On the heels of yesterday's Nate McMillan piece comes this story, picked up by MJD of Shutdown Corner (usually a great read, by the way). Apparently Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey responded to his own heckling fans at a recent practice by yelling at them and ordering the team not to sign autographs in their section. Apparently this is also causing a buzz. I find it slightly ironic that anyone would get on a moral high horse to defend heckling, surely among the lowest of the arts, though amusing if practiced skillfully.
To me it's a goose and gander situation. Fans have the right to yell what they wish, I suppose. That's their power. Coaches have the right to exercise their power as well, which in this case includes autograph withholding. It probably would have been better to just let it go, just as it would be better for the fans in question to keep their (cough) "expert" opinions a little more circumspect. But if one doesn't you can't bind the other to.
At least the coach got the right targets in this incidence. People on the inside of the sports world often view those on the outside, including and especially fans, as idiots. Familiarity breeds contempt. Every fan criticizes but not every fan heckles. Every fan has opinions but not every fan thinks their opinion is the summit of knowledge. We've had our own struggles holding on to the identity of a site formed by and in touch with fans while at the same time feeling the stigma of same. It can be a frustrating battle. Plenty of people still use the word "fan" in a pejorative sense. To those I'd say, "You're wrong. Look a little deeper." To the hecklers I'd say, "Maybe you have a point, but chill out anyway." To Coach Gailey? Whatever you need to do, man. If you win games with your philosophy nobody's going to complain, least of all those nuts in the stands yelling.
Personally I try not to say anything in public I wouldn't repeat with the person I'm talking about standing right in front of me, meaning face-to-face, not down on the field. It might be something worth thinking about as we're all commenting in this very public forum.