There are so many things for the NBA to consider later tonight when the Miami Heat travel to Quicken Loans Arena to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What type of fanfare will arrive at the game? Were the tickets swallowed up by the most ravenous fans? How are they being bargained off outside of the arena? Will we have enough security on site?
There is one question that hasn’t been asked up to date about LeBron James’ much anticipated return to his former high school and professional stomping grounds.
Is this just what James and the Miami Heat need to get going after starting the season lethargically at 11-8?
As Aaron Goldholdhammer from ESPN 850 WKNR, Cleveland said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike this morning, “This is going to be kind of anti-climatic. In the last few days, I’ve heard from a few fans that say I’m going to run out on the floor tonight, I don’t care if I get arrested.”
If you’re a Cavalier fan, the last thing you want to hear is that this is anti-climatic. Especially after people in the streets burned jerseys, threw away James memorabilia and essentially blamed the league’s back-to-back MVP for a potential economic downfall.
Fans are energetic, focused and often insistent on making their points when they feel an opposing player is truly a villain. But do they have the energy to remain as volatile for 48 minutes as say a Robin Ficker?
Ficker, infamously known as perhaps the most intimidating fan in the history of sports, was even given a nickname-“The Heckler.” The former Washington Bullets’ diehard fan would often show up to the arena with more information on an opposing team’s players and coaches than an entire NBA staff. Perhaps his greatest technique was his ability to have the exact same seat directly behind a team’s bench for an entire night.
Let’s face it, this was a guy who even got under the skin of Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Pat Riley. Barkley once talked about Ficker in his book. Take this excerpt from the renowned “Heckler” in an article in Dan Steinberg’s DC Sports Blog from November 1, 2006 as an example:
“Some people said there were two Pat Rileys,” Ficker recalled, “because I would make him beside himself.”
His research was never incredulous and it would often serve as the team’s sounding board during an era (1985-’86 through 1996-’97) when they were at least respectable, making the playoffs four times, this despite an eight-year absence in between appearances from 1988-’89 to 1996-‘97. Through it all the man known as “The Heckler” displayed the venom expected from angry Cavs fans later tonight.
Despite his legendary antics, some owners and coaches didn’t feel his enthusiasm had a place in the game. Although he was generally clean and didn’t have to be censored, he would show up with megaphones behind opposing benches and even read aloud quotes taken on individual players. As stated by former Celtic legend Red Auerbach and found in an August 23, 1997 article (Ficker Won’t Be the Mouth That Roars at MCI) by Washington Post writer Thomas Heath-Ficker represented a “disgrace” to the game. Even with his naysayers, Ficker was able to withstand his critics and stand the test of time for over a decade.
Cleveland Cavalier fans could take some pages from the legendary fan’s notorious capers later this evening. While many expect them to be vile and disgraceful, the ‘Heckler’ proved time and again that you can have just as much success with good natured anguish and furor. After all the Bullets simply weren’t that good.
And isn’t that really what the Cavs fans are upset about at the end of the day? Sure, they feel betrayed by James, but to think that they are happy about his new team being three games over .500 when their own team is currently 3 games below .500 and losers of seven of their last ten games. It seems perfectly symmetrical with Ficker’s true dispair as a Bullets’ fan for over 12 years behind opposing benches. Years of futility, or the inevitable possibility in the Cavaliers’ case, can make even the most diehard fans of their team very temperamental. I’m experiencing it right now with the Detroit Pistons. It’s perfectly normal.
What an ingenious thought by Ficker or Cavs fans? Fans actually showing some frustration over their team not meeting expectations for their own city or organization. Still, anything the “Heckler” said didn’t involve foul language or need to be censored. During the late ’80s, he was often featured on NBC’s NBA Inside Stuff and even during NBA highlights on CNN, sometimes even weekly.
But as he stated in that same Heath article (Ficker Won’t Be the Mouth That Roars at MCI) referenced earlier, “Anything I have said could be printed in a family newspaper,” Ficker said. “I never said one thing I regret.”
Hopefully for the Miami Heat and the NBA we will be saying the same thing around 11:00 pm about the performance of the Cleveland Cavalier fans. If not, the story involving the game could be a backdrop to a much dirtier scene surrounding it.
—Corey Chavous, DraftNasty staff reports