Here is a secret about me: I kind of really like sports.
It’s not something you would guess if you just saw me on the street. In fact, it’s not something you’d guess if you saw me play sports, even. I’ve never looked smooth or comfortable while participating in athletics. But I did as a kid, and sometimes I do as an adult, and it’s fun. In fact, I always liked it more than Dungeons and Dragons and other nerdly pursuits.
But, here’s the bigger part of the secret: I love to heckle at athletic events.
True. It’s weird to admit for several reasons. One is, I in general try to be a nice guy. I don’t like to hurt feelings or belittle folks who don’t deserve it. Two is, as a comedian, hecklers are (at best) a nuisance and (at worst) potentially ruinous to shows. Thirdly, no matter what athlete I’m harassing, there’s roughly a 100% chance that I couldn’t do better.
But I said it. It’s out in the open. I have an illustrious history of heckling and sporting events. At a Red Sox game as a kid, my friend Dan and I drew looks by chanting “Beeeeeeeeeeeee-Jaaaaaaaaay” at Atlanta Braves outfielder Brian Jordan. That was the beginning.
In high school, our basketball teams were never near the top of the league standings. We didn’t have a student body of natural athletes. What we did have, though was an entire gym full of underachieving smart-asses ready to break the spirits of opposing players. I remember one game at an opposing gym where some die-hard fans had traveled to cheer on our squad, but most importantly cheer against the other team. The captain from the other school was dating the ex-girlfriend of our team captain. To rally our troops and rattle the opponents, our fans started a chant of “Chris got her first!”
My sophomore year, I played for the junior varsity team. Well, I practiced with them and suited up for games. Career points scored: 3. For some people, that’s one made basket. For me, it was an entire season. Back on topic: The JV team had to watch all of the varsity games when we traveled to other schools. To amuse ourselves and support the cause, we got really into mocking opposing players. On one occasion the other team’s point guard had a glued-up, full-head mohawk. We were nearly kicked out of the gym for chanting: “HAAAIIIR CUUUUUTTT” as he shot free throws. I still remember the words of the portly athletic director sent to reprimand us. “Gentlemen, why don’t you show some class…and if you don’t know what that looks like, I suggest you look around you and find an example.” Of course, that only fueled our giddy spite-glee.
Last week, I had amazing Celtics tickets, thanks to a friend. (Thanks Tim!) It was great to root for the C’s up close, but it was just as much fun to quietly mutter: “Scooch” at the refs when they stood in front of me.
Last night, I watched the Celtics-Knicks battle. The Celtics, who trailed for most of the game, pulled out a dramatic fourth-quarter victory. The Knicks, looking like a good team for the first time in literally years, kept themselves ahead in large part thanks to a Herculean effort by power forward Amar’e Stoudemire. He dunked. He blocked shots. He got away with cheap fouls. (Though I may be biased.)
While I was excited that the Celtics won, I was nearly as excited to find a new athlete to hate. Amar’e is talented, he wears glasses on the court, and he plays for New York. What’s not to loathe? Hopefully this rivalry heats up, so we can hear what the Garden faithful come up with to torment him come the playoffs. It probably won’t approach the masterful “WIIIIIIIIFEBEATER” chant that fans used to shower Jason Kidd when he played for the New Jersey Nets, or the unforgettable “NO MEANS NO!” that Kobe Bryant hears in Denver. But we need something. Something simple and classic like “DAARRRRRYYYYLLLLL.” (Darryl Strawberry, New York Mets.)
Maybe by June he’ll be implicated in some sort of Ponzi scheme.
I’ve got my fingers crossed. And my snarky sign-making Sharpie drawn.