The never-wavering, always-rowdy Swayze Crazies have their coolers packed with a dispensable beer of choice, and stir restlessly like a lion waiting to devour its prey as the first pitch grows closer with each tick of the clock. Ole Miss baseball is back.
As the weather slowly begins to turn, and the beer showers come into season, the Rebels enter the year as No. 25 in D1 Baseball’s preseason rankings. While fresh faces grace the opening day lineup, many folks just beyond the right field wall remain the same.
Nevertheless, the common ground between freshmen and alumni lies with a persistent nine-inning barrage of the feeble gazelle trotting out to the outfield donning the uniform of the traveling foe. The distinction among them, however, lies in the approach to heckling.
To heckle well is a skill and requires the ability to toe a thin line between tasteful and hostile, while keeping a good-nature, having fun, and not getting sloppy. As the quest for the perfect line begins, here are six important things to keep in mind:
Do your homework.
This key component can make or break the landing rate of your chirps. The least enjoyable people at an Ole Miss baseball game are the “HEY *insert name here* YOU SUCK!” and “I DID YOUR MOM!” crowd. You know, those who perhaps have no brain-matter to begin with, couple it with a few beers they can’t handle, and resort back to the fifth-grade reading level on which they reside. Don’t be that guy, though we each have been with one too many. Be smarter.
Like with any test of wit or a comedian preparing for his open-mic set, you must prepare. Take the time the night before to do some digging into lineups, target the potential outfield starters, and go from there.
Start on the surface with batting average and season statistics. If the right fielder is having an abysmal year at the dish, it’s easy to spend nine innings reminding him of the struggles he is facing. Imagine being in his shoes, and hearing someone tell you about your recent inability to perform... for 27 innings over three straight days. At some point, despite every effort to tune it out, you’d be forced to acknowledge it, and perhaps even be thinking about it while in-game. That’s the ideal, most simple approach.
Beyond the numbers, team websites provide height and weight, education major (general studies or physical education is low-hanging fruit), and a basic biography. That should suffice in a jam. For example, if the right fielder is vertically challenged, it’s easy to turn to the center fielder and suggest he left his hat on the field, pause, and come to the realization it’s actually just the right fielder. Little nuggets are all you need.
However, to have a full leg up on those around you, who may also have the team’s roster up on his/her phone, social media is king. Hop on twitter, scroll through the archives and pull the most obscure details you can find. Things like American Eagle dressing room selfies, corny lyric retweets, or an obsession with a clear bandwagon team (like Duke or the Warriors) are real things that play well. It’s all about how you spin the tidbits, and having fun. Getting on the right fielder about his poor score on an iPhone game might seem ridiculous, but he will learn quickly that you know far more about him than he does you, and that he’s in for a long few days. And it’s good for a laugh, which is what it’s all about at the end of the day.
It’s easy to run your mouth, and even easier to do so obnoxiously, but a little preliminary groundwork can leave your smack-talk lingering on the tongue like a well-aged scotch.
Play the hits.
While creativity is the biggest component to breaking the barrier into being heard and making an impression, simplicity is right behind. Like a boxer in a title fight, take the first few innings to feel out the opponent. See if he’s willing to play along, if he’s uninterested but clearly hears you and can’t block it out (this is the perfect situation), or if he’s completely locked in and unavailable. Either way, throw a few jabs and leave the big bullets in the chamber.
As the game progresses, it’s time to dive further into the bag of tricks, and hit him where it hurts. But it’s important not to gas yourself out too early— there are three days to get in your killer right hook— and that’s where the proven winners come in. If you’re not getting the reaction you’d like, or the punches just aren’t landing, turn to the stupid simplicity that always connects. “Player W prefers baths”, “Player X eats pizza with a fork”, “Player Y can’t shuffle playing cards”, or a personal favorite, “Player Z whispers sorry when he catches a fly ball” are all going to get at least a chuckle from those around you every single weekend, and might break the ice between you and the guys on the field.
Let them in, go with what you know, and then when the moment strikes, hit them with an uppercut. Knockout blow.
Timing is everything.
A Friday night at Swayze is not a quiet evening, and the constant din of the party in the outfield poses a difficult soundscape for a heckler. As a result, it’s important to know when to interject, and when to keep quiet. To no surprise, yelling among 1,000 of your closest friends after Kevin Graham knocks an RBI double, will be washed out with stadium noise.
Instead, cheer along, but sit and wait to set your hook. First and foremost, don’t follow in the footsteps of another. Whether it hits or misses, let he/she get in their quip and let it lie. Secondly, silence is king. Always be properly prepared in case that the park goes quiet, and let it fly if it does. Third, know the situation. With two outs and two strikes in the inning, your one-liner will be brushed off if the batter strikes out and the opposing outfielder can run to the dugout. Instead, get in on a 2-0 count early in an inning as the opposing pitcher walks back to the mound.
Be patient, and project from your diaphragm when the right opportunity presents itself.
Power in numbers.
The security in right field has tightened up over the course of the last few years, but the old thought remains true— they can’t stop all of us. There is a time and place to cross the line, just a little bit. To do it alone is dangerous, but to join forces with a group is nearly unstoppable.
When Ole Miss is in the field, take inventory, assemble a group, and coordinate a chant. “Who’s got the clap?” is a classic, but the opportunities are endless. One large uniform voice of many resonates louder than the individual. Take advantage of that.
Know your audience.
Don’t get thrown out. Plain and simple. Have an understanding of the rules written to the left of the scoreboard on the near side of the right field wall, have knowledge of the unwritten understandings among those with authority (no disparaging jokes about family, or grotesque remarks about relationships), and have awareness of those around you.
If a 70-year old grandmother is experiencing Swayze Field with her grandson for the first time, keep it PG, and understand that she won’t be there all weekend or even nine full innings. You can wait.
If a security guard has told you his patience is low, don’t test him/her. And on that note, learn each of their names, have a relationship, and be kind to them. Buddying up will go a long way.
If a Friday night bar crowd is being rowdy in your immediate vicinity, lay low and keep at a distance. Should your heckling come amidst a drunken squabble, you’re guilty by association.
Your audience, in large part, is the crowd around you. If they’re laughing, things are going well. But the primary target is the right fielder. Keep it direct and short. Don’t be stupid.
Prepare to lose, and do so with grace.
Ole Miss cannot and will not win every game. The opposing right fielders will not strikeout every time they step into the box. You will not hit on every chirp. And in some instances, the right fielder with whom you had been so ruthless for an entire weekend will come on to close out a regional on the mound and dog pile on your field (yes, I know this feeling personally, @ Nick Osborne). You will lose sometimes. And it sucks. But there’s nothing you can do about it. Period.
When such a disappointment occurs, handle it properly. Applaud the competition and be ready to see him again.