When Heckling Opponents Goes Wrong
by Mario Latilleon
I am a Memphis Grizzlies fan. I grew up a Memphis Tigers fan, and I take pride in the fact Bob Huggins once called us the most obnoxious fans in America. Last night at the game against the Wizards, I guess my rambunctious antics went too far. I got under DeShawn Stevenson's skin. When I got under DeShawn Stevenson's skin, I got on the wrong side of the law as far as Washington Wizards security saw me. I did not plan to heckle DeShawn Stevenson, it just happened. As I pondered the things I would yell at the opposing team for fun, right before the game, I remembered Lebron James' slam of the decade on a loquacious DeShawn Stevenson like Dave Chappelle recalling Negrodomus during his ride with Wayne Brady:
"That would be like Jay Z saying something back to Soulja Boy...there's no point."
So along with my warnings to Etan Thomas of calling Brendan Haywood after fouling Grizzlies players, tons of fun with Darius Songalia of the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars, and one comment to Antawn Jamison about looking like Midget from "New Jersey Drive"; I spent most of the first quarter calling DeShawn Stevenson "Soulja Boy" everytime he was within earshot. When Stevenson got a rebound or played defense, I kept at it with the Soulja Boy chants. When the Grizzlies shot free throws, I really got at it: not only would I scream Soulja Boy, I would stand and hop back doing the superman move from the song/dance. With three or four minutes left in the 1st quarter, it finally seemed like I got DeShawn Stevenson's attention. On the bench, Deshawn Stevenson started yelling something at me; unfortunately I could not hear what he was saying. Etan Thomas, sitting next to Stevenson was yelling at me too, but I really could not make out what they were saying. Within a minute of them yelling at me, a Damon Stoudamire look-a-like doing security for the Wizards came over with an police officer and asked me to stop heckling Stevenson. Since I was wearing a Damon Stoudamire jersey at the time, I thought he would give me a little more love. When I asked the security guy what I said that was wrong, he told me that he didn't want a back and forth between Stevenson and me to escalate into anything. My response was I didn't say anything vulgar or offensive so I was within the NBA fan code of conduct, but he told me I was ruining the experience of everyone around me by yelling the whole game and he would stitch to NBA security and have me removed. I asked him to provide the NBA Code of Conduct and the rule I was breaking, he promised he would bring it to me. I got adamant that I was not saying anything offensive; the guy got more threatening and said, "Okay... You keep it up... you'll be outta here." One couple next to me cheered the security guy because I guess I was ruining their peaceful, reflective experience at a sporting event, but the people behind me, whose view I would have actually obstructed doing the superman part of the Soulja Boy told me I was okay when I apologized if I was ruining their experience.
Now the security and FedExForum staff I spoke to about everything told me they didn't see anything wrong with what I did as long as I wasn't cursing or threatening the players. A little later in the game, a Wizards player heckled me when the Wizards were shooting a free throw and I was still silently soothing from my encounter. I had one final discussion with the Wizards security guy during halftime when he saw me asking the original escorting officer for clarification of how my behavior was excessive enough to be removed from the game. As far as I was concerned, this security guy was so agitated with me that anything I yelled could have been crossing the line. The security came over and argued with me like he was a Damon Stoudamire looking Mike Fratello. Since I didn't appreciate the threats, I calmly told him that I was going to be a fan whether he liked it or not. I wasn't going after Stevenson or any other Wizards player for that matter. I stopped the heckling, but became sarcastically supportive of the Wizards for much of the 3rd quarter. Oddly, I think yelling "Go Wiz" is more offensive than "Soulja boy Tell'em!"
I spent the 4th quarter doing more yelling at the Grizz than the Wizards. When the game was over, the Wizards left the bench and were walking across the court fifteen feet away from me. While I was looking at my cell phone responding to a text, I saw a hand towel flying towards me out of the side of eye. The towel was soaked in ice cold water. I did not see which Wizard was the thrower, but I originally thought it was Caron Butler because I noticed he was grinning at me. There he was, sneaking around Butler with Roger McDowell like stealth was Soulja Boy himself, Deshawn Stevenson. The most telling fact of the wet towel was the hit was below my calf on my leg. With a shot like that, Stevenson had to be the thrower. Soulja Boy is not only no Lebron James, he's no Big Shot Bob either.
I don't think I crossed the line calling him Soulja Boy. Though I know NBA team personnel is sensitive after the Detroit event, maybe instead of going after me, the team needs to teach these players to grow up and overlook it. I wasn't calling Stevenson anything dirty or personal. I referred to him as something from a well publicized feud.
I will continue doing what I do, which is heckling opposing players. I try to be sensitive to other fans, but I yell most of the game, and participate. I am energetic and can be obnoxious, and I make no apologies about it. If yelling at an opposing player takes them out of their game, I'm down for doing it. I would not say anything I would not want children to hear.
And I note something from the NBA fan code of conduct...
Guests will enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language or obscene gestures.
So at what point are you disruptive at a sporting event? I guess if the people around you cannot enjoy themselves, but you could be bothersome to someone near you for yelling "DE-FENSE" everytime the home team played defense chant music. In addition, what does Deshawn Stevenson do if he's got 15,000 fans chanting "Soulja Boy" every time he touches the basketball? Does he get angry with each of them? Will Damon Securamire have the Wizards play before an empty hostile arena?
I feel like Kramer.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
When Heckling Opponents Goes Wrong