Fan: a person with a liking and enthusiasm for something, such as a band or sports team.
Terms that can be used in place of "fan" (synonyms): aficionado, supporter, devotee, enthusiast, fanatic, lover, admirer, backer, friend, promoter, follower, expert, patron, champion, etc.
Heckler: a person who causes repeated emotional pain, distress, or annoyance to another
Terms that can be used in place of "heckler" (synonyms): belittler, mocker, needler, harasser, insulter, attacker, trash-talker, victimizer, taunter, persecutor, torturer, etc.
Are you a fan or a heckler? I believe there is a time and place for a little heckling now and then. Mid-season when the game gets a little slow, it's fun to spark a "conversation" between the crowd and the opposing team's outfielder or to bang on the boards at hockey game when the other team's big fighter passes by. However, as the fan of any team, it is important to put more energy into your team than it is to throw all of your focus and attention into the opposing team.
Who am I to dictate fan behavior? What makes me an expert? Well, I've not only been a fan for most of my life but I was an athlete through college and for the past 20 years, I have been a coach. I understand sports. I understand motivation. I fully understand the difference between support and harassment.
Last night, during the NLCS game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers, a row of "Cardinal fans" in the right field bleachers spent the first 3 innings heckling Corey Hart, berating their own team and screaming in my ear. If you watched the game you know that Jaime Garcia pitched a gem through the first three innings but he was not exempt from those "fans" disappointment. Matt Holliday broke out of his short-lived hitting slump by racking up three hits last night but he apparently didn't hustle enough in the outfield for those "fans." They were rude and disrespectful.
The saddest part of the entire situation was that those "fans" were a father and four young boys. The father demonstrated the art of annoying nearby fans by shaking his rally towel over their heads and near their faces. The kids followed suit. The father stood up and screamed at the top of his lungs "Corey Hart you suck" over and over. The kids followed suit. He yelled at other fans around him. And the kids, once again, followed suit. They were like little bullies in training.
Who are you when the game is on the line or when your team is in the playoffs? Better yet, who are you when your team is 10 games out of first or your pitcher can't find the strike zone? Are you the fan or are you the heckler? Are you the supporter or the bully? Whoever you are, your kids are watching. The children around you are paying attention. And they are imitating you. They are becoming you.
You can be a fan who tosses out a good one-liner now and then. And you can certainly get vocal in the bleachers! But recognize that if you are a heckler sitting in the right field bleachers and your 13 year old son tells me to shut my mouth and sit down, you won't be a heckler in the right field bleachers for very long.