8 Rules for Masterful Heckling

Chad R. MacDonald@https://twitter.com/ChadMac19Contributor IISeptember 8, 2012

8 Rules for Masterful Heckling

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    The best Masterful Hecklers can actually affect the outcome of a game. If one wishes to Heckle, this is the desired result. A Masterful Heckler will throw off the other team, and inspire his own, while making everybody laugh.

    A Failed Heckler is mocked, scorned, jeered, disrespected and even tossed from the game.

    Baseball players are the most heckled athletes alive, and they have heard it all. A successful heckle will have a visible effect on the player. Some use them as fuel to excel, others may get flustered and miss a play.

    But what are the guidelines for Heckling? How does one tell the difference between what is appropriate and entertaining, and what is only annoying. Here are some dos and don’ts for aspiring Hecklers that will help them reach Masterful status, with some stories to illustrate.

    Keep in mind these guidelines are specific for a baseball game, but with slight modifications, these rules will work elsewhere as well.

Stay Sober

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    This one is simple. It is common knowledge that alcohol can be liquid courage, as it lowers inhibitions. Unfortunately, it also lowers intelligence, judgment, timing and delivery, and could possibly lead to an ejection from the ballgame. The goal is to be seen as Masterful Heckler, not Loudmouthed Drunk.

    One or two beers while heckling should be fine. If sitting in an outdoor stadium on a hot day, whether or not alcohol is consumed, hydrate regularly. This will keep the wits sharp and the body healthy. Especially if loud heckles are to be issued.

    There are Masterful Hecklers out there who are perfectly capable of firing off zingers while consuming mass quantities. But these people have dedicated their lives to being able to do this, in many cases at the expense of any kind of family or social life that does not include either baseball or alcohol. They have paid a steep price to remain witty while hammered.  Or, they are Jedi.

It's a Family Environment

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    The Masterful Heckler does not lower their standards to simple profanity. They are far better than that. Besides, profanity is so very pedestrian, and to be a Masterful Heckler, one must appear as though one knows their s**t, so they should not have to actually use that word.

    If another fan uses loud profanity, it is perfectly acceptable to ask them, politely, to refrain due to the presence of children. This will make a Heckler appear to be more of a class act and people will be more accepting of future heckles as a result. There may even be an opportunity to gain Masterful Heckle Cred with a good shutdown of a profane and/or drunk fan. 

    One day, a Masterful Heckler was seated a few rows in front of a Loudmouth Drunk. Loudmouth was only interested in screaming insults at players.  Loudmouth decided it would suffice to tell players how much they sucked. Drunk would not be deterred from this behavior regardless of requests to desist. He particularly hated A-Rod, and kept telling him how much he sucked.

    Masterful Heckler had had enough. Loudmouth screamed at A-Rod one more time, that he sucked. To which Heckler responded with:

    “NO YOU DON’T A-ROD, THAT’S JUST A VICIOUS RUMOR!”

    It took a few minutes for the section to stop laughing. Even more rewarding, Masterful Heckler could see A-Rod himself, covering his face with his glove, shaking with laughter.

    Do not scar children with careless profanity. You want their experience to be a pleasant one, so that they will come back. Perhaps even to become Masterful Hecklers themselves.

Do Your Homework

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    Chances are good that anyone interested in becoming a Masterful Heckler is already quite knowledgeable about baseball. Perfect. Use your power. If not, check who is playing, and read up about them. These are the days of smart phones and search engines, so there’s no shortage of material. Heckles are most effective when aimed carefully. There is a greater chance of getting under a player’s skin when they hear something about them specifically.

    One day, Masterful Heckler was visiting Toronto and went to a game where former Blue Jay Eric Hinske was on the visiting team. Heckler focused on Eric, and ignored everyone else.

    For the first at bat, Heckler waited until Hinske settled, and then cried out,

    “Errrrr-IC!” Heckler went on about how Hinske had won the A.L. Rookie of the Year with Toronto, and how his career had gone into decline directly thereafter. Heckler maintained the attitude of a broken-hearted parent, deriding Hinske for not living up to expectations. As this was in Toronto, the crowd quickly jumped on board with Masterful, laughing along with his criticisms of Hinske, who struck out.

    Heckler said nothing until Hinske’s second at bat. Again, he waited until Hinske was set in the box before crying out, “Errrrr-IC!” This time, Masterful focused on Hinske’s famous temper, as the player focused on water coolers as objects of retribution after strikeouts. Heckler went on about the water coolers, and the abuse they received at his hands, and how many of them were now going through therapy. The tactic worked, as mocking Hinske for his short temper actually brought it out. Hinske struck out again, and glared at Masterful Heckler’s section while stalking back to the dugout.

    At this point it needs to be said that this Heckler was also a collector of baseball cards and toys. He particularly enjoyed a series of baseball figurines that showed players in very realistic poses, doing awesome baseball stuff. He also owned Hinske’s figurine, pictured above.

    The Eric Hinske figure was a bit of a let down compared to the others. It was not posed in mid-air turning two, or releasing a powerful throw, swatting a ball into the stratosphere, or even charging down a base-path. It showed Hinske diving forward on his stomach, with a baseball on a see-through peg to be mounted on his glove as if about to be caught.

    It was a rare miss for the company that made the figures. The gimmick of having the ball in the peg did not work out well at all. Instead, the ball/peg combination continually fell out of the figure’s glove to lie on the shelf.

    For Hinske’s third at bat, Heckler had saved a diatribe on the action figure. The reasoning being that there was no way Hinske did not own an action figure of himself; the figurine was really lame compared to all the others; and finally, it was a good bet that nobody had gone after him because his action figure was terrible, and he would have a tough time ignoring this.

    Once again, Hinske got set in the batter’s box, only to have Heckler cry out, “Errrr-IC!” Upon hearing Heckler, Hinske immediately held up a hand a stepped out of the box. The section, now primed by Heckler’s “Eric” call, was already laughing.

    Smelling blood, Heckler plunged into his bit, talking about how excited he was to hear Hinske was getting his own action figure, how cool all the other action figures looked, and his shock at how badly Hinske’s figure had turned out. As he described the figurine’s shortcomings, he kept coming back to the peg/baseball combination and, stealing a page from Jeff Dunham’s Jose Jalapeno bit, referred to it as a baseball on a stick.

    By the end of his detailed description of how lame the figurine was, Heckler had the whole section roaring along with him whenever touched back on Hinske’s baseball on a stick. And, more importantly, how he couldn’t even keep a huge contraption like that in his glove.

    Hinske, to nobody’s surprise, struck out for the third time, and was even removed from the game. Players on his team could be seen peering out of the dugout towards Heckler’s section. Exactly the sort of thing a Heckler lives for.

    To have this much of an effect on a player, a Heckler must have their homework done. Look and see what is out there about a player, and seize upon it. The more obscure stories will have greater effect.

    Accuracy is imperative. Simply repeating rumors is looked down upon by Masterful Hecklers. Besides, players will just tune out falsehoods. Heckles are meant to affect them, not to be ignored by them.

Stay Friendly and Respectful

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    Hey, baseball is a fun game. Everyone is here to have fun, right? Always remember this. There is absolutely no reason to insult anyone, and if other fans are open to discussion, that’s great.

    Respect boundaries. Don’t engage anyone who does not seem to want to interact. Bantering with opposing fans is fine, but keep arguments light. Concede if they make a good point. People love someone who listens to them and will be more tolerant and supportive of loud comments if they think the Heckler is nice.

    Should someone really be bothered by heckles, they must be respected. The heckler is either misfiring, or the person asking them to stop has never been to a baseball game before. If heckles are failing, give them up for the day before others join in. If the complainer is a stick in the mud and there is good material to be tried out, wait until they go to the bathroom.

    Baseball etiquette is a great way to appear friendly and respectful. Never stand up in your seat during the action, unless everyone else is doing it too. Don’t block someone’s view as the pitcher releases. Wait between pitches to make your comments. Timing is everything.

    It is proper baseball etiquette to wait until the end of a team’s at bats in order to leave or return to your seats. Back in the day, it used to be only at the end of an inning. Any game you go to, people will break this rule. This is very uncool. If one is to be a Heckler, follow baseball etiquette. Hecklers will have higher profiles in their sections, and should set examples with non-heckling conduct.

    And have fun! Smile and laugh.

Props May Help

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    Some fans bring signs, some wear giant silly hats, some wear wild costumes or no shirts with body-paint. This is all fine. Many Hecklers join in these traditions, although not everyone who does this is a Heckler.

    Guidelines for this sort of thing are simple and easy. Don’t wear or carry anything that will obstruct the view or comfort of your fellow fans. Originality is best and, obviously, adult-themed props are frowned upon by Masterful Hecklers.

    One Masterful Heckler uses an ingenious prop: a puppet. A Yankee fan living abroad, he often watches his team in enemy territory. This is where Rocco comes in.  Rocco as the Heckler has named him, is a classic boxing puppet bought at classic Yankee Stadium during its final season. The new stadium sells a puppet too, but it has been redesigned. Rocco is a rare find now, and has a tougher look.

    Rocco, pictured, has the power to silence Yankee-haters easily. When berated by home team fans about his pinstripes, the Heckler simply lifts Rocco, turns him toward the offenders, and extends one boxing gloved fist at them. The result is usually stunned silence, then raucous laughter. The Heckler has not said a word, and normally does not even look towards where the insults came from. Rocco guarantees this Heckler will be given space to vent his opinion freely, even in enemy territory. Not only that, kids really love Rocco, giving the Heckler even more armor against his naysayers.

Pick Your Spots

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    A wonderful thing about baseball, there are many little events that unfold during gameplay that build into big moments. The Masterful Heckler will see this and seize upon these moments. Sometimes the most innocent thing can become a game-changer.

    Reed Johnson is a player who always steps out of the box after every pitch to fix his gloves. Many players do this, of course, but Reed has a specific stance he assumes, with the bat placed on end braced against the inside of his thigh, while he methodically undoes and reapplies the Velcro straps of his batting gloves.

    One day, a Masterful Heckler decided to focus solely on Reed, and reminded him to check his gloves after every pitch. As the ballgame progressed, and Johnson’s at-bats accumulated, the Heckler increased the volume of his reminders. People around him, clearly enjoying the bit, laughed and joined in. Soon there was a chorus of people reminding Reed, after every pitch, to check his gloves, cheering when he did so.

    Finally it was the ninth inning and, poetically, Johnson was up as the last threat to the home team’s win. The Masterful Heckler had rallied not only his whole section, but also other parts of the stadium to get on Reed about his gloves.

    With the count three and two, and the closer feeding Johnson a steady diet of fastballs, it was a good bet that the next pitch would be the last of the at-bat, and possibly the game. Masterful Heckler had one more message for Reed, delivered at top volume:

    “DON’T FORGET TO CHECK YOUR GLOOOOOOVES!”

    A visibly perturbed Johnson turned back towards Heckler’s section, and sarcastically nodded at him. He then pointedly did not check his gloves. And then he struck out.

    The roar of the appreciative crowd was sweet victory to the ears of Masterful Heckler, and surely inspired future Hecklers.

Lose Gracefully

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    It’s going to happen. No matter how much effort a Heckler puts into a performance, their teams will lose. But Hecklers can still set the example.

    Do not scream or complain about the umpire or make excuses about injuries, payroll, the weather or what have you. Take it on the chin and hold your head high. If there are opposing fans around, congratulate them. Shaking their hands is acceptable, but do not high five them. Appear graceful, but not happy that their team won.

    One Masterful Heckler was sitting in a section with a lot of children around who were rooting for the other team. They all turned to laugh at him at game’s end, and he responded with an over the top and completely hilarious tantrum that included a fake crying fit. The Heckler’s team lost, but the Heckler himself won. 

Use Your Diaphragm

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    Screaming from the throat, as Axl Rose sings, is a fast way to destroy the vocal chords. Unless having no voice and a sore throat is appealing, avoid this technique. Besides, the voice is the tool for delivering heckles. Preserve it and use it properly.

    Instead, proper delivery should be with the diaphragm. Breathe with your stomach, not your chest. Project the voice, and avoid yelling.

Have Fun!

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    In conclusion, Masterful Heckling is a lot of fun. Hecklers can be seen as entertaining, and sometimes as part of the game. There is no question that there is an egotistical factor at work, but using intelligence and respect, a fan can elevate their experience at the ballgame to a tremendous high.