Heckling: A Primer

Hayes Bowman

Disclaimer: This article is printed for your entertainment only. We caution you in the strongest possible terms that attempting these suggestions will alienate you from pretty much everyone except fraternity brothers and Brewers fans, and may result in your unintentionally wearing an Albert Belle-model bat as a “fashion accessory.” Signed, the management.

Many fans go to games and cheer when prompted by the organ music, do the wave at the wrong times, and applaud their mascots. I hate these fans. Easily led automations! Learn to applaud on your own! The noise meter is not your god!

If you’re interested in actually affecting the outcome of a game, let me discuss with you the hazards and joys of an not-at-all-lucrative career in heckling. While others cross their meaty fingers and hope the left fielder drops the ball, we’ll be working to affect the outcome of the game.

Players can hear hecklers in decent seats. You do need to yell, and loud, but they can hear you. There are numerous examples of players charging into the stands after someone who’s been ragging on them all game. If players really could tune it out, what’s the problem? Imagine for a minute you’re standing at the top of a small hill, and at its feet is someone who owes you a lot of money. Or who’s seeing your daughter or sister on the sly. Or both. Like me. Can you yell loud enough that they can hear you? Of course you can. That you’ll be sitting in a stadium doesn’t make the distance any farther.

First, use the player’s name in each taunt. Everyone responds to their name, it’s ingrained. You can’t help but listen to what’s immediately after that.

Second, comment on their performance recently. If they’re having a bad week, month, or year, reinforce their bad habits. Sarcasm’s quite effective here. “You suck, Daryl” is probably not going to bother the outfielder in question, while specific taunts about his inability to hit or field will not only be true, but hamper their own mental games in trying to get back into things. Change your taunts through the game.

However, don’t let that keep you from making nasty comments about the player himself. For instance, if Jose Canseco has just hit a two-run homer in his last AB, you shouldn’t feel that you can’t yell “You put the ho in Jose!” (say it out loud, it’ll come to you). The more creative the better — you want taunts that will stick in their craw, distracting their brains.

You may want to spend time combing sources of particularly vile insults (like Usenet) for inspiration and adapting them into ready forms. Players spend much of their time in a bubble of hotels, practice, and game, and they’re not ready for the advanced trash talk even today’s grade schoolers can engage in. The field is rapidly advancing; keeping up on recent discoveries will give you the edge.

And if you can, attack a player’s personal shortcomings. If you really dislike a player because he beats his wives or cheats on his taxes, feel free to pepper your game commentary with judgments on their personal worth and heritage possibilities. Variety will spice your heckling and ensure that some of your barbs tear at your victim’s brain.

Having mastered those things, you must now be persistent. As Ben Franklin said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Keep after them, pitch after pitch and inning after inning. The fans that succeed in setting players off don’t say one thing that rankles the fan — they’re the fans who hammer on one poor sucker inning after inning until he can’t stand it anymore. That needs to be you, chipping away at their concentration.

The results of good heckling are hard to spot. If a player strikes out and throws things around, how much of that can be attributed to good heckling? No one can tell. But when a player looks into the stands for you, when security people start to turn up in nearby aisles and just stand around, you’ll know you’ve had some effect, even if it’s only to make your stadium known as a hostile work environment players dread.

Often overlooked is heckling while the ball is in play. This sadly neglected field can give your home team a free base, out, or run, and as we know from Mulan, “One grain of rice can tip the scales.” This requires exceptionally good seats you have to buy or sneak into. I trust my readers can manage that. Then shout during a pitcher’s delivery. Yell “he’s going” when there’s a man on first (another Strikethree.com staffer swears he actually got an opposing pitcher to balk when he did this from seats over the visiting team’s dugout). Yell “home! Home!” when the only play is at second. “I got it!” on foul balls close to you. Try and distract players just before they catch a ball, and if you find anything particularly effective, email me.

There are no laws saying you can’t heckle players. However, if you use a lot of obscenities, and you’re in a family seating section, you’re asking for a “disrupting the peace” citation, but generally they’ll just move you back in the stands. Way back. If you’re like me, of course, you’ll be able to argue your way out of a loose charge like that. You may want to avoid actual obscenities anyway out of personal beliefs.

The greatest risk is that you’ll heckle and smuggle at once, and you’ll get tagged for both. There’s really no arguing your way out of a public nuisance charge if you’re leaning over the rails, screaming at Rafael Palmeiro, with two 52-oz. Foster’s cans under your seat in full view of the security guys monitoring you. Mind you, you won’t get prosecuted, but you’re certain to get tossed. If you’re in certain areas this may be a blessing, of course (e.g., Baltimore, Seattle).

A word of caution, however: do your research. Taunting Griffey may piss Griffey off. If you piss Griffey off he’s likely to hit four home runs and point you out to angry fellow fans each time he crosses home. Do not piss off players who can destroy your team if they decide they’re adequately motivated.

about the author

Hayes Bowman is finally back, after discovering the hard way that you can go to jail for standing outside the Betty Ford Clinic and repeatedly calling Robert Downey Jr. a “wuss.” Suggest a move using our contact page.

Published April 10, 2006

Google Custom Search