Summer Guide: How to Heckle at Mariners Games

Tip: Skip the swears, go for the throat.

There's a touching scene in the movie Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, in which the title character, played by Rob Schneider, takes one of his Janes to a ball game. The Jane, you see, has Tourette's Syndrome, and the ball game is the one place where her tics, with some selling by Schneider, result not in embarrassment but in instant social bonding with strangers. They think she's heckling, so they join in. Suddenly, everyone's happy.It was once like that in Seattle. The Kingdome days were a free-for-all, as halcyon as things get for a heckler in an otherwise sedate city. Back then, I lined ice cubes along a crack in the roof of the opposing team's dugout so cold water dripped on their players; prank-called a sexagenarian pitching coach from the bullpen phone until he approached me in person and challenged me to a fight; and, with the help of a friend, papered a bullpen bench with a running sticky-note narrative of a star closer's putative sex life.Things changed, though, with the move to Safeco Field, where you can't walk down half the aisles without an usher's permission. For a while you couldn't even wear a T-shirt with the simple slogan "Yankees Suck." A friend's blow-up doll was confiscated and deflated by security. She was fully clothed. She even had a ticket.And while the doll had her defenders, bless their hearts, too often today's heckler finds him or herself surrounded at Safeco by finger-wagging nanny-fans, church ladies, and choirboys. The ticket-paying customer who aims for self-expression is instead scolded. Or even deflated against her will.It's hard out here for a heckler.But if any conventional wisdom is emerging from our current economic crisis, it's that hard times require great minds. In that spirit I turned to my friend Christina, a 5'2" high-school English teacher who is a proven heckler, having succeeded not just under the friendly fluorescent light of the Kingdome but also at Safeco Field, Yankee Stadium, several minor-league venues, and the occasional public park. A career .300 hitter, if you will.You see, in heckling, as in hitting, 30% is a good success rate. The heckler is by definition a pest, a purveyor of volume. If heckles were comedy routines, they'd be those jokes that David Letterman drags out throughout a show, slowly beating you into loopy submission."Make it personal," Christina begins, and on this point she is emphatic. She once spent an entire game calling Albert Belle by his former handle, Joey, telling him he's a "shell of a man" and will "never amount to anything." (Belle, you may recall, once threw a ball at a fan who had called him Joey and made cracks about Belle's former alcoholism.) Finally Belle turned and glared at her and, several pitches later, botched a ground ball in the outfield, letting it pass between his legs."Go for the jugular," she continues, building momentum. "Rather than insulting a player's throwing arm, insult his integrity as a human being. Let him know in no uncertain terms how disappointed his ballclub, family, city, and species are in him after an error."Dangerous advice in a city so nice? Perhaps. Even Christina tones it down a little. "Don't swear," she warns. "You'll get ejected. And swearing can seriously limit your creativity by allowing you to rely on conventional insults."No, a heckler must remain profanity-free and bold. As an example she cited a game during which she steadily heckled the Anaheim Angels' Chone Figgins about the spelling of his name (which is pronounced Sean). (On an unrelated note, Figgins watches Rocky V to fire himself up before every playoff game.)"I had just finished telling Figgins that his mother must not love him," Christina recalls. A large man nearby was also harassing the visiting team. But then a nearby fan yelled at Christina to shut up."I turned to him and asked him, loudly, 'Why are you heckling me when you're not heckling him? Is it because I'm a woman?' He turned red and looked away. You have to remember that Seattleites tend to experience only two genuine emotions: self-righteousness and liberal guilt."So while Safeco Field may be hard on a heckler, a heckler can be hard on Safeco Field. And because Safeco's so soft, the heckler's likely to win. Just skip the swears and go for the throat. "I did," boasts Christina, "and I got to heckle Chone Figgins and a fan!"

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