Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is there such thing as Heckler Etiquette?

By
Dear Mr. Dork,

Here is your ball! Can you please tell me what gas station you work at so I can come and yell at you when you're working? Please sit down, shut up and enjoy the game.

From your favorite centre fielder, Vernon Wells.
The above baseball will forever remain as one of the funniest stories in heckling history. For once, the hecklee became the heckler when Vernon Wells turned the tables on a fan a couple years ago in Cleveland.

It made for a great story, but often times players are not as good-natured and willing to take a ribbing as Vernon Wells was.

The Grill Room tweeted yesterday asking to hear about stories from fans who have had experiences at the Rogers Centre where they felt they might have been censored by Rogers Centre staff.

It's a topic that's been gaining momentum in recent weeks especially with the dip in attendance this year, and I recall hearing someone on Jays Talk last Monday mentioning how one of the ushers asked him to be quiet after heckling Daniel Bard in the Red Sox bullpen.

It begs the question - is there such thing as heckler etiquette?

Heckling has existed as long as fans have been in the stands, so what is deemed appropriate to yell at the ballpark, and what isn't? Aside from the obvious no-no's, what is deemed fair game?

In the situation of the Jays Talk caller above, I can see why the staff at the Rogers Centre would ask him to be quiet. The players in the bullpen are trying to get their head in the game, and it's hard to get focused with somebody standing a few rows away bellowing your last name over and over again.

On that same token, I'm also sure the hitters in the batter's box are expecting that same respect from the fans before they step up to the plate.

Take the video below as an example. Would you consider this fan's actions out of line?



It's one thing to be belligerent and have total disregard for the players and fellow fans around you. There are certain things that are intolerable at the ballpark, and I think we can all agree on what is and isn't appropriate.

Personally, if this guy was sitting in my section, it would get old after about five minutes - but I wouldn't have his ass hauled away just because he was yelling "focus" to Evan Longoria. After all, this heckler is trying to help the home team win, so he has the Blue Jays best interests at heart.

If in fact fans are in fact being removed from games for spouting off some good natured ribbing to opposing players, it seems like overkill to me. I don't see why it's an issue for them to speak their mind.

It's the fans that are the ones who are contributing to the salaries of the players (albeit not the opposition's salaries), but I think they have every right to be there and voice their opinion.

If the shoe were on the other foot though , I don't think I'd take very well to Vernon Wells showing up to my place of work and heckling me while I tried to focus at work on Minesweeper and Brick Breaker.

And I think we just inadvertently created next year's Blue Jays television commercials ...

15 comments:

  1. That's the first time I've seen that ball. Not sure how I missed that. Awesome.

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  2. The only stuff I think is genuinely out of line would include threatening the players, excessive profanity (there's kids around) or references to deaths or tragedies in the players' families.
    However anything the player has done wrong - say doing steroids, or Clay Buchholz's laptop thefts, especially when they should feel ashamed of their actions - are fair game and should be exploited as much as possible.
    I make no apologies however for yelling the most disgusting insults possible at Japanese players in Japanese, since no one here understands them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mattt, that story is stuff of legends. I can't find the original article, but there are bits and pieces floating around the internet. V-Dub is awesome.

    Anon, Buchholz stole laptops? That's some good ammunition for hecklers right there. I agree there are some topics which should be hands off, but there is a grey area I suppose.

    I saw a video on Youtube of yesterday where a heckler said to Brett Myers "Hey Brett, are you going to beat the Braves like you beat your wife"? That one's a little iffy.

    And by all means feel free to use another language to heckle the players!

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  4. I almost get tossed every time I'm at the Dome. I know exactly what the limit is, and it is really low on the belligerence scale. It is ridiculous that we diehard fans have to be warned (by the police in many cases) not to be so loud at a baseball game. Last time it happened, I has relentlessly heckling the Angels from RF (opening weekend). A guy a few rows over got tossed by a cop for swearing (once), and I got warned for being too loud. What a joke. If they want people to come to the games, they should allow us to be real fans. Like I said to the power-hungry cop, "I'd like to see you try this at a real ballpark, like Wrigley."

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  5. Roll FizzlebeefMay 4, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    That guy in the video is kinda funny. Mostly an idiot, but kinda funny. The "THIS IS IMPORTANT EVA FOCUS" got old after the second time, though.

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  6. Andy, it'll all in good fun so I don't understand why some of the ushers get all uptight about it. I mean, so long as you aren't cursing or making racial slurs or anything, I don't see what the issue is.

    Roll, it's funny at first - but after the tenth "FOCUS", it gets pretty old. I did like the Terri Hatcher comment though. You really don't hear much or her at the ballpark anymore.

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  7. Hunter,

    Here is the original article with respect to the ball Vernon gave that guy in Cleveland:

    http://1bluejaysway.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-to-heckle-part-ii.html

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  8. Clay Buchholz laptop theft story: http://www.kfdm.com/news/lumberton-5203-police-school.html

    Next time dude pitches in Toronto I'm going to be riding him the entire game about buying a cheap computer.

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  9. Golden Arm, thanks for the link. For some reason that article doesn't exist on Homer Derby anymore. Good to relive those memories.

    Anon, use whatever you can to throw Buchholz off his game. For some reason he just kills the Jays whenever he pitches at the Rogers Centre.

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  10. That signed ball is pretty hilarious - nice to see VW have a sense of humor with the fans like that.

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  11. The rules are:

    - No swearing
    - No libel
    - Clampdown on bullpen heckling results when the visiting team makes a formal complaint...which seems to be about every other series
    - If none of the rules above are broken, a request to clampdown and/or tonedown on general heckling when there are many complaints from other guests in that section. They'd rather respect and please the many as opposed to the singular offending party.

    It really is that simple and most of what is reported are isolated examples. You never hear of the hundreds and thousands of heckles/cheers/jeers etc that occur every game without censor

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  12. Anon, I think you pretty much nailed it there. I agree that the folks who call in to Jays Talk to complain about being censored are in the minority. I think most people just want to go to the ballpark and enjoy the game.

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  13. Heyya BALL fans,

    I find this whole topic incredibly funny as I go to A LOT of games at the DOME and I heckle excessively and with intense ill willed intent but I've never but once (recently) have been shush'd or asked to keep quiet at a Jays game.

    First, the time I got shush'd was the May 31st game vs. CLE and I was yelling 'GE-SE-KI' a korean insult to Korean player Shin-soo Choo. The literal translation of the insult is 'runt of the litter' but the group of 4 older Korean men 2 rows in front of me wagged their fingers and said, "that is not very nice to say".

    I think the only etiquette needed is to avoid the major curses F--K, S--T and C-NT but otherwise be creative and humourous and the crowd around you(including visiting team fans) will enjoy the ribbing too.

    sincerely,
    I HEART BJS

    ReplyDelete
  14. Heyya BALL fans,

    I find this whole topic incredibly funny as I go to A LOT of games at the DOME and I heckle excessively and with intense ill willed intent but I've never but once (recently) have been shush'd or asked to keep quiet at a Jays game.

    First, the time I got shush'd was the May 31st game vs. CLE and I was yelling 'GE-SE-KI' a korean insult to Korean player Shin-soo Choo. The literal translation of the insult is 'runt of the litter' but the group of 4 older Korean men 2 rows in front of me wagged their fingers and said, "that is not very nice to say".

    I think the only etiquette needed is to avoid the major curses F--K, S--T and C-NT but otherwise be creative and humourous and the crowd around you(including visiting team fans) will enjoy the ribbing too.

    sincerely,
    I HEART BJS

    ReplyDelete
  15. Mike, there's the difference between somebody like you who does their homework and somebody who just curses or yells "you suck". It's easy for anyone to just blurt out insults or curse words.

    Albeit that insult you used may or may not have crossed the line according to those guys in front of you, but it wasn't like you were swearing in a different language.

    Heckling is part of the game, and if folks are complaining to the ushers about some good-natured heckling, then they should just watch the game from home in peace in quiet. It's a ball game, and heckling is expected.

    It's only if those hecklers veer into cursing, libel or slander territory is when it becomes unacceptable.

    ReplyDelete

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