Wiz Preview from Robin Ficker, aka The Heckler
Longtime readers of this blog (i.e. Kim and my father) will recall that on the day of the Caps' season opener, I published a Caps season preview, courtesy of longtime Caps fan and soon-to-be Maryland state senator Rich Madaleno. So, in honor of tonight's Wizards opener, I figured I needed to talk to Montgomery County Executive candidate Robin Ficker.
(Actually, Post staff writer Alan Goldenbach put me up to this. Which I mention merely because Alan wrote an unbelievable story this AM about the basketball floor at D.C.'s Roosevelt High. Read it, if you haven't.)
Anyhow, Robin Ficker is probably the most famous Bullets fan in franchise history, and maybe the most famous heckler in American sports history, a man who went after Phil Jackson and Charles Barkley, even earning a spot in one of Barkley's books. His seats would have been changed when the team moved downtown, and so he never renewed and hasn't been back to a game since. But he's still widely known as the dean of U.S. hecklers; he even wrote a New York Times op-ed during the Artest controversy two years ago, plus he appeared on CNN to talk about the incident. And, of course, he still follows the team, via television, although he has no interest in reclaiming his spot courtside.
"They sent me an invitation for season tickets this year and I just tossed it in the trash," he said. "You know, I went to every game for 12 years, and believe me, there are other things you can do with your life besides go to NBA games."
(Truthfully, we gotta get this guy out to some United games. He would make Bruce Arena cry. He's very, very much into background research; everyone has their imperfections, Ficker believes, and hecklers just need to highlight these imperfections, loudly, at inopportune times. But no racial or sexual jokes. Ficker likes to tell of the time he brought Pat Riley's book on leadership to a game and systematically ripped out pages of the book during timeouts, throwing the scraps in the air. Riley was in the huddle, demanding respect, and Ficker was creating a Leadership Shower of his Leadership Principles.
"Some people said there were two Pat Rileys," Ficker recalled, "because I would make him beside himself.")
So anyhow, I asked for his thoughts on this year's Wiz, although it turns out his thoughts mostly dealt with the team's conditioning. Seriously; every question almost immediately became a referendum on conditioning. Perhaps this is because Ficker's daughter, Desiree, is a world-class triathlete who finished second at the Ironman World Championships this year. Perhaps it's because he himself is a fitness buff who runs the stairs at Cole Field House five times a week, a 25-minute loop that involves something like 1,600 stairs. (He invited me to join him. I declined.)
As he was explaining his fitness regime, he revealed that he's challenged future D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty to a bike race from Bethesda to the Key Bridge and back, after which they would discuss ways to facilitate bike traffic between Montgomery County and the District in an effort to get more cars off the road.
"If he's supposed to be in such great shape, let's get it on, Adrian," said Ficker, who's in his early 60s. "Prove it to me. When you're racing aginst Linda Cropp, who's at least a little overweight, that's one thing, but come on. Race against someone who runs the stairs every day and whose daughter was in the World Ironman. I'm gonna put it on you, Adrian. C'mon, show me something."
(He also offered to race Fenty up and down the stairs at Cole Field House, if the bike race doesn't work out.)
Anyhow, the Wizards. Ficker's preview started with him noting his disgust at the U.S.'s poor performance in recent world competitions, which he attributes to lousy conditioning and not enough desire.
"They must be wasting their time when they're off the court and not hitting the weight room, not improving their game like the players of yore used to do," Ficker said. "And if I were Eddie Jordan, I would get my guys in the weight room, get them on a conditioning program. You're only playing eight guys much of the time; I would have the other players stay in tip-top condition and have them on a conditioning program instead of wandering out to the clubs at 5 in the morning. I think if they had a good focus on conditioning during the season, they would run away from these other teams in the postseason."
In fact, Ficker believes that the Wizards have the talent to win an NBA title, if they would just increase their conditioning. Gilbert needs to be
in better shape than Dwyane Wade, for example. Eventually, I got around to asking for a final prediction.
"I would say they're doing a little better than they think they'll do," Ficker said. "I think they'll win 46 [games]. They think they'll win 45. But that's not good enough for me, that's really not good enough."
And a prediction for Tuesday's election?
"My prediction is that I'll win in a squeaker," he said. "Because my opponents are going to be squeaking when they see the results."
On last year's playoffs: LeBron James? C'mon. They let that little guy, you know, manipulate them. King James? The only king I know is the Burger King. There's no way they should have let a young fella like that manipulate them. They should have run all over Cleveland. When I think of the Cleveland Cavaliers, I think of "Dinner Bell" Mel Turpin. There's no way we should be losing to any team in Cleveland. You realize Cleveland has more thaws than any other city in the United States, by far? Those guys, they don't know whether they're hot or cold, so how can they beat the Wizards? There's no way. And look what happened. What were they thinking? I think the Wizards were probably celebrating before the playoff series started. Did they have a curfew on those guys? I would have put one on them. I'd say, 'Be back at your room by 10, and don't have any company, except maybe your Wizards teammates.' Then, if you want to go to Hawaii and party if you win the NBA championship, go ahead, be my guest. there's a lot of pretty waterfalls there you can look at.
On Andray Blatche: This guy Blatche, he's got the physical talent, he shouldn't be out 'till 4 or 5 a.m. I've been his age before and I can tell you I could run a lot faster then than I could when I was 30. He ought to work on his game and his conditioning and get that extra step on everyone. He could do it. He could decide. Life is made up of choices. Kwame Brown didn't want to work on his conditioning and take that opportunity. If you do, you can get that half-step on all those other players, and that's all it takes.
On Gilbert Arenas: He has to try harder. Show me something, Gilbert. Instead of going out to the clubs, he should play one-on-one full-court to 100 baskets. Then, I think he'd be ready. Have him call me when he's got some time and I'll give him some advice on how to stay in shape.
On whether his heckling past is an advantage or disadvantage on the campaign trail: Some people, still today, say I made too much noise at a Bullets game. Now when I go to the Kennedy Center or go watch a ballet, I certainly never did that, but Joe Gibbs, he's calling every week for his fans to make noise. If more fans made noise--clean, wholesome noise--at the Wizards' game, they might be a little inspired, even though they came in late the night before and even though they only had one Starbucks before the game. Maybe they'd wake up better and be able to run a little more in the second half. I think the coach ought to keep a record of what these guys are doing when they're not on the court. They're only on the court three hours a day; what are they doing the other 21? I think what these players are doing the other 21 hours determines who wins, I really do. And then after the season, if they want to take a trip around the world or go sailing to Tahiti, they can do it. I'm not going to check on them then.
On why he's never seen a Wizards game: I've just moved on. When the Terps were in the NCAA Championship, I went there. I went to one of the women's Terps games. I really like the way those girls played with reckless abandon; their bodies were flying all over the court. It was very exciting. In the past, I hadn't been too excited about women's basketball, but those girls, they really let it loose. It was very interesting. They're not worried about big contracts; they're worried about winning. Maybe the Bullets, the Wizards ought to be worried about winning each and every game. Each and every game. I just have a feeling they're going to be happy if they win 45. I'd like to see 'em win 75.
November 1, 2006; 12:44 PM ET
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