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Fan Interference: A Fan's Guide to Heckling - 7/2/07

Monday, July 2, 2007

At one time, if a sports fan got out of line he would be beaten with his own penny loafer. Times have changed. Some fans are even rewarded with unique memorabilia for their obnoxious behavior. Earlier this season Toronto Blue Jays centerfielder Vernon Wells gave a heckler in Cleveland a game ball with a personalized message written on it (see below). Ken Griffey Jr. of the Reds has also been in a giving mood this season. He recently gave one unruly, overweight fan a 3XL sized jockstrap with his #30 written on the waistband as a joke. These incidents are only encouraging more fans to heckle in hopes of finding their 15 minutes of fame and eBay riches. It is important to remember that heckling is an art form which takes creativity, research, strong vocal chords, and sometimes some liquid courage. Here are a few guidelines to follow the next time you are at the ballpark knocking back a couple brews and yelling at that over-paid, lazy, wifebeater they call an outfielder.

1. Know Your Target

Some players like Eric Byrnes of the Arizona Diamondbacks enjoy interacting with the fans and will even encourage fans to heckle them. Others do not. Just ask this guy...

2. Pick an Appropriate Event/ Venue

Appropriate: Professional sporting events, college sporting events, high school sporting events*, movies shown at inner-city theaters, etc.

* It is only appropriate to heckle at high school athletic competitions if you are still in high school. If you are still attending high school sporting events and you don't have children playing, you are either A.) A creepy townie living in the past B.) A pedophile or C.) All of the above

Inappropriate: Your son's T-Ball game, your daughter's dance recital, golf tournaments, during a best man's speech, comedy shows (see Richards, Michael), etc.

3. Do Your Homework

The program is the Holy Bible of the heckler. Use the program to gather as much information that can be used as ammuniation as you can. The program is especially valuable at the high school and college level, since you usually don't know the names of the visiting team's players. "Hey #15, You Suck!" is an unoriginal and uninspired heckle. Learn his name and tell him all the reasons why he sucks.

4. Know Your Surroundings

Before you open your fat, hot dog and beer-filled mouth, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself...

- Is there a large enough barrier between me and my target?

- Will this security guard kick my ass?

- Am I surrounded by fellow fans with the same viewpoint and will they have my back if shit goes down?

- Am I sitting next to Player X's family? I once saw a friend of mine almost get into a fist fight with a dad at a D-3 women's basketball game. There is nothing funnier than an overzealous dad trying to fight a 20 year-old at a girl's basketball game in order to defend his 250 lb daughter's honor.

5. Make It Personal

Don't be afraid to bring up mistakes from the player's shady past (or present). If he was involved in an underground dog fighting ring or is accused of beating his wife, let him know about it. I don't condone violence against women in any way, but I do approve of calling out a wifebeater in front of thousands of people. Plus you can use zingers like "If you hit the ball half as hard as you hit your wife, maybe you wouldn't be hitting .160."

6. Don't Ever Throw Anything, Go on the Playing Surface, or Interfere with the Game in Anyway, unless...

You want to get assaulted by a roid-raging Gary Sheffield, have your life ruined (see Bartman, Steve), or get tackled by a bruly security guard that has been waiting years for the opportunity to take down a little, unathletic, punk-ass drunk like you.

7. Use the Team/ School's Reputation or Recent Events as Fodder

The best heckle of my career would fall into this category. Back in college, I was standing behind the outfield fence, enjoying a couple beers and watching my college's baseball team take on a small Catholic school during the height of the church sex abuse scandal. There were probably about 40 or 50 students in the outfield drinking and heckling the other teams outfielders. For the most part it was the usual "You suck" generic brand of heckles. However, these heckles were starting to get to the centerfielder and he was starting to respond to our comments. So, I yell out "Hey ____, I heard you hooked up with your priest!". I got an immediate laugh from the fans and one of the worst looks I've ever seen from the centerfielder_____. _____ looked directly at me, grabbed his crotch and spit in my general direction (not very Christian if you ask me). At this point it was clear we were in his head. Later in the game, he went to play a routine flyball and inadvertently knocked the ball over the fence with his glove for a homerun. I'd like to think I was partly responsible for that HR. Maybe that heckle was inappropriate and there's a good chance I'm going to Hell, but it was the playoffs. Gotta support the team.

8. Have Fun & Be Creative

You spent $40 on bleacher seats and $7 for a beer. You have every right to yell obscenities at some guy simply trying to do his job.