Thursday, December 28, 2006

If All Hecklers Were Muppets...

Remember these guys?

As I was leaving the court house a few days ago, I noticed a woman sitting just inside the security check points. Similar to the security at airports, one must pass through a metal detector to get into the Daley Center. There are usually about 6- 8 deputies at each check point. You have to put your bags, coats etc. on the conveyor belt and pass through the metal detector. If it goes off you get checked with one of those wands. Just like at the airport, just before the main morning and afternoon calls, it can be quite busy.

Anyways, this woman was literally heckling the sheriff deputies. Not just randomly, but by name.

Bill, Bill... oink, oink, oink... heh, heh, heh, that's one got a gun, I know it. Bill, I said you missed it. Ooohh, you're gonna get fired that one. She's got a knife. Whadda you think you're doing. Oink, oink... heh, heh, heh.

She'd stop and then a few moments later, she'd start in again. The deputies seemed to take it all in stride. They didn't try to make her leave or anything, they just kept doing their jobs.

I thought, "well, that's gotta suck, getting heckled at your job." How would I react if someone sat behind me saying things like "Jim, what the hell do you think you're doing? You missed that argument or where the hell did you learn to write?" In my efforts to tie all things in life to cycling, I started thinking about the heckling cyclists endure when they race.

There are some well known episodes of heckling of pro racers.

Lance Armstrong was taunted all the way up Ventoux at the 2002 Tour with calls of "dopé, dopé", as he was chasing Richard Virenque and Alexandre Botcharov.

Similarly, who can forget the Alpe d'Huez ITT where Armstrong (and other riders) endured severe heckling. Spectators gave Armstrong the bird, spit on him and wrote 'F*** Armstrong' on the road. Some of these guys were yelling right in his ear as he passed by. Armstrong said at the time that it gave him extra motivation.

Then there's the good-natured heckling Canadien Geoff Kabush gave his American counter-parts at the 2004 US Nationals Cross Champs.

Any verbal abuse riders have endured pales in comparison with the physical abuse some riders have had to put up with.

The most famous of which is probably from the 1975 Tour when Eddy Merckx was punched by a spectator. On the climb to Puy de Dôme, Merckx struggled, lagging behind eventual winner Bernard Thèvenet and 1976 champion Lucien van Impe. As Merckx was trying to bridge the gap a spectator jumped out and punched him in the kidneys. Doubled up by the blow, Merckx finished the stage winded. Hard to say whether this incident cost him what, at the time would have been an unprecedented sixth Tour. The following day, the perpetrator of the blow was waiting at the stage start; he was arrested after Merckx identified him, but was later released without charge.

Some riders have retaliated. In Overijse, Belgium, on December 18, 2005 , Bart Wellens crossed the line first in a cyclocross race, but was disqualified for kicking a spectator. Wellens told Belgian

For four laps, I had mud and beer thrown at me. The fifth time it was just too much for me. I didn't really intend to hit him, and I regret what I've done, but I think that as a rider I don't have to put up with everything.

After the fifth time he did something.


Carlos said...

Where the heck did you learn to write a blog... come on, my computer illiterate Grandma could write a better one... I'm actually trying to punch you in the kidneys through my monitor right now!

GoFasterJim said...

Be nice Carlos! Thanks for reading. See you on the 1st for the game.