defended Tomkins recently and was criticised for labelling those who booed him "pathetic". Tomkins then did what he did at Wembley and I found myself unable to offer a defence.
So what do the players think?
Ahead of Warrington's potential blockbusting game against Wigan, I spoke to Briers, who, having experienced a similar rapport with fans to Tomkins, said the Warriors must guide their young superstar through the storm.
"Sam needs to think about his reputation and how he is seen as a person and a player," Briers told me. "Reputation is a massive thing.
"When you are younger you are not mature even if you think you are. You don't fully understand or appreciate your surroundings.
"I'm sure the Wigan coaching staff and chairman will look after him. He can be a superstar of our game so I hope we can get him highlighted the right way in the press and have some positive news stories about him and our game."
This has been my point entirely.
Tomkins is one of the most exciting young talents that British rugby league has produced in years yet we are already lambasting when we could be embracing.
Briers admits the 22-year-old badly let himself down with his two-fingered salute to Leeds fans but says this situation snowballed long before Wembley.
"I don't think it's all from his doing," said Briers. "He didn't do anything bad to start off the booing and now that's all escalated and everyone's jumped on the bandwagon of this Wembley gesture."
Tomkins himself gave an interview a couple of months ago in which he claimed not to be fazed by the boo boys, saying in an interview with Forty-20 magazine: "They want a reaction from me and I won't give them what they want."
But now he has. So what happened?
"Sam is a reactive player, you can see that in the way he plays," added Briers, the Lance Todd Trophy winner at Wembley 12 months ago.
"It wasn't planned, he reacted - but we all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Sam's unfortunately got caught up in the excitement of Wembley.
"I've been there and know what it's all about. He'll learn from it. And I think nothing less of him for doing it."
In fact, said Briers, all great players have flaws. "With all special players, all mavericks, we all do something wrong in our careers," he said. "People with a spark to them live on the edge."
Lee Briers sympathises with Tomkins: "I've been there and know what it's all about." Photo: Getty
Briers himself has certainly lived by that mantra over his terrific career. And like Tomkins, he has also reacted to abuse from fans.
I remember a game well in fact. A typical match-winning performance from Briers saw his Headingley drop-goal knock Leeds out of the 2006 play-offs at the first hurdle. I was commentating and fans around me were giving Briers lots of abuse.
He snapped and gave the Southstanders the finger when he kicked his match-winner.
"I had two young children at Headingley and the abuse was personal and going too far," explained Briers. "I can handle a few thousand booing, but not the personal stuff. As you get older, you get used to it and you can have banter back, but what I was hearing was not on."
From my comfy position on this BBC reporter's soap box I need to hold my hand up to my rugby league past. As a passionate supporter, I booed Briers before swapping the terraces for the commentary box.
I joke with him that I despised the bloke on the pitch when I was stood supporting my team. But I now find it pathetic that I was insulting someone I didn't even know.
Some players simply wind fans up. It tends to be the best players, those that opposition fans fear.
And more often than not it serves as an inspiration.
"I always saw the boos as pleasing," said Briers. "It's about respect and means I'm doing something right. If they didn't do it that means they're not worried about me.
"If you asked fans who boo Tomkins if they would have him in their team, I could guarantee everybody would say 'yes'. If you can show me anyone saying 'no', then I will show you a liar".
My view on Tomkins is that we should cut the kid some slack. He is making mistakes while learning in the public eye and can grow into a role model if we allow him to. He is a brilliant and at times unplayable player and I hope we become able to embrace the publicity that such a fabulous young prospect can bring to our game.