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Baseball Hecklers & GROK

Baseball Hecklers & GROK

Baseball Hecklers, by Becka Kelley

Going to a baseball game was not my first choice for a Saturday activity. 

Even though I started off with a questionable attitude, I found that I was enjoying myself, until about a quarter of the way through the game when a group of guys came in and started shouting obscenities at the players. They were saying stuff that was really hard for me to hear. Curse words, name calling, etc.

You get the idea.

The group of guys laughed and egged each other on, although one of them was doing most of the shouting.

It was so painful and disturbing to hear their comments that I told my boyfriend I might want to leave. But then I had an idea: maybe I could talk to them and ask them to stop making those obscene and offensive comments. A lot of fear came up in me as I had this thought. I sat with it a while, took a few breaths, gathered my courage, and I went over to go have a talk with them. I walked right up to the guy who was the noisiest, offered my hand to shake, and said, “Hi, I’m Becka.”

First, he looked confused, then proud. He puffed his chest out, glanced around at the other guys, then faced me again with a charming smile. I’m pretty sure he thought I was hitting on him.

I hadn’t figured out what to say, yet, so I began by asking how he was and whether he was enjoying the game. Then, I said, “I came over because I heard you guys shouting things to the players out there and I’m curious about it. Why do you do that?”

He replied, saying, “Oh, they don’t mind. This is how it always is. It encourages them. We always do this to each other.” I then  realized he was actually shouting comments to people he knew and regularly played games with.

I responded with, “Oh, so this is how you guys connect and kind of show your support for each other?”

“Yeah,” he replied.\

I said something like, “Wow, that’s so interesting. You know, when I heard your comments, that’s not what I thought. I would have thought you hated them. I know if I were out there hearing that stuff coming my way, I would be really hurt. It would be hard to even hear those things.”

He said, “Ah, yeah, well you’re probably just sensitive. We can handle it. We always do this with each other.”

At this point, I had a realization. I wasn’t going to ask them to stop making comments. My intention had shifted from trying to change their behavior to wanting to understand their perspective. I felt my body loosen as I let go of my judgment and agenda. Instead, I was experiencing openness and curiosity. I still disagreed with their choice to motivate their teammates using shame, but I was able to let go of labeling them “wrong” or “bad” people.

I never did ask for the heckling to stop, as I’d originally intended. Mostly because I just didn’t think it would work. But also because I had a sense of satisfaction just for being brave enough to talk and connect with them. That seemed like a big enough accomplishment for one day. I figured that when the yelling started back up - which I assumed it would - I’d leave the game without feeling quite so angry and judgmental.

Interestingly, after I left, they stayed quiet. They stopped the heckling on their own! It was crazy! I didn’t know whether it was because of me or not, but they ended up leaving the stands shortly after our conversation ended.

I’m so proud of the courage and vulnerability I practiced that day. I had the guts to go and talk to a group of guys I was pretty intimidated by about something that was really affecting me. I was able to connect and develop some understanding with this group of people I had vilified. It was a very empowering and compassion-building experience that has continued to stay with me.

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