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Robin Ficker resurfaces at Maryland wrestling


Robin Ficker heckling MJ. (AP file photo.)

I was sitting in the stands during Maryland's wrestling match with American on Friday night. It was time for the Terps' brilliant All-American, Hudson Taylor, to take the mat. As Taylor readied himself, a guy in the front row of the stands, holding a Maryland flag, stood up and started yelling, in verse.

"Girls run and hide; brave men shiver," he yelled. "Get ready, here comes the Hudson River!"

Not necessarily standard wrestling fare. Little did I know at the time, but this noisy wrestling fan turned out to be none other than legendary D.C. basketball heckler Robin Ficker, the man who once needled Michael Jordan, became friends with Charles Barkley, caused the NBA to change its fan behavior rules and then stopped going to Bullets games after the team moved downtown.

(Credit to Terrapin Trail for getting to this story first. Also, see Ficker's recent letter to the WaPo, complaining of the lack of Maryland wrestling coverage.)

Ficker is a longtime wrestling fan--his sons wrestled in high school, with youngest son Flynn going on to wrestle at Cal-Davis--but he was never known for his Maryland wrestling fandom. Then he ran into Terps assistant Todd Beckerman while working out at Cole Field House earlier this season. Ficker knew Beckerman from his DeMatha days, and the coach told Ficker he might enjoy checking out a match. So Ficker went to see the Terps wrestle at Navy late last month. And, being Robin Ficker, he did so vocally.

"We didn't know who he was," 133-pounder Steven Bell told me. "We thought he had a stroke or something, he was saying crazy things."

"I kind of just thought he was some crazy guy," said heavyweight Patrick Gilmore. "It was like, 'Oh my God, what is this guy saying?' "

"I thought he was just an anti-Navy guy, that he was just cheering against Navy," Maryland Coach Kerry McCoy said. "It was like haha, funny."

The next day, the Terps hosted Duke. And Ficker was back, with his cheers. Josh Asper was "the Aspirator." Mookie Golden got serenaded with "That guy's silver and you are Golden." "We want more, We want Gil-More," Ficker chanted for Patrick. Ficker promised "high Nielsen ratings with Bradley Fighting Vehicle Nielson Nielsen." He'd call out "Roll him over in the clover" when asking for pins, tell the Terps they were "perpetual motion machines."

This got to be too intriguing for Taylor, who finally approached Ficker in the stands.

"I couldn't stand the mystery of not knowing who this guy was," Taylor told me. "I went up to him, and I was like, 'Who are you? Who sent you? What book did you fall out of?' "

Ficker told him his name. Taylor Googled away. Soon, the entire team had a vague understanding of their celebrity fan, his history and his heckling resume. And they mostly approved.

"I kind of like it," Bell said. "It adds a little bit of excitement to the match, a little bit of laughs."

"I love it," Gilmore agreed. "It cracks me up. I think it makes some people uncomfortable, because It's not a usual thing for a wrestling match, but I like it. It adds a little spice to the match."

"Awesome," summarized Taylor. "You see very aggressive, passionate parents, but he's having a lot of fun with it. That's sort of what it's about, I think. I really like to have him come. It's a nice change of pace for us."

McCoy, the coach, said Ficker is "good for the sport," and Ficker already has plans to follow the Terps to the ACC championships in Raleigh and to this weekend's match in Charlottesville. And yes, he's already working on his material.

"The Lees of Maryland and the Lees of Virginia," Ficker told me. "The Lees of Maryland include strongly, quickly, manly, victoriously. And the Lees of Virginia include Robert E. Lee, slowly, Cavalierly, etc. we're going to have a little fun."

Which, Ficker said, is the whole point.

"You know, what's wrong with being vocal at a wrestling match?" he asked. "The opposing coaches are pretty vocal, trying to get their guys going. I admire their conditioning and I'm there to celebrate their victories, of which there have been a number, and I hope there are a lot more....Look, that's recreation time. Why not have a little fun?"

(And before any Maryland wrestling fans yell at me for publicizing Ficker over the wrestlers, give me another day.)





During the Final Four run. (By Joel Richardson - TWP)

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 16, 2010; 11:41 AM ET
Categories:  Fighting Sports , Terps  
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Comments

old whack jobs don't die. they fade away and then resurface.

Posted by: funkey | February 16, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Who knew Marty Schottenheimer was such a big Terps fan?

Posted by: NateinthePDX | February 16, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Nate, you stole my line :-)

Posted by: PDiddy | February 16, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Steinz..you're probably wondering why it's taken me an hour to respond to this. Sorry bro, I was at lunch.

Known the Fickers since I was kid and grew up with their kids. Just spoke with Mr. Ficker (he'll always be Mr. Ficker to me) a few weeks ago actually and he's doing well.

My favorite Mr. Ficker stories don't involve the Bullets, MJ or Sir Charles, or any pro or college teams--but rather his heckling the opponents of our high school teams. You think the American U wrestlers got it bad?? You should have seen him dishing it out to kids from opposing schools in MoCo. Or the time he got inside the heads of the opposing team in the MD state finals--in girls basketball!

Contrary to popular belief, he rarely if ever crossed the line at sporting events. He had a code...The Heckler's Code.
(http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/22/opinion/22ficker.html)

He's a local legend, a great American, and a role model to young hecklers such as myself.

Posted by: Barno1 | February 16, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Robin looks like Marty Schottenheimer.

Posted by: MACCHAMPS04 | February 16, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

3 of you stole my Marty line.

Posted by: kdjsgreen | February 16, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I was in the same weight class as one of Ficker's kids in high school, so I got the full experience of being heckled. I also went to Ficker's alma mater, so in tournaments I had him heckling on my behalf. Regardless of whose side he was on, I thought it improved the experience by adding a lot of energy to the match. I would agree that he didn't cross the line. I am not sure it was effective though, I think he tended to rile up the opposing wrestler more than getting in their head.

Posted by: goterps00 | February 16, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Steinz,

Thank you for giving wrestling a little bit of coverage.

Posted by: vrt2 | February 16, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Dan for covering wrestling in the Bog. In addition to UMD's top 10 ranked program, AU has a team hovering on the top 25 mark (having been as high as 14 earlier in the year) with four wrestlers ranked in the top 20 and two in the top 4. Both AU and UMD have wrestlers who can contend for NCAA titles in a few weeks. I hope if the area is lucky enough to have a wrestler from one of these schools become a national champ, the Post gives them a little bit of coverage! Josh Glenn won a NCAA title for AU in 2007 and deservedly got the front page of the sports section. If Hudson Taylor, Mike Cannon, Steve Fittery or any other wrestler from UMD or AU win we'd love to see the same!

Posted by: Pelli1251 | February 16, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

My favorite is when a pin is coming. It is a matter of a pinion.-------

One, two buckle my shoe;

Three, four close the door;

Five, six, stick him quick;

Seven, eight, you're wrestling great;

Nine, ten, ref say when!

Posted by: robinficker | February 16, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully the first of many wrestling tidbits! With the Terps ready to tussle for their third straight ACC title and improve upon their 10th place finish in the nationals, you have found the mat at just the right time! Thanks for covering a sport many of us love...

Wheaton MD

Posted by: BushH8er | February 16, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

good stuff. AU is a great example of what is good about college wrestling and MD is building a program too. hope to see more wrestling updates/articles.

Posted by: Hoops44 | February 17, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

I wrestled locally in high school. And one year we wrestled at Ficker's kids' school. He heckled us. 14 year olds were getting heckled by this horse's ass.

Posted by: Nacer09 | February 17, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I sat right by this guy on Sunday. I thought he was nuts at first. His semi-private comments to his own party were actually very reasonable and interesting, but he was loud once he figured out his chant. He didn't really heckle the other team, instead he supported the MD team in rhyme. He wasn't rude at all. He really did add a lot of fun to the meet.

Posted by: bearnakedjoe | February 17, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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