Heckling has been a part of sports since cavemen would see who could throw rocks furthest and the other cavemen watching would yell, "Boo! You suck! My sister could throw further than that, and she had both her arms ripped off by a sabertooth tiger!"
It is a delicate art that takes years to correctly master.
Spike Lee is probably the most famous heckler of all time. Unlike many celebrities that attend sporting events, Spike is constantly out of his seat yelling at refs, coaches, and players alike.
My favorite Spike Lee moment? He traveled to a Bulls-Knicks playoffs game in Chicago where Scottie Pippen posterized Patrick Ewing, stepped over him, and then went almost directly to Spike to rub it in. Spike was of course already out of his seat and screaming at Pippen.
When a player makes one of the greatest moves of his career and comes to seek you out immediately afterwards, that means you've done your job.
Robin Ficker was the greatest heckler of all time. The Bullets fan would sit behind the opponent's bench and drive them up the wall.
It wasn't your textbook heckling either. Ficker was notorious for finding unique ways to annoy other teams. Against the Bulls, Ficker sat behind the bench and read passages from Phil Jackson's book for the whole game until Jackson had to get security to come get him to stop.
In 1993, Charles Barkley notoriously flew Ficker out to sit behind Jordan and try to distract him during the NBA Finals. Using Jordan's gambling allegations, Ficker brought giant cards and dice to the game and even dealt Jordan hands from the stands and asked him what he wanted to bet.
The best part is, Jordan would turn around and hold up fingers to let him know and play along. Too bad it didn't do what Barkley was hoping for, though, since Jordan and the Bulls won the series and the championship.
Sometimes heckling doesn't need to be verbal. As far as I know, the Philly Phanatic has never spoken a word, yet he's been distracting opponents for over 30 years.
Of course, it helps if you look like a giant muppet and have access to the field, but the Fanatic has done his part by dancing "provocatively" in front of other teams' dugouts and stomping on their helmets and other symbols of their organization.
Still, it's hard to be mad at that guy, not matter how annoying he is.
As a group of fans, you won't find a more clever group of hecklers than the Cameron Crazies. I can't stand Duke, but even I have to give these guys their props.
They have countless tricks up their sleeve. They will dictate the game's actions for the other team ("Boing, boing, boing, boing, boing, PASS!"), yell and wave their hands at them, and remind a player that he had just committed a foul ("You you you you you you"). And that's before we even get to the written insults.
Admittedly, sometimes they go a little far. When Maryland's Herman Veal came to town after being accused of sexually assaulting a co-ed, Duke fans made signs that said, "Hey Herm, did you buy her flowers afterward?"
When the inevitable backlash came and the university demanded they clean up their act, the Crazies came to the next game against UNC with signs that said "Welcome Fellow Scholars" and "A Warm and Hearty Welcome to Dean Smith." Instead of yelling during free throws, they held up signs that said "Please Miss."
And my favorite, when they disagreed with the refs, instead of the normal obscenities, they chanted, "We beg to differ."
How do you know if your heckling is being effective? Well, when the guy you're taunting starts throwing down with sweet old Bob Barker, I think that's a pretty good indication that what you're doing is working.
It just goes to show, if you're super annoying, you don't really need to be clever. Just repetitive.
In 2006, a brilliant group of friends were at the NBA Draft where they witnessed Stephen A. Smith eating some Cheese Doodles. They then decided to heckle him unmercifully about it for the rest of the time.
Even better, they came back the next year and did the same thing. The second time they even made a sock puppet to interview players as Lil' Stephen A.
I'm not sure I can properly express how much I enjoyed these videos—heckling at its funniest in my opinion. Maybe it's just my dislike for Stephen A. Smith.
"I'M STEPHEN A. SMITH! EVERYTHING I SAY IS IMPORTANT!"
Don't let the sunny disposition fool you; this man is a terror to referees and umpires everywhere. That's right—he's my dad.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I've seen better calls than that in a phone booth!" or heard him laugh hysterically at a call, only to the have the ref glare up at him.
It's not just my dad either—it's all of your dads.
Almost everyone has been introduced to heckling of some kind by their old man. You get used to it, even if your mom tries to hide her head as he looks around for the approval of the other fathers for his witty remark.