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Glen Davis and the Heckler

 

Not to go all Bill Simmons on you, but one of the laugh out loud moments of David Halberstam’s masterpiece about the 1979-80 Blazers, “The Breaks of the Game,” is Halberstam’s re-telling of the moment when Portland reserve Lloyd Neal could no longer take Jack Nicholson’s courtside chatter during a game in LA. 

It was unclear to his teammates if Neal knew who Nicholson was, so one of them mentioned that Jack had recently starred in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Toward the end of that game, Kareem went up for a clutch shot only to have Bill Walton rise up and block it. As Walton stuffed the shot, Neal stood up, got in Nicholson’s face and yelled, “Take that, m-f-ing cuckoo!” 

I do not believe Lloyd Neal was fined or suspended, though the record of such a fine would tough to track down now. Nor was Reggie Miller fined for gesturing the choke sign at Spike Lee and exchanging whatever heated words Miller had with the director and notorious Celtic-hater. Nor was Phil Jackson fined for allegedly yelling at Matt Damon to “sit down and shut the f— up!” during the 2008 NBA Finals in LA (at least according to a few witnesses, one of whom happened to know Bill Simmons). 

But the NBA has fined Glen Davis $25,000 for saying some naughty words to a fan in Detroit who had been heckling Davis about Baby’s weight during the 2nd quarter.

And the fine is consistent with the NBA’s record of punishing players for impolite interactions with fans. It actually could have been worse; the league has suspended players for this sort of thing, though it usually reserves harsher punishments for players who make obscene gestures instead of merely saying bad things. 

But players have been suspended for words alone. The league suspended Latrell Sprewell one game for making “vulgar” remarks (i.e. remarks of a sexual nature) toward a female fan in LA in 2004. You may recall that Spree had something of a prior disciplinary record. 

Two years later, the league suspended David Harrison for yelling obscenities at a fan. Harrison had a bit role in the Pacers-Pistons brawl in Detroit in 2004. 

Other players, including Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Miller, have been fined between $5,000 and $25,000 for saying unpleasant things to fans. 

I understand what the league is doing here. Personally, I have no problem with Glen Davis telling a jerky fan to shut up, even if he uses unsavory language in doing so. (Glen’s biggest problem was that TV and radio broadcasts caught his comments live). For this fan, Scott Zack, to file a complaint with NBA security is ridiculous. You go to an NBA game, you spend two quarters calling a player “fat” and “chubs,” and then you act surprised when the player fires back at you? 

Scott Zack should be embarrassed. He deserved what he got. I hope Zack’s friends laughed at him when Davis finally cracked and responded. What a sniveling little coward.

Again: I understand what the league is doing. It has an interest in preventing anything like the 2004 Indy-Detroit brawl, and so it has an interest in eliminating heated encounters between players and fans. But if sports leagues fined every player who talked back to heckling fans, they’d be giving out a lot of fines. 

About 10 years ago, I randomly scored seats to a Phillies-Cubs game in Philadelphia through a friend who roots for the Cubs. We might have been 10 rows behind home plate; a Bobby Abreu line drive foul ball came within six inches of killing me. 

In any case, Joe Girardi was playing for the Cubs at the time. I was about 22—i.e. immature—and had a policy of booing former Yankees when I went to live games. It didn’t matter who was playing, whether I had a rooting interest in the game or whether the ex-Yankee in question had played one season or 10 with the Evil Empire. 

It was a policy I fulfilled haphazardly (so I guess it wasn’t a policy?), depending on my mood, surroundings and which friends were attending the game with me. 

I was merciless on Girardi. I don’t even remember what I said. I remember Girardi choking twice with the bases loaded, and that I taunted him—loudly—as he walked back to the dugout with his head down. I never used language any worse than the F-bomb or said anything vulgar, and I didn’t say anything Girardi hadn’t heard a million times before. 

But he would have been justified had he looked up at me and dropped a few F-bombs. 

Does that deserve a fine? Is baseball different from basketball? Certainly MLB players have attacked fans several different times in the last 10 years or so.

In any case, I give Baby a pass on this one. I don’t really think it’s a sign of immaturity. Sure, you’d like to have a player show a little bit more restraint, since they are going to have to get used to performing in enemy territory. But I’m not sure I could ever get used to someone screaming unflattering things at me all the time.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I don’t think anything you say to a fan is going to make a difference. They are still going to be a hata & taunt you. It’s not like you are going to hurt their feelings. They have their minds made up. Interaction with them is useless. What I like to see is constructive anger. You see it in some players. They get mad, & then they take that energy & take it out on the fan(s)? No! They get mad & take it out on the other team.

    Reggie could have jawed with Spike till he was blue in the face, BUT hitting those 3s was the best come back of all time! It was the ultimate in your face –no words necessary! And you know that cut Spike to the heart more than any words ever could.

    It’s sorta like KG hitting that shot at the end of the Knicks game. He really didn’t have to say anything. He could just look at Spike after that. The action spoke much louder than any words.

    When I see a player get mad at a fan or even a ref & lose their focus, get distracted, I think the other guy won. When I see a player get mad & then go dunk on the other team or hit a 3 or make a steal etc then I think the heckled or poorly officiated player wins. When you take all that energy from the anger & use it against the other team then you are really getting back at your adversary in a way that hurts more than words.

  • DRJ1

    I’ve always liked and appreciated your writing, Zach, but this time I could not disagree more.

    There are several important differences between the various examples you cited and what Baby did. First, he did it in close proximity to the mics feeding the entire world. That alone is enough to warrant the punishment he got. Second, he did this in a CLOSED ARENA, which at that moment was relatively QUIET. Therefore, practically everyone heard him, because he shouted it very loudly.

    And the third difference feeds from the second. There were KIDS sitting in that arena. Kids who came to the game with their dads… Kids who look up to NBA players. Kids who Baby could not possibly have missed seeing. Imagine if you had been there with your young boy. And that blast of obscenity happened. And your boy turns around to look at you. He’s just 8 or 10 years old…..

    Sorry, but I cannot agree with you on this one. What Baby did was beyond stupid and disgusting. It was inexcusable. And his punishment was too light.

    Given how unhappy and negative he seems to be now, plus his continuing weight problem, his ~6″ vertical leap (Nate’s is 43.5″, btw), and his multiple displays of infantilism… I think/hope Danny’s working hard on moving him outta here. That’s what Baby wanted last summer… let’s give him what he wants.

  • MikeD

    DRJ1 – You really aren’t making much sense. Baby isn’t aware of exactly where the mics are, and there are kids in every arena not just in Detroit. With your adrenaline going in the heat of an NBA game with a fan heckling you over something personal like your weight, he snapped and said a few choice words back. Big deal. No need to over react and act like he is a big problem that needs to be traded. We need his offensive rebounding and scrappy play off the bench.

  • DRJ1

    Mike– There are mics everywhere in arenas. And even if he was ignorant and/or forgot about that… it’s irrelevant. He shouted obscenities that everyone everywhere heard, during a sporting event meant for family viewing. Doesn’t matter what he knew, or what his excuses are. He should have known better.

    When writing about trading him, I was pretty clear that it was not only because of this one incident. There are many reasons, including: his general negativity, his apparent unhappiness here (don’t forget he wanted to leave Boston last summer), his probable negative impact on team chemistry, his ridiculous weight problem, his performance on the court (occasionally good, but far from what we expected when he was re-signed), and his multiple displays of infantilism, of which this latest episode is just the last on a growing list. (A refresher: crying on the bench in Dec 08, ongoing inability to lose weight, breaking his hand in a drunken fight just before this season began, and now shouting obscenity at a fan during a game with all the mics on and the world listening.)

    At his salary, we can do better.

    (And btw… how different is “fat boy” from “Big Baby”? Not very. That fan, and we, are saying the same thing. The boy is fat.)

  • Mitch

    dont ever use kids as an excuse, this is a mans game, if little boys ears hurt because of a swear…maybe daddy should take his little boy to balerina class

  • Mitch

    we live in a pansy country, where freedom of speech is twisted into a moral popularity contest…Sure davis yelled an expletive..it was nothing those fans haven’t heard before…and if you wanna say children are present..how about the heckler yelling fatboy??? kids seing that guy are gonna grow up to think that it’s ok to call people names. Fans are there to root for their teams and Boo the other team…but when you get personal and start making fun of peoples weight and never shut up about it…you are wrong…that man scott zack is a doctor and he showed everyone in that arena that it’s ok to be a snitch and a cry baby. If you wanna talk about immaturity…talk about a doctor who heckles another grown man and then tattle tales like a school room sissy to the NBA security…glen davis i applaud you for not breaking this Jerks jaw in front of all the innocent children who will never grow up to hear or say things like big baby. This whole thing is a joke…the NBA loves to rack up fines because they don’t wanna lose money or public interest….whoever ok’ed this fine is a super douche bag

  • Mitch

    DJR you don’t sound like a celtic fan….You are just a hater…and how many times did you mention his “weight problem”?. I don’t see big baby getting mad because you’re mom is a terrible lay…Oh did that hurt?? are you gonna fine me??? are you gonna report me to ESPN.com…..come on i dare you to pull a scott zack lmao

  • Berkcelt

    Pretty good take, Zach. I mostly agree. I think Glen mostly got it because it was caught on tape. I wouldn’t give him a “pass” exactly, but I don’t expect ball players to be choir boys. But you get caught, you pay the price. As for the fan, I think “coward” is the precise word for him. If someone is going to engage in that kind of behavior, be prepared for the consequences.

  • Brendan Jackson

    “You may recall that Spree had something of a prior disciplinary record. ”
    Hilarious understatement. Nice Zach.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @DRJ1: Disagree away, my friend. That’s what journalism is for–good take all around.

    Just to clarify: I’m not saying what Glen did was “right” or that the league is wrong to fine him. I think what he did is ultimately useless, and that the league absolutely has an interest in fining him.

    I just don’t find it particularly distasteful. I get the worry about kids overhearing nasty comments at games, but in my experience, hecklers represent a far worse threat to the virgin ears of our nation’s youth than do players.

  • Berkcelt

    Seems like the Pistons for whatever reason have a higher concentration of idiot fans who attend their home games. Everyone of course remembers the brawl and that mess, but this made me think of the Celtics 2002 playoff run. I will let Chris Palmer then (still?) of ESPN, writing about Game 5 at the Palace of the second round series, tell it:

    “Thirty seconds before halftime I stake out a spot just inside the tunnel. The fans go all Redd Foxx on the players walking by. There’s one guy wearing an Erick Strickland jersey scaling the wall up the bleachers. Wait a second, that is Erick Strickland. Some fan dumped a cup of beer on his head and he was determined to get him. In about two seconds flat he climbed up and halfway over a railing about 15 feet high and got in the guy’s face. It was actually pretty amazing. Spiderman’s got nothin’ on Strick.”

    I’ll never forget that. The fan nailed Strick who got right up there and started pointing in his face. Fans who do stuff like that deserve to be put in their place.

  • http://thinkshesmorelike.wordpress.com/ jylze

    If the fan had said stuff about Glen’s family or said somethign racially offensive or something, I would say he should be free to respond however he wants. But if he’s telling him he’s fat and needs to lose weight and can’t hit open jumpers, then he needs to chill out.

  • Idaho

    DJ.
    There is at least a tiny bit of a double standard in your words. You obviously aren’t a fan of baby it is clear. However, you would have to dislike KG or most other guys in the NBA for the same reasoning when it comes to expletives whether it be out of anger, joy, frustration or whatever.

    I’m all for setting a standard and it was an obvious moment of poor judgment but you have to be consistent if you are going to crucify him for this.

  • CG

    The point is less what he said and more that he let the fan get to him. The guy was trying to get a reaction and he succeeded in taking BBD’s attention away from the game. That is indicative of Baby’s lack of focus and maturity. It is a legitimate concern. What you do with loudmouths like that is ignore them. His passion and energy is a great asset at times, but he needs to harness it.

    Additionally, he needs to know that stuff like that can subject him to a fine or suspension, which is an unnecessary distraction to the team. He needs to grow up.

  • will

    DRJ has been spreading his anti-davis bias all over celticsblog and the hub here… Zach’s response is exactly correct, kids “virgin” ears are much more likely and probable to “violated” by a heckler then by any player.

    tack on to that the fact that any kid sitting that close to the game was guaranteed to have heard some curse words over the course of the game. I don’t hear you complaining about all the times I’ve heard kendrick perkins say “get that **** out of here” after a block through the TV mics, you just don’t like glen davis, admit it DRJ.

  • Dave

    Boston fans are astonishing, blissfully unaware hypocrites. A whole “Yankees Suck” industry springs forth from your glorification of baiting a rival, yet a Detroit fan says something that is neither obscene nor inaccurate and fans in New England claim the moral high ground. I live 30 miles from Boston, folks. So take it from me, you do not follow a Wimbledon standard for decorum. You have as many obnoxious, drunken mouth-breathers as any other city – only with an uglier accent.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @Dave: I don’t think anyone claimed the moral high ground. There are a-hole fans in every city, including Boston. I hate all of them. There is nothing worse than going to a game at TD Garden or Yankee Stadium or Pac Bell Park and realizing you’re surrounded by a few those Those Guys.

  • http://www.bartking.net Bart King

    I was with you to here: “I never used language any worse than the F-bomb…”

    What?! Your standards for what constitutes foul language are, shall we say, idiosyncratic. The fan who complained about Big Baby was harmless in comparison. (It was a wuss move to file a complaint, though.)

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @Bart: I actually don’t know that I used the F-bomb. Knowing myself, there’s a 50/50 chance I would have said “You f-ing suck, Girardi!” at one point. But I would not have used it liberally. I would have stuck to “Good eye, Girardi” sarcastically after he took a called 3rd strike or something.

    I guess what I”m saying is: I can’t guarantee I never used an F-bomb.

  • DRJ1

    Well, I thought Mitch was an aberration who crawled out from under some rock. Guess not. (But Mitch, you can curse my mother all you want. She won’t mind. She’s no longer with us.)

    To those who blame the fan: you will now have to blame most of the fans at the Garden too. This whole episode happened right after Chucky Atkins got hit hard, for which a foul was called on Davis. At the time of the epithet, Atkins was on the ground writhing in pain. This fan said “fat boy” to Davis. Guess what? Davis is a fat boy. No cursing involved. But even if there had been, this was right after a hard foul by Davis on a Piston, who was writhing in pain. How many fans at the Garden would NOT be cursing the fouling player in that case? Talk about double standard. If you think this fan should be punished, you’ll have to punish most of the fans at the Garden too.

    If Davis wants people not to call him fat boy, he should LOSE SOME DAMN WEIGHT, so that he might actually be able to play decent basketball in the NBA. I mention his weight a lot because that’s his biggest problem. Apparently, the Celtics agree… since it’s part of his CONTRACT. (Who else in the NBA has a weight clause?)

    And there is a big difference between shouting expletives at nobody in particular as part of the game, when the arena is noisy and it doesn’t matter (as KG does), and shouting during a break, when the arena is quiet, AT A FAN (who called you what you are). And WHAT Davis shouted, at the top of his lungs – “suck my _____” – is quite a bit different from the usual tirade of F-bombs coming from KG and others. It’s a directed expletive, and highly offensive to all the kids and fans sitting there. Apparently again, the NBA agrees.

    Much more important, though, is the fact that thousands of fans watching TV also heard Davis’ expletive. You wanna give Davis a pass on that? Why? You think he’s allowed to FORGET that there are television cameras there? Really? He’s allowed to be a complete idiot? And in case you think THAT’S alright too, I will remind you that there are FEDERAL REGULATIONS (FCC) against it.

    I would have thought these things were obvious and self-evident. Guess not. To each his own. Say, is “Mitch” a member of your family?

  • DRJ1

    A few more posts came up while I was writing…. Yes, I admit that I no longer like Davis on this team. (Not that that’s not obvious.) I want us to win it all this year. And I have concluded that Baby Davis is a liability in that endeavor. It’s not only his disappointing play, but also his attitude. Negativity seeps into a team if it’s allowed to exist in its midst. I think Davis is a source of negativity now. He has completely changed from past years. And he sucks as a player – oh, he will sometimes fight hard and succeed, but his basic skills are severely hampered by his weight, which he is apparently unable to control.

    One of the benefits of getting our healthy team back will be Davis getting less PT. My feeling is that he drags this team down. I would like us to get somebody better, if we can.

    Davis’ apparent immaturity, clearly displayed multiple times now, just adds more weight to these conclusions.

  • DRJ1

    @CG– good point. By responding as he did, Davis let the fan win. The whole episode was clearly won by the other guys.

    And you know what? It’s an NBA rule: No cursing at fans. They just fined him for it. Where’s the argument? Next you’ll be arguing that fouling should be allowed? (You can do that, and you can even be right in your arguments… but it’s pointless.)

  • MikeD

    DRJ1 I cant stand someone who judges another person so harshly as if you are some perfect being. He is a young player in the NBA who has had a couple of issues come up. Haven’t we seen this before? Almost every player in the NBA has gone through a period like this, and Davis’ isn’t even all that bad compared to some others. No one is disagreeing with you that he deserved the fine, but your idea that he is destroying the team chemistry and needs to be traded ASAP is completely unfounded. And you act like he has severely underachieved on the court which I couldn’t disagree with more. Yes, he has lost his jump shot, but as a result he has been spending more time down low getting rebounds and easy baskets, which is exactly what you want from a big of the bench. He is never going to be an All Star in this league, he will always be an energy bench player which is exactly what he has been for the Celts. We couldn’t afford to lose him especially given the uncertainty of KGs health. No need to act like he is some thug who wants to destroy the team. Relax a little bit.

  • DRJ1

    @MikeD– Ok, let’s agree to disagree about Davis’ worth to this team. No problem.

    I would only ask that you not ascribe my opinion to just his most recent gaffe. I’ve made it very clear that there is a long list of reasons I’m done with this guy, of which the most recent events are just a small part. Also, I’m suggesting we trade him from someone better… not throw him out the window. (Meanwhile, he could improve. He’s doing a pretty good job vs Portland, at the half.)

    And if you see my many posts defending guys like Sheed (when most were piling on him) and hammering the refs, you would conclude that I’m far from being a hater or an apologist for The Man.

  • CH884

    At the end of the day, fans should be able to yell anything they want. if you’re a serious fan you go to games, you pay money (a lot of money) to do so. As long as it’s just words, what possible difference could it make regardless of word choice or vulgarity.

    It’s effects on the game are self filtering, players will only have x amount of time to actually respond (giving that they actually hear it) before they have to run back down the floor, jog to first base, or run back in the huddle. They sort of have a job to do.

    As for the children argument. Thats just absurdity, the internet, freeway traffic and post office give them plenty of chances to read, hear or witness unkind words and behavior on a daily basis. Professional sports are a modern battlefield, If the home team can’t call a visiting shaq a fat arsed degenerate and sh** head rapper.. then you’re taking away the advantage of the home team. I don’t want to censor the fun of it by sitting next to a family of small born again christian children and feel like im being constantly watched while me and my friends tell the lakers how we feel about them and their ludicrous luck in gasol related trades by screaming that theyre a bunch of overpaid hollywood tw**s!

    I mean c’mon, just like you hate the people that take infants into R-rated movies, if you don’t think your kids are ready wait till they’re 13 or 14..

    Not everything in this country needs to be so milk and cookies, so vanilla that there’s no feelings, emotion and frankly no ones even bothered anymore..

  • DRJ1

    @CH884– I don’t think you appreciate how this went down. How Davis stood in the middle of an arena, kids all around, and shouted that epithet at the top of his lungs. Unforgivable… and the NBA acted, as it should have.

    To Davis’ credit, he issued what sounded like a sincere apology to everyone today, and mentioned the kids specifically. Good for him.

  • http://hoopstersworld.blogspot.com miss j.moxie

    The biggest thing for me in all this isn’t whether the fan, Scott Zack, was wrong in heckling Davis, whether Davis was wrong in firing back, or whether the NBA was wrong in fining him. (My opinion on those issues: I think Zack, or any other fan, is entitled to trash talk; Davis shouldn’t have let Zack get to him; and the NBA has its own interests to protect and didn’t act unreasonably.)

    It’s that Scott Zack filed a complaint. What a loser. I mean, what, he’s entitled to talk all the trash he wants, but he can’t take it when someone talks back? What a wuss.

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  • steve

    using the “there were kids in the area” excuse is a huge cop out.

    every kid in the history of the world ends up hearing a swear word during his life, so what?

    people need to stop getting so touchy with words.

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