by Michael Schultz on September 30, 2014
Gordon Sinclair was a prominent journalist and media celebrity in Canada and beyond in the last century. Scott Young’s book GORDON SINCLAIR – A LIFE AND THEN SOME ( Macmillan of Canada) that came out in 1987 still holds up in terms of humour and interest.
Sinclair’s ‘damn the torpedoes’ style and his crusty nature both endeared and infuriated listeners on CFRB or in the the Toronto Star where he spent a large measure of his career in broadcasting.
To say he spoke his mind is an understatement. He was a contrarian and a jester. In fact, one story in the book stands out to illustrate that Sinclair didn’t mind heckling and saying what he thought.
One CFRB employee, Jill Loring, recounts the following story ( Page 213):
“I was at a movie once and Gordon was some rows ahead. Suddenly he stood up and shouted loudly, ‘That’s it! I’ve had enough of this garbage! Goodbye!’ And stomped up the aisle and out, to great laughter from the audience, who recognized him of course.”
I wish I knew what movie it was – the book doesn’t say. But it certainly tells you something about the man. He definitely followed his own tune.
Sinclair became even more notorious when he recorded a tribute to the United States defending them for their contribution to the world. It was a low point for the U.S. and they loved it….it was called “The Americans: A Canadian’s Opinion.” ( Let’s Hear it for the Americans). Here it is from 1973:
We could use a few more outspoken journalists like Sinclair….who plied his trade alongside the likes of Foster Hewitt, Ernest Hemingway and Pierre Berton to name a few. This piece might well be relevant today. The U.S. has lost even more of its lustre on the world stage but it is still right next door to us here in Canada even though Sinclair left us in the 1980s.
by Michael Schultz on September 22, 2014
Washington was in Atlanta recently. The National’s Bryce Harper was at the plate. A fan proceeds to hurl some rather profane comments at him. The umpire turns and immediately tells ushers to get him out of the park. Well done Mr. Umpire.
Interestingly, the commentators mention that the usher is Walter Banks.When I was in Atlanta a few years back, I met Walter and was privileged to sit in the area he oversees. He’s a gem of a baseball guy and a legend at Turner Field. Walter has been commanding the area including the owner’s box for over 45 years. He even has a suite named after him at the park.
Walter has no doubt had to deal with many hecklers over the years. The broadcasters think Walter might need a hand with the heckler. I doubt it.
by Michael Schultz on September 9, 2014
Every stadium has them – those hardcore, ardent fans who are always there and always creating a little noise. I’ve profiled a few at my site.
I learned recently of a gal by the name of Lolly Hopkins (Lillian) who was known as the little lady with the megaphone and who cheered on both the Boston Red Sox and the Braves in the last century. Lolly had a gaggle of gals and supporters who became known as the ‘lollypops’. Cute.
Lolly received a gold life-time pass from the Red Sox organization for her dedication. She often attended 3 games a week and might even be on the road to New York or Philly. As one site said Lolly ‘was a familiar figure urging the home forces on from a first row grandstand seat behind the Sox dugout’. Lolly had occupied a similar position when she attended games along first base with her dad as a youngster.
Story has it that a sporting good salesman gave her a number of megaphones after hearing her at the park. He thought these would help her broadcast her voice better and perhaps be more effective – it stuck….Lolly’s husband never said ‘boo’ since , as he put it, she made enough noise for two.
There are really no You Tube or audio clips I can find of her — just the following picture:
by Michael Schultz on September 8, 2014
As the lyrics in Take Me Out to the Ballgame say….’root, root, root for the home team…if they don’t win it’s a shame’.
I just finished Fenway Park The Centennial ( Saul Wisnia, St. Matrin’s Press, 2011). Fenway entered Boston baseball history in 1912. With it came a loyal band of supporters known as The Royal Rooters. They had been formed earlier in Red Sox history, but marched proudly to Fenway from opening day onward. Here’s a brief description from Wikipedia:
On game days the Royal Rooters marched in procession from the 3rd Base Saloon to the Huntington Avenue Grounds, which was the team’s home field before Fenway Park opened in 1912. The Rooters had a reserved section of seats along the third base line, close enough to the field to intimidate or distract opposing players with their insults and vicious taunts. The 1912 World Series went down in Rooter history. The Rooter’s seats on “Duffy’s Cliff” were sold to other fans and the Rooters became angry. Mounted police were called in to stop the riot.
In 2006, a film was done called Rooters: The Birth of the Red Sox Nation. Here’s the trailer:
These 2nd generation Irish Bostonians started a real tradition that lives on today.
by Michael Schultz on September 7, 2014
Chipper Jones retired in 2012 at age 40. The star third baseman packed it in after 19 seasons with the Atlanta Braves. I saw Jones play at Turner Field and I remember his athleticism and intensity. He managed 468 career homers and maintained a remarkable average (sounds like an oxymoron) of just over .300. He did win a World Series early in his career in 1995 and even took home the batting championship in 2008. Here’s a smattering of reflection:
Seems like Derek Jeter isn’t the only retiring baseball pro having retirement gifts bestowed upon him by other teams. Jones received a commemorative painting of Shea stadium at his final appearance in New York where the Braves beat the Mets 3-0. He received a few boos but mostly cheers. Folks were probably happy to see him go. When asked how he’d feel about himself if he were a Mets fan he said, “I would respect the body of work but I would hate his guts.” Personally, I would hire this guy as the PR manager for the Mets:
Chipper Jones has had his sweater retired – # 10….and he’ll be regarded as the Brave’s best third baseman of all time. In 2004, Jones even named his newborn “Shea” given the .314 average he maintained at their field. Next step - the Hall of Fame?
by Michael Schultz on September 2, 2014
I grew up with the original six NHL teams in the 50s and 60s. We knew all the players by name. For some we knew all their stats. The refs were a different matter – we didn’t know much about them other than their names. But they were always out there doing what seemed an impossible job – much like teaching. Refereeing at any level means you won’t please all the people all the time.
I remember inviting NHL referee Bruce Hood to address our teacher group in the early 1990s. He made some great connections about fairness, dealing with people and passing sentence.
Former NHL referee and Hall of Famer Frank Udvari just passed away at the ripe old age of 90. There was a great picture of him in the paper hoisting himself off the ice by grabbing the top of the glass above the boards…..a signature move not everyone did or could do. Udvari retired after the 1965-66 season – I’m sure I saw him call a game live at the Gardens.
Udvari required a police escort from more than one arena for fear of loss of life or limb because of an unfavourable call. As described in The Globe and Mail obituary , a referee is perhaps ‘the only neutral observer amid a braying mob of partisans’. Not an easy assignment or career.
He was on duty in March 1955 in Boston for a ruling against the famous Rocket Richard that later saw the Habs captain sit on the sidelines for a number of games including the playoffs (thanks to a ruling by Clarence Campbell he league President). Incensed Hab’s fans took to the streets in protest in Montreal in what became known as the ‘Richard Riot’.While Udvari is not mentioned in this clip ( the Boston game is)- here is the significance of the event.
Montreal fans put the ‘fan’ in fanatic. Most agree Campbell shouldn’t have attended the game.
While facing the wrath of fans, players and coaches, referees usually do a great if not impossible job.
by Michael Schultz on August 31, 2014
About 2 weeks ago I received an email from a writer at Maclean’s – that weekly Canadian news magazine- by the name of Michael Friscolanti. Being a teacher and a fellow writer, I immediately researched his educational background. He was doing a piece on heckling – in particular the recent barrage of signs/taunts hurled at San Francisco Giant player Hunter Pence. Apparently fans like to heckle ‘Captain Underpants’ ( what his name sounds like if you say it quickly). Earlier this month, fans started to hold up posters with silly stuff like; “Hunter Pence brings 13 items to the express lane.” Fans set out to outdo each other. The signage has proliferated down at the park for Hunter. As the following clip reminds us, ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’.
What was strange however was that the journalist – Frisolanti – never got in touch with me as promised. I emailed him, as requested, with the phone number(s) he requested. Nothing. I presume he may have been too busy taking 13 items through the checkout in the express lane.
As a I said in a letter to Maclean’s in response was that he did a good job of covering heckling at the ballpark but that it was only the ‘tip of the heckling iceberg’. His article is called”Hey L-O-S-E-R!”
The strangest part of this ordeal in the annals of authoring and respect was that a) I could not find the September 8th issue of Maclean’s on the newstand – perhaps too early. It took a friend up the road to see the article and email me about it. I couldn’t find the article on line. Yet……and b) the article ended up – in print – in my rural mailbox. Thanks Keith.
All heckling aside, Friscolanti has disclosed, in a national magazine, a vital message that I posited in my book in 2013 – that, ” Anyone can yell insults at the ballpark. Mastering the delicate art of heckling takes finesse.” ( Friscolanti)
As an educator, I can say to Friscolanti….’you’ve learned your lesson’. Now you need to include more on the ’art of heckling’ in your magazine. The ‘noise from the peanut gallery’ out there has never been louder and, let’s hope, funnier.
by Michael Schultz on August 24, 2014
I came across a strange one. How about a movie called “Heckle U”? Here’s a summary of the 2009 film:
“Heckle-U,” the story of a slacker “Chance” and his best friend “Darrell” who have the ability to change the course of a basketball game by heckling the opposing teams into submission. Chance is pushed to excel as a heckler and take their theatrics to the next level by his Uncle Lou.
And of course the trailer:
I think this one may have faded into obscurity shortly after release. Ah….to excel as a heckler.
by Michael Schultz on August 19, 2014
Some sports and games are noisy when it comes to the fans – like hockey, football, baseball and basketball. Others, like tennis and golf, tend to be on the quiet side. In fact, “quiet on the tee” or “silence” are the order of the day in tennis and golf.
Golf has increased in fan volume lately with the advent of new fans to the game who don’t necessarily respect the old traditions and want to stir it up a bit.
But how do the players feel? In tennis, the courts vary from tournament to tournament….grass, clay, or hard. It seems that the fan behaviour is also different. What’s worse?….fans constantly cheering, heckling and cajoling….with no end to the barrage OR polite quiet while they prep their shots and riotous applause and shouting when a player wins a point?
Here’s what Andy Murray had to say; ” I think to be honest, players would get used to it if it was kind of loud all the time. It’s just when it’s very quiet and then someone makes a noise, or when everyone is sitting down and someone stands up behind the court, then it’s off-putting. But if people were moving around all of the time and always making noise, then the players would adjust.”
But players will also tell you that being able to hear is quite important in executing shots…from the type of spin on the ball or how hard it’s coming at them.
All of this is in anticipation of the U.S. Open that begins on August 25h where the tendency is for loud crowds. Some players, like Djokovic, appreciates the contrasting atmospheres on the tour. It seems the U.S. Open is all about entertainment while Wimbledon is all about tradition. Even night games tend to be more boisterous at the Open.
A little lame on the production value but here are the McEnroes talking about the crowds in New York:
by Michael Schultz on August 11, 2014
About a year ago (May 2013) , a journalist with left-leaning Talking Points Memo, named Michael Lester, posted something called “A Brief History of Presidential Heckling”. Sorry I missed it when it first came out. The political aspect of heckling is perhaps the most exciting because I think it is the closest to our social reality and the day-to-day existence we all lead and are affected by. That said, heckling in entertainment and sports is fun too!
As it turns out, Mr. Lester is from Dundee, Scotland which just happens to be where heckling originated – or so we are told. I hope Mr. Lester knows and appreciates that fact. Now he lives in the US and plies his trade in journalism and video.
Joseph Strick’s work in England in the 1960s, which featured the likes of heckling the Prime Minister and other political types, was innovative and new. What Lester presents is good but could certainly be expanded to an entire film format – much in the genre of a Michael Moore production.
The following shows clips dating back as far as the Nixon administration – which is how I found it given recent talk of Watergate in the news. While it’s fun to watch George W. dodge a pair of shoes being thrown at him…or Clinton or Obama standing firm and patiently at the podium ( like some high school principal at an assembly), nothing beats Reagan telling hecklers to zip it up by saying; ”Ah, shut up”.
We can only hope someone expands on this to show just how prevalent heckling really is in the global culture and how it’s dealt with – and of course how it helps to shape free speech while avoiding the act of bullying.