What’s appropriate? When has it gone too far? If you dish it out, should you have to take it, too? And the old question: What are you entitled to do when you have “purchased a ticket.” And if you hold season tickets, do you get more leeway?
These questions are on my mind this afternoon, as well as some other issues regarding fan etiquette, as it applies to hockey. I admit, in some cases, my opinion is not “fully formed,” and in others, perhaps I feel strongly but won’t be able to convey it accurately. At any rate, this is a rather timely topic right now, so I wanted to get some of the information out there.
First, last week some time, a post-er over in the Facebook group for Phantoms Season Ticket Holders threw out the question of heckling. Is heckling OK? When is it too much? Can it help the team? Is it worth it? There were many good responses, and it did get me thinking.
And, thinking about writing on the topic, but again, didn’t have an exact start-to-finish opinion to express. But, I do have some thoughts. Here they are:
- Heckling should not include foul or abusive language. Ever. It’s in the rules.
- Remember that the people sitting around you–who have also purchased tickets–have to deal with the heckling, too.
- What if you can get a player off his game? Might that help the team? Oh, it can happen. Just ask Drew Stubbs if he might like to “sign his K” at Coca Cola Park. He was so rattled even his own team was laughing at him.
- What if the player heckles back? Eury Perez was our target in Left Field this past year, and after the “Left-Right-Left” treatment he “shushed” us. I mean, put his finger to his lips and told us to be quiet. I have to admit, I didn’t really expect that. And then he hit a home run. And got called up to the Braves shortly afterwards. That didn’t work out so well for us IronPigs fans.
- Our friends who supported the Phantoms before us, up in Adirondack–“The Section N Hecklers”–were well known and appreciated by their own team because they had particular talents for getting the opposing team off their game. We met up with them in Philly for a Phantoms game, and the stories they related were quite interesting. Of course, that team never made the playoffs…
- What if he’s your guy next year? Would you be OK with that? Did you heckle Chris Conner last season? He’s ours now. Are you planning to heckle fan-favorite Zach Stortini this Sunday afternoon? Why? What’s heckling supposed to achieve, again?
Look, minor league teams change rosters all the time. Sure, we want our building to be a tough place for the opposing team to come into–but don’t we also want talented players to say, “Hey, I might like to take my talents to Allentown next season. I’ll get to play in the most expensive minor league arena in the world, and in front of a packed-house of classy fans, to boot.”
In the end, I just want my team to win. I want it very, very much. I think there can be a place for a certain amount of well-placed, thoughtful, and appropriate heckling. Most players are professional enough to simply ignore it. Some might “play along.” Some might “respond.” Then what?
Second: In the Hershey game at the Giant Center this past Sunday there was a particular incident with a Hershey fan. Evidently, this “gentleman”–term used very loosely–is quite well known as a particular irritant to the opposing team. It’s “his thing.” He has a season ticket just behind the opposing bench. The other thing is–he’s quite the irritant to people who sit around him, too. In fact, he’s so well known, that opposing teams have gone so far as to respond–most by sticking a whiteboard to the glass right in front of his seat. From reports, he’ll complain, and the team is asked to remove it. The Phantoms took it one step further this past Sunday: They attached a towel to the whiteboard effectively making it a bigger obstruction to this heckler’s view. Allegedly. One game report I read suggested that the team didn’t know anything about it–and that it might not have been their whiteboard at all. Another report suggested that the team went so far as to station someone in the heckler’s seat well-before the game, so that the obstruction could be aligned for maximum annoyance.
Well, our fan in question wasn’t amused. His solution was to scream and kick the glass. Reportedly, he was intoxicated. He caused such a commotion, the game had to be stopped so that he could be removed.
And placed in the Hershey Bears private luxury suite.
Before I get to my own disjointed opinions on this, perhaps you’d like to read more about it. On Facebook, navigate to the Hershey Bears page and find the post-game report post from Sunday. The one with 71-some replies. There’s some of it there. Our own STH Facebook group has an account of the incident. Also, go to the “Chocolate Hockey” blog which covers the Bears. They have pictures and everything HERE. (Cover Photo is theirs)
Now, here are my thoughts:
- I think if you’re going to heckle, you have to be responsible for your actions and willing to accept the consequences. You wanna get noticed by the players? Great. What if you don’t like their reaction–verbal, physical or obstructive? Then what?
- Here’s what: You’ll then have the chance to escalate the situation, or defuse it. You now have evidence that your heckling has been “successful”–but to what end? What if Eury Perez goes out and hits a home run? If you escalate things, are you prepared to deal with the consequences of that?
- Such as:
- Some are suggesting that the Phantoms be “fined” for their part in “whiteboard-gate.” I’m not sure that players and coaches are obligated to make sure that fans “can see.” If security, or the arena management ask a team to take down a whiteboard, I suppose they should. Reportedly, that’s exactly what had happened in similar circumstances in Hershey with this same dude.
- And what’s Hershey’s role in all this? By continuing to allow this guy to sit there and get away with this, they are enabling the situation. Can they be surprised? Were they prepared to deal with it? So the only place they could go with him was to the luxury suite, because the rest of the seats were sold out? So kicking the glass isn’t an “eject-able” offense? What about “stand in the concourse you lout”-level offense? Shouldn’t they be concerned about the rest of their season ticket holders and guests, too? If this guy is famous for this type of behavior, they had to anticipate that one day it would go “too far.” What was their plan? Luxury Suite?!? Is any of this “family friendly?” Do they care? What kind of environment are they trying to promote? If they have to hire extra security to watch this guy, is his season ticket profit worth it? Well, I have questions…
- And what’s the fall-out in Allentown on Friday? Will the Bears put up white boards? How will the PPL Center respond? What if this dude shows up and kicks the glass somewhere, anywhere along the boards?
So, there you have it. Not terribly well-written and making little point at all, probably. Go ahead and respond–here or on Facebook–as you wish. I’m sure there are many “hot takes” on it. But now, I think I’m done–I just wanted y’all to know what’s going on headed into Friday night’s game.
See you at the arena–no kicking!