It’s really sad what the digital age has brought upon us. In years prior, hecklers had to stand up in the crowd and shout to be heard. If a handful of people out of thousands had the guts, they could stand up and tell you exactly how badly they thought you stink.
“Blewwwwwwwwwwwwww ittttttt. You’re gonna Blowwwwwwwwwww ittttttttt.”
I heard this for six straight innings one game in Michigan a few years back; 90 minutes without interruption. It was ridiculous that this one guy in left field had that much energy to put forth into trying to hurt my feelings and break my concentration.
Now, They Just Stay Home.
Sports articles used to run in newspapers – you know, those big floppy black and white things that your dad would squint at every morning? Gone mostly the way of the DoDo, articles are run on the internet – even those for amateur sports. And, everything online now has to be interactive, so comments are welcome. What happens? People start being ugly yet again. As a strength coach who writes and posts videos online, I get heckled not only as a ballplayer, but as a strength coach. Those who are completely unqualified to point out my flaws do so in scathing posts that seemingly don’t recognize that I’m an actual person.
Here’s one from 2010 that I was able to look up and find today – three years later. Why could I find it, so deep in obscurity? Because it was really hurtful and I haven’t forgotten it. Some desk jockey took pleasure in the fact that I had gotten injured. For context, I critiqued a pseudoscientific article (professionally, I might add – no ad hominem attacks) about pitching mechanics’ controversial issue, “the inverted W.”
I responded to this man, and sure enough he continued to defend his rudeness thereafter.
But Wait! There’s More
The above was on me as a player. YouTube is a breeding ground for opinionated idiots to anonymously vent their insecurities and self-professed expertdom. I actually train people for a living, yet get peer-reviewed by kids who post videos of themselves playing Call of Duty. Here’s one from a video that I posted like 2 years ago. Plus – notice the education level of hecklers – “Damaging myself?” What, am I a laptop? You mean hurt myself?
It continues to amaze me that these people hide their insults as advice. They say, “Dont get bent out of shape when someone corrects you.” I’m bent out of shape because you corrected me (without much merit it this case) with a terrible rude tone that you would never use in real life to correct a person. “THAT’S A DOES-ABSOLUTELY-NOTHING-JUMP.” And, because “it’s not real life” they think rudeness is acceptable. It’s baffling.
Please, Attempt to Shatter My Dreams.
This one was in response to my website declaration that I’d return from my second elbow surgery, that my career was not yet over. A coach decided he would set everyone straight, myself included, on how delusional I was. He say that “my training has failed me, because there shouldn’t be a second time.” Apparently he’s an expert on my mechanics, genetics, workout routine, injury history and throwing program. Good for him. It was this post that he read. Thanks, Coach!
Before we talk about how to deal with all of this negativity, we need to all think hard about why some of us get heckled in the first place: Because we’re really good at something.
And, we need to consider who doesn’t get heckled or torn down in the media: The average players.
So before you get all riled up about being the subject of negativity and needless criticism, be thankful that enough people know your name. For every one outspoken heckler, there are 100 other people who don’t say a word, and at least one, if not more, who speaks up positively on your behalf. If you have one heckler, you also have hundreds more admirers, people who know who you are because of your skill in your sport. That’s a good thing.
If you don’t want to be subject to heckling and negativity when you underperform (or just exist, sometimes), then the best way to do that is get out of the limelight. Quit or become more average. No one heckles the 6th man in basketball because no one knows his name. Being a starter, and especially a team leader, means more eyes are on you.
Who They Are
Jealous people. Pure and simple. They’re the one in a hundred who’s so insecure that they feel the need to bring you down, hopefully to their level. Problem is, THEY CAN’T. These people are so far below, that they’d need an army beside them to drag you close enough to even sniff you. I personally take the heckling as a sign that I’m really, really awesome, so awesome that it offends some people who are bitter at how little awesome they possess. I’d be bitter, too.
This problem isn’t going away – it’s getting worse. People can now anonymously post whatever they wish on amateur sports. We can tell a middle-school basketball player that he’s a choke artist if we want. We can respond to coverage of a 14U softball tournament and tell a bunch of little girls that they’ll never amount to anything. It’s all fair game. We have to build our armor up and realize that the opinions of ourselves and those who know us best are the only ones that matter. We don’t have to live up to anyone’s standards but our own.
How You Deal With It
Personally, I know my goals are ridiculously far-fetched as a man who will be 28 with two arm surgeries. But you know what? I’ve known for a long, long time that I’m different, and the path that I’ve carved and will continue to carve is proof of it. No one has to believe in me but me, and no one has ever been able to disrupt the vision I have for myself. It’s been clear in my head, even when things were unclear.
You have to build a tractor beam between you and your goals. Your inward, goal-driven focus must be immutable. It’s just like in your favorite restaurant – when you’re with great company, do you notice anyone else? Does the crying child two tables away ruin your evening? No. You’re engaged and engrossed in what means most to you – the company you keep. Sports are the same way. Your connection to your future has to be strong enough to drown out the bad games, injuries, doubts and hecklers. People will try to tear you down, but you have to just remind yourself that their opinions are the least important of all. All that matters is your expectations and your work toward them.