The Gentleman Sports Fan's Guide to Heckling
It's easy to run your mouth, but a true gentleman lets the smack linger like a well-aged Scotch might on the tip of one's tongue. The trick is to leave the better man, possibly forcing your victim to get so badly burned that he thanks you for the tan.
What follows is a list of dos and don'ts as it pertains to smack talk. Now the list is hardly exhaustive, so we encourage you, as most gentlemen might, to feature your own parameters in the comments section below.
Now we don't demand that you don a monocle or fish out your best tuxedo tails if you are going to trash talk your opponents or fellow fans.
We simply feel there is a fine line, and jumping three rows down to punch someone's face while your children watch is on one side of things.
We will let you guess which.
Now some of you will offer that there are no rules when it comes to trash talking. As you know, a gentleman, like The Dude, abides by a certain relaxed structure.
Here are some very loose guidelines.
Do Make a Clever Sign
A true gentleman works above the fray of normal snark and sign humor. Sure, you could make an acronym from ESPN, but you will have failed before the ink dries.
It's best to, as these Maryland fans did back in 2011, troll the opposition with derp photos and pop-culture callbacks.
The confounded person you see isn't the adult version of Jonathan, the zombie kid who likes turtles, but rather former Duke player Kyle Singler—who may or may not have an affinity for turtles.
We also want to give a shout out to Darth Vader who managed to take some time out from overacting in Star Wars Episode III to troll Duke.
Not pictured: Emperor Palpatine creepily standing in line at the concession stand. (It was his turn to get beer.)
Don't Misspell Said Clever Sign
Troll responsably...responscibly...responcabaly...just be careful with your spelling.
This masterpiece was crafted back in August by a bunch of cheerleaders hellbent on reminding you they have no hand in any subsequently ruffled feathers.
They did manage to misspell responsible though, which instantly ruined a perfectly nice sign.
The image was captured and posted to Instagram by David Berrens who writes, "This is Hoovers sign at the Florence Jamboree. I don't think Hoovers cheerleaders can spell. It's spelled Responsible! Not Responsable. #idiots!!!"
Remember, words are all we have as hecklers. They are our hammer and chisel, and we use them to sculpt prose that will strike down the opposition while invigorating our own spirits. But spell one word wrong and people will treat you like Officer Doofy from Scary Movie.
Do Incite a Massive Crowd in One Unifying Voice
While your kids were off somewhere scraping their knees and making messes in their poopie diapers, this child was busy oozing charisma and generally getting things done.
If you want to heckle, you need the attention of the masses. Well, take notes. Actually, belay that order—just sit back and marvel at one of my favorite videos from this here Internet machine.
If that doesn't do it for you, take a look-see at this six-year-old boy doing the same for Celtic fans.
We imagine family dinners inevitably turn into one big shouting match, but in a great way.
Don't Go Miley Cyrus on a Fan
On the flip side, heckling near a lot of people can have its downside.
If I had to think of one off the top of my head, I might have to go with the apparently very real threat of getting body slammed by a mother of three who may or may not have enjoyed one too many libations. (We are leaning heavily towards may have.)
The posted video features a female Alabama fan going "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka on a Oklahoma fan during the Sooners' 45-31 Sugar Bowl win over the Crimson Tide on Jan. 2.
You can see another version of the video at CBS Sports, but I'm partial to this Miley Cyrus remix for obvious reasons.
Twitter user Michael Connolly, the proclaimed victim of the aerial attack, states that the woman is a mother of three, and her children were nearby.
Thanks to For the Win's Laken Litman, we get the other side of the story. The woman is Michelle Pritchett and she states, "It had nothing to do about the ball game. It had nothing to do with us losing. It started when he started taunting my son."
And so we have two lessons to hand out: Never taunt a little kid (if that's indeed what happened), and don't practice your WWE moves at a football game.
Class and decorum nearly died at the Sugar Bowl, so it's a good thing we can resuscitate them both now.
Do Cheer Loudly
Oh, you little scamps.
NESN's Owen Ziegler reminds us of the time fans of the Michigan State Spartans dished out a couple of assists to their squad on defense.
In a November game between Michigan State and Columbia, the Izzone decided to fashion their own countdown, which caused a great deal of confusion for Columbia.
The raucous countdown helped the Spartans secure a 62-53 victory. Nobody's feelings were hurt, the shot clock was never blocked and everybody left with their dignity.
Well, except the kids whose job it was to time-keep.
Don't Get Kicked out
- At an opposing player wearing long sleeves: "What are you trying to hide, prison tattoos or track marks?
- During a free throw: "Raise your hand if you thought Hurricane Katrina was a good thing."
If you've been paying attention, you knew the previous sentiment had to have a dark and sinister underbelly. We thank Missouri's cheering section, The Antlers, for providing just that,
All the way back in the land of not too long ago, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Dave Matter reported that a section of students was actually asked to leave the game because they were being far too nasty with their heckling.
And then it happened again the very next game.
On Nov. 26, Matter wrote, "The Antlers, the longtime student fan group, was ejected from the arena by university police, the second consecutive game in which the group was escorted out of the arena."
Deadspin managed to compile some of the nasty things used as "comedy." Among them are the following:
Keep it funny, engaging and, well, not horrible.
Do Take Things to Twitter
As Jasper Beardly might offer, "What a time to be alive."
Social-media outlets like Twitter bring fans closer to the action and actually let you direct a specific heckle if you so choose.
Of course, there is a very obvious line between innocuous heckling, as seen here, and offensive bullying, so traipse carefully.
For context, we thank For the Win's Chris Chase for bringing us up to speed. Here is a tweet from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's girlfriend Kelly Hall with a reply from Twitter user @DetroitKoolAid.
Hall has quite the future in playing the straight man in a comedy duo.
Don't Be Awful
Comedy isn't easy—as you can tell by the long trail of cheese I leave behind me in the form of these articles. However, not being an awful and completely horrible person is rather simple.
You merely have to stave off the inclination to troll an Olympic diver using the knowledge of his recently passed father, which happened to Tom Daley in 2012.
Of course, things swing both ways, because Stephanie Rice, wanting to chide South Africa's Springboks after their loss to Australia's Wallabies back in 2010, let fly a homophobic slur on Twitter.
As The Daily Mail reported at the time, the swimmer lost her Jaguar sponsorship because of the debacle.
Practice safe tweeting, everybody.
Do Use Your Advantages Wisely
OK, we aren't advocating to actually be two of the most recognizable faces at any NBA game. However, if you are granted the opportunity to sit in the expensive seats, use it.
Don't just sit there with your arms folded like a Donald Sutherland-looking Lou Adler.
Get in the game, shake things up. That's why we appreciate two of the best: Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee.
Here is Nicholson giving an NBA referee the ol' what-for after making, what he thinks, is an egregious call. Knowing the NBA, he's probably right.
As for Spike Lee, well his reputation is well known in basketball circles. The man can talk about as well as he can direct.
Although, that has bit him in the past.
Don't Wake Reggie Miller, Ever
Remember, those verbal grenades can just as easily be picked up and thrown in your direction.
We aren't talking about athletes actually returning the volley verbally. No, things can be far worse, as they were for John Starks, and more famously, Spike Lee.
Posted for your enjoyment is a snippet from the generally awesome 30 for 30 documentary Winning Time, which chronicled the animosity shared between the Pacers and Knicks during the 1990s—a rather awesome time to be a basketball fan.
As the video reminds, Lee's constant badgering of Miller had the opposite effect of rattling the sharpshooter. Sometimes it's best for everyone but your intended target to hear the heckling.
Go out there and have fun trying to get these guys off their game, but be warned that a great many of them feed off that stuff in the same way Andy Reid feeds off anything.