I'm not the biggest fan of April Fools' Day. It's largely taken as an excuse to play jokes on people that cause inconvenience at best and actual harm at worst. What I've learned is that being funny does not have to equal being mean, so today we're going to delve into that through the lens of heckling in ultimate.
Call the Fun Police, because I'm about to lay down the law on heckling in ultimate.
Heckling has existed since the dawn of time, carving itself into the human condition when the first caveperson did something stupid like try to eat a cactus whole and their friends called them on it.
Heckling is prevalent in all manner of public forum. From politics, to comedy, to sport; between competitors or between a subject and their audience, heckling can spark moments of riotous laughter. It can enhance a stellar performance and even lift up lackluster ones. It can also be a catalyst for bringing out the absolute worst in your fellow person.
With this in mind, it's important to recognize that when you open your mouth to take a jab at your fellow ultimate player, you carry an immense responsibility to do it right, for everyone's sake.
Spirit and Heckling
How does Spirit of the Game play into this deeply ingrained cultural aspect of our sport?
To quote the rulebook:
"Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play."
Replace "highly competitive play" with "heckling", and you have your basic guidelines for what's in-bounds. With this lens in mind let's take a deeper dive into good and bad heckling.
Things we Can Stop Using:
"Not a puller!"
"Hammer or you're nothing!"
"Get a library card!"
These and any other common heckles that get thrown around willy-nilly are very, very tired, and I think it's time we put these ones to bed forever and never look back.
Besides that, make sure you're aware of your target before you unleash the power of your words. Don't heckle that new kid showing up to practice for the first time ever. Don't heckle someone who you know will react poorly - that just flat out makes you a bad person (which I know you're not).
How to Heckle Gooder:
Make it personal
We play this sport with "mutual respect" among competitors - let's do the same with our heckling! Make sure your target is someone you're at least somewhat familiar with, and someone who will appreciate a good jab, but make sure you're ready to get some in retaliation.
Heckling as a force for Good
My favorite heckles are ones that call out unspirited play. Someone giving a big bear-hug on the mark? "That's some aggressive affection." Humor can be a great way to address behavior that is frowned upon without directly calling someone out, but make sure it's done carefully - which brings me to the last point:
Most Importantly: Read the Crowd!
Universe point in the semifinals - probably not the best time to put your main handler on blast for turfing the first pass. Or, maybe it is! It all depends on who your target is, and the general vibe of both teams. Some players double down on their bad mood if you try to inject humor, where others will bounce right back with a smile on their face.
OVER TO YOU!
Have a favorite heckle? Let us know in the comments below about your finest heckling moments!