FanDuel - WFBC

January 11, 2006

How far can taunting go before it's too far?: Former NHLer Theo Fleury, a recovering alcoholic and drug abuser, was tossed from a British Elite Ice Hockey League game this week after trying to get at hecklers in the crowd. Most of the taunts centered on his checkered past, which begs the question -- what's fair game for fans and what's off-limits?

posted by wfrazerjr to hockey at 11:08 AM - 48 comments

First things first, I don't like Theo, hadn't liked him for a long time, and I'm glad he's out of the NHL. That being said, no one deserves that kind of treatment for having a disease, not a "problem", but a disease. Would you heckle some one with cancer? What a totally deplorable act on the part of some Coventry Blaze fans.

posted by HATER 187 at 11:20 AM on January 11

Short. Tempered.

posted by yerfatma at 11:29 AM on January 11

If you are public sports figure and can't take verbal abuse, you shouldn't be a public sports figure. If a fan actually harms or attempts to harm you physically, that's a different story.

posted by garfield at 11:43 AM on January 11

Whether alcoholism is a "disease" or "chronic disorder" is yet to be proved (for what it's worth, my medically ignorant opinion falls with the former), but either way, it's not fair game. [fanboy alert] Simon Barnes wrote a piece a week ago about the taunting of players by crowds that's worth reading in this context. Gustave Le Bon, a pioneering French sociologist, talked about “the law of the mental unity of crowds”. He made the essential point that a crowd is quite different from a lot of people all coming together by chance and for different reasons. A sporting crowd is united by definition, and therefore operates by different laws than those that govern the behaviour of individuals. A vileness an individual would never dream of uttering to another individual is perfectly acceptable when you are in a crowd. [/fanboy alert] Like Barnes, I've never felt myself moved to hurl abuse at people during a game of anything - I'm usually too busy staring at the people who do dish it out and wondering at the wisdom of their stone-throwing from within their glasshouses. Odds the guys yelling at Fleury about his alcoholism were drinking (or had been)?

posted by JJ at 11:52 AM on January 11

I guess I oversimplified came from the wrong side of the question. Some verbal abuse is definitely out of bounds. But I wouldn't want to be responsible for drawing that line.

posted by garfield at 12:02 PM on January 11

garfield - where's the line though? Racist verbal abuse isn't tolerated, so why should a public sports figure have to tolerate ANY verbal abuse at all? I don't think it's fair to say "if you can't take it, stay away" and that doing so puts the onus of responsibility on the wrong group (the players to tolerate it instead of the crowds to cut it out). The England cricket fans chanted "Where's your wife?" at the recently separated Shane Warne all summer. They felt (and he felt) it was all OK in the end though because they finished the summer singing "Wish you were English, we only wish you were English." He said it indicated to him that it was all meant in good humour. There's definitely a point to be made that the sports person should never rise to the taunts (physically or verbally with abuse of his or her own), but that doesn't make it OK for the fans to abuse the players. On review - oh go ahead and answer my post before I post it *huff*

posted by JJ at 12:03 PM on January 11

I hate that kind of personal taunting. It's pointlessly nasty and it can ruin the actual game happening for other people there. I saw an ESPN special on Albert Belle that recounted how a bunch of racist jerks followed him around in his college playing days and shouted slurs at him. It gave me a context for his ridiculous temper, though it doesn't excuse it, of course. Later fans taunted him because of his alcoholism. That, to me, is pure assholery.

posted by pooch at 12:26 PM on January 11

I think much taunting is out of control. I don't have any problems drawing that line. Anything personal is completely off-limits. Also, anything that impedes the ability of other fans to enjoy the game, such as cursing or particular obnoxiousness. It's a privilege to attend a sporting event and the fan behavior should reflect that.

posted by bperk at 12:29 PM on January 11

Odds the guys yelling at Fleury about his alcoholism were drinking (or had been)? I wouldn't bet against that one...

posted by stofer71 at 12:40 PM on January 11

Anything personal is completely off-limits. Also, anything that impedes the ability of other fans to enjoy the game, such as cursing or particular obnoxiousness. I have to agree. The rudest thing I heard was at a Flyer/Devil game in Philly. Every stoppage of play one fan was yelling about Broduer's wife and her sister. Even I thought it was funny the first time, but it got old quick. Even some Flyer fans agreed. On the flip side, part of home ice advantage is having fans to try and get the opponent off thier game. There should be a line but it would be hard to draw.

posted by njsk8r20 at 12:46 PM on January 11

I wouldn't bet against that one... What if the odds were 125/1?

posted by tron7 at 12:57 PM on January 11

And you'd had a dream?

posted by JJ at 01:03 PM on January 11

I think people need to quit being such pusses and just play the damn game.

posted by Motown313 at 01:08 PM on January 11

I think you meant "pussies," you no-talent wife-beating lush.

posted by Hugh Janus at 01:35 PM on January 11

I meant that as tongue-in-cheek as possible, really. Let the record reflect that it was only a joke, in keeping with some of the themes broached by this topic, and in no way an attack on Motown313's character. Sorry, dude. My poor taste catches up with me now and again. I blame it on my mediocrity and my drinking, and sometimes on my wife.

posted by Hugh Janus at 01:39 PM on January 11

made me laugh.

posted by garfield at 01:41 PM on January 11

I thought maybe Motown313 was really Patrick Roy, and Hugh was onto him. But with that name, I guess he wouldn't be Roy-boy...

posted by MeatSaber at 02:55 PM on January 11

"Shameful, classless once again and I don't speak for all the people in Coventry but most of their fans are an embarrassment." That pretty much sums up the losers. Since I make my living working with troubled kids, one of the first things you learn is when someone makes these type of hateful comments towards someone else, it's usually because that person is very uncomfortable and unhappy with themselves. This type of behavior is their way of making their own, pathetic lives seem a bit more tolerable. That said, Fluery needs to either lose the rabbit ears or hang up the skates and find a line of work where the public doesn't pay to come watch him (and others) perform, while being allowed to cheer, heckle, and consume alcohol.

posted by dyams at 03:51 PM on January 11

I wish I could find a link to the story I saw on Fleury the other night (on SportsNet in Canada, I think, but I couldn't come up with anything). It talked about how Fleury has grown and finally gotten himself clear of his demons, thanks in large part to a new woman in his life. I also heard him interviewed this morning and he sounded very content and very happy. He was also very frank about his past and took responsibility for his actions, something he said he hadn't done until recently. I wish him the best, and I wish him the chance to soberly shove his fist down the throat of anyone who brings up his illness in such a manner.

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:05 PM on January 11

while being allowed to cheer, heckle, and consume alcohol You buy a ticket to see a game; you don't buy the right to taunt.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 04:42 PM on January 11

You buy a ticket to see a game; you don't buy the right to taunt. On the other hand, with a SpiteFilter membership, the sky's the limit!

posted by The_Black_Hand at 05:02 PM on January 11

I wouldn't do it... but then I remember those "Hey! Whiskey Joe taunts that Jets fans tossed at Joe Willy...

posted by sailorus at 05:17 PM on January 11

I just watched a piece on Real Sports on HBO. It showed European football fans hailing hitler, and making monkey sounds every time a black guy touched the ball. They would also throw bananas at them. I'd say it's a lot worse there than it is here in the states. Just think If it was bananas that hit Ron Artest while 65% of the crowd was grunting like monkeys, and he just continued playing. No fight, no brawl, no ejections, no fans getting kicked out. Its hard to believe things like that go on in 2006. Oddly enough Bryant Gumble interviewed the leader of a white supremacist group that solicits new members at the football games, they were both very respectful towards each other.

posted by BlogZilla at 05:42 PM on January 11

Wasn't fan abuse a big reason for Beckham leaving England? I seem to remember some particularly disgusting taunts about Posh and even about his kid Brooklyn. Beckham may seem like a bit of a wanker, and you could argue that his celebrity-seeking ways justify such things, but I can't see anything justifying threats of physical abuse to a player's family.

posted by kafkaesque at 07:13 PM on January 11

while being allowed to cheer, heckle, and consume alcohol You buy a ticket to see a game; you don't buy the right to taunt. I agree. Taunting athletes is not a right, and shouldn't be allowed. Unfortunately, in most, if not all cases, it's allowed to go on.

posted by dyams at 07:38 PM on January 11

I agree that you buy a ticket to see a game, not to heckle. I think those kind of fans need to be shown the door. They take away the pleasure of others trying to enjoy the game.

posted by starsfan at 08:17 PM on January 11

When Theo was here in Chicago,he was a trainwreck. The Hawk's are still a wreck,nothing's changed. Anyhow,i played alot of ball in my day and got heckled alot. I welcomed it,no thin skin here buddy. I never once thought about going after someone in the stands or street. It's talk,part of the game. The guy's that say it bothers them have the problem. Opinion's vary..........

posted by irishmic2004@sbcglobal.net at 08:21 PM on January 11

And what kinds of names did they call you, irish?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:36 PM on January 11

That, to me, is pure assholery. is assholery even a word? I mean i like it, But should'nt it be assinine

posted by azdano at 09:52 PM on January 11

Theo was a great player in his day. I only wish him the best, to get healthy and live well. It is sad to see that there he is, over in Belfast (well, Coventry in this particular case) just trying to play hockey and he's putting up with (or not, as the case may be) so much stick from the fans. I mean I've seen two hockey games in Coventry. They should be freakin' thrilled to be seeing Fleury play there. I saw two time Stanley Cup winner... Jim Paek playing in Cov. They don't see big names like Fleury all that often, if ever. And, at least in the EIHL he's still got it (45 pts in 22 games that article says).

posted by gspm at 10:23 PM on January 11

I like to think assholiness is a word. I use it all the time.

posted by chicobangs at 11:08 PM on January 11

I don't blame this guy at all for going after these cowards. Ain't it about time that we stop hearing about the tired old excuse that;"the fan paid his money and therefore has a right to .........." The hell he does! I know about all the legal ramifications that the shirts in mgmnt worry about whenever these things happen. But you tell me, how much provocation would you "tolerate" from a loud mouth punk who was sitting behind you while you were trying to do your job? How much foul mouthed and ugly words would the coward have to say before you had had enough. What about mgmnt and security? Are you telling me this couldn't have been stopped before it got to the level it did? I don't for one second think any of us have the "right" to provoke a person with language and comments that would surely send us over the line if they were directed our way. I used to got to see the Raiders play every so often and I will tell you that the verbal abuse that I heard from the "fans" directed to the palyers from the opposing teams was sick and disgusting. How much would it take to push you, the ones who advocate fans rights, beyond the line? Or would comments about your wife, mothers, and sexual preferences be enough to finally understand that no one has a right to say those kind of things in a crowd what he or she would never have the guts to say to a players face.

posted by longrider at 11:09 PM on January 11

My first Yankee game was in 1992. The Yankees were playing Boston I bought a $6 bleacher seat and sat right behind the bull pen. Boston won 7-6 in a rain delayed 4 hour yawner. but the real action was in the Yankees bull pen where Steve Howe, who was with the Yankees trying to return from his 8th drug related suspension. Steve was offered a lot of things that night, even he had to laugh after somebody questioned the chemical make up of third base line. It was a special night for all.

posted by gronir_ hitrops at 11:28 PM on January 11

Assholocity. Assholification. Assholistic. It's a lose-lose for a player who responds in any way to taunting. Far better for that player to take a little time after the game, and "respond" to the security idjits who weren't doing their job.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:39 PM on January 11

lil_brown_bat I tend to prefer asshololic but my alcoholic wife hates it but maybe thats why I prefer to say it

posted by indycoltsfan1 at 12:47 AM on January 12

If you are public sports figure and can't take verbal abuse, you shouldn't be a public sports figure. If a fan actually harms or attempts to harm you physically, that's a different story. posted by garfield at 11:43 AM CST on January 11 Why does this sound good when you say it here, but sounded crazy as hell when the players from the Pacers said it.

posted by BlogZilla at 01:31 AM on January 12

He should have taken a leaf out of Eric's book. Or not. I reckon it's fair game to taunt a player's performance on the night (or even their recent form on the field of play), but that shouldn't ever degenerate into personal abuse. Perhaps part of the problem is that a lot of people in Britain don't really understand the finer points of hockey and so, lacking the necessary knowledge to offer up apposite game-related abuse, they resort to personal taunting. his 8th drug related suspension Eight?! How many do you get before they just ban you for life?

posted by JJ at 04:25 AM on January 12

He should have taken a leaf out of Eric's book. That would be hard for Theo to do with the skates and boards and all.

posted by njsk8r20 at 07:51 AM on January 12

Eight?! How many do you get before they just ban you for life? That was back before they toughened up their policy. It does seem extremely ludicrous.

posted by gspm at 07:56 AM on January 12

Why does this sound good when you say it here, but sounded crazy as hell when the players from the Pacers said it. Because a beer cup isn't harming or attempting to harm anybody, least of all an NBA player. It's an insult; a pie in the face.

posted by garfield at 08:47 AM on January 12

Theo should have paid attention to his Grade 1 teacher before he ever hit the bottle, "sticks & stones..." Kids stuff.

posted by the red terror at 10:37 AM on January 12

I have a question about this incident and am asking out of pure ignorance: Would a blasting of this kind by so many "fans" happen in the NHL? I know the English can be ruthless with personal chants during soccer games and NHL fans are known to be about the rowdiest here state/Canada-side, but I'm just wondering if this level of taunting would have happened over here. And this is no slam on the English (god knows I love ya and your footie!). It just seems that if you have a supporters creed where it's the norm to let the personal taunting fly and you couple that with a sport where a guy is quite literally a sitting target in the penalty box, this sort of thing is bound to happen and no one should be surprised. Outraged? Maybe. But not surprised.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 11:13 AM on January 12

Texan_lost_in_NY Islander fans chanted crack-head Theo during an Islander-Ranger game so it's not unheard of over here. I totally admit this would not bother me so much if I hadn't spent the last year becoming very close with someone who had a drug addicition.

posted by HATER 187 at 12:13 PM on January 12

If you are public sports figure and can't take verbal abuse, you shouldn't be a public sports figure. If a fan actually harms or attempts to harm you physically, that's a different story. Remember when the Texas Rangers got into a scuffle with the fans of the Oakland A's a couple of years ago? The one where Frank Francisco threw a chair into the crowd and broke a woman's nose? Doug Brocail was the first Ranger to go into the crowd (and started the big brouhaha) because of some yahoos taunting him. What did they say that got him so riled up? Not that he sucked as a pitcher. Or that he was uglier than Rosanne in a bikini. Or even that he should perform a solo sexual act. No, they decided to make fun of the fact that Brocail's wife had just recently given birth to a stillborn child. I don't care who you are or what you do for a living, if someone goes that low you can't be expected to control your emotions.

posted by grum@work at 03:43 PM on January 12

No, they decided to make fun of the fact that Brocail's wife had just recently given birth to a stillborn child. That might be the worst thing I've ever heard.

posted by wfrazerjr at 05:27 PM on January 12

In cases like that, doesn't it seem like security ought to apologize to the taunted player for their failure to do their job properly? Like, abjectly and profusely?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:29 PM on January 12

That was just plain wrong. Whoever said that needs to be raped with a chainsaw.

posted by njsk8r20 at 07:45 AM on January 13

Remember when the Texas Rangers got into a scuffle with the fans of the Oakland A's a couple of years ago? The one where Frank Francisco threw a chair into the crowd and broke a woman's nose? Doug Brocail was the first Ranger to go into the crowd (and started the big brouhaha) because of some yahoos taunting him. What did they say that got him so riled up? Not that he sucked as a pitcher. Or that he was uglier than Rosanne in a bikini. Or even that he should perform a solo sexual act. No, they decided to make fun of the fact that Brocail's wife had just recently given birth to a stillborn child. I don't care who you are or what you do for a living, if someone goes that low you can't be expected to control your emotions. That is something that is not exceptable to about 99% of the population. It is unfortunate that there is no pre screening test for ticket applicants, so every now and then one of these reprehensable creatures slips threw the crowd of the reasonable people attending the game. It is part of life in a free society and is hard to ignore, but ultimately " speech delivered to inflame or hurt " is a reasonable defense plea in an assalt case in most states. Let justice be served! Although in this instance, it was an innocent ( I guess ) bystander who got hurt.

posted by gronir_ hitrops at 09:54 AM on January 14

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