Death and taxes may be the only certainties in life, but somewhere near the top is sports journalism's love of pastoral language about baseball. You can almost see their eye gloss over as people like Bob Costas or Thomas Boswell talk about the boys of summer playing America's Pastime- how it's a sport for fathers and sons, that at its best it represents everything that makes this country great. Instead of tackles and in-your-face dunks, baseball has the crack of the bat, the pop of the glove.
For them, baseball is as much about tradition as it is about competition. By taking a trip to the ballpark, the game somehow is able to transport us all to another time where everything was possible and every crucial moment had a hero big enough to make it so. The seventh inning stretch and hot dogs with a cold beer aren't just everyday occurrences, they mean something.
While true to some extent and certainly enjoyable to hear, they always leave out the greatest aspect of baseball- the anonymous fan doing everything in their power to break an opposing player down to their very core.
Yes, heckling is what separates baseball from every other sport from a fan participation standpoint, and there is no form of the game more perfectly suited to it than college baseball.
In no other sport is an athlete required to stand in one place for minutes on end with nowhere to go. When football players are on the field they're too far away, and they can always walk somewhere else on the sidelines. Basketball fans can be right on top of the players, but those fans, especially in the NBA, are usually rich dudes in jeans and polished penny loafers. Plus, if you bother them too much, they just tell security to kick you out.
Tennis and golf actually go so far as to require that you shut the hell up, which makes perfect sense considering they both come from the British Isles. The fans are to be seen and not heard, and please make sure the silver is polished before luncheon.
And in the realm of baseball, the college version is tailor-made for heckling. Rarely will individual fans be heard over the white noise of a full major league stadium, and even if they are, it kind of rings hollow to tell a person making more in a year than the average person makes in a lifetime that they suck. Anything below college sports involves yelling at minors, and the kind of people that do that watch a lot of Spike TV.
But college baseball has both players that are legal adults and stadiums small enough for personal, one-on-one derision.
They say in a negotiation the person with the most information wins, and it certainly rings true here. When a Longhorn steps into the batter's box or takes his place in right field at Blue Bell Park, there's a good chance he is from Texas and somebody either knows him or something about where he's from. When #1 Georgia traveled to Ole Miss in 2009, it was discovered by the students in right field that the UGA right fielder was dating a cheerleader, and one of the students knew her, um, "past" in high school. A grand time was had by all.
For the resourceful, the vast majority of players are on Facebook, and most of them are stupid enough to accept friend requests from anyone. From Facebook photos I've seen a Minnesota player posed with an undressed female who was not his girlfriend and two Florida Gators that used a gorilla statue at the local zoo to demonstrate how two males might procreate with said gorilla at the same time. This was all very valuable information.
This brings up a very, very important concept to quality heckling- hypocrisy isn't only allowed, it's encouraged. The guy stepping up to bat is majoring in "General Studies" and you want to make fun of his likelihood to end up coaching seventh grade PE coach? Go right ahead, even if you are a sixth-year psychology major. Make fun of somebody for being from a terrible small town that with nothing to do, even if you are from Weimar, TX. You know that, he doesn't. By all means rip into Dayton or Belmont players based solely upon stereotypes of people from Ohio and Nashville.
That's because the purpose of all good heckling isn't to be loud and obnoxious, it's to get players from the other team to stop focusing on the task at hand and listen to what you're saying. Sometimes that means being lighthearted and funny and trying to make him laugh. Other times it requires piling on every mistake, being brutal and unrelenting.Regardless, it's better to be clever and smart than simply vulgar for vulgarity's sake- that usually is when "parents" start complaining about "cursing around small children".
And what also makes college baseball so absolutely wonderful for the greatest trollin' in sports is the fact that a lot of the athletes have not yet developed the mental toughness necessary to block out verbal abuse out. Most high schools (and colleges for that matter) don't have much in the way of fans, so being assaulted with well-researched barbs can visibly effect a player.
Some may say that heckling in it's various forms is classless. It's something for drunks and attention-starved people and has no place in a civilized ballpark where everyone wants to enjoy the game. Perhaps, but if baseball truly does teach us about morals and life, then shouldn't it be our duty to publicly lambast somebody with a flatbill hat, goatee, and gold chain? If not for the good of our favorite team, then for America?
Sometimes the man in the arena just sucks, and college baseball gives fans the perfect opportunity to make sure he knows it.