How much is too much?

“Hey, Michael! How much you want to bet on this game?” The scene was the 1993 NBA Finals in Phoenix, and the voice was loud, braying and, to fans at the time, as familiar as the strains of NBC’s “Roundball Rock.” This was Robin Ficker, the NBA’s heckler extraordinaire, doing what he did best: burrowing deep into the skulls of the NBA’s elite.

A D.C.-area defense attorney until he was disbarred earlier this year, Ficker spent much of the 1980s and ‘90s at courtside cheering for the team then known as the Bullets (now the Wizards), ripping every opposing player of note who came through Washington. Isiah Thomas once threw a shoe at him. Former Jazz head coach Frank Layden once spit on him. The Blazers’ Kevin Duckworth once had to be restrained from going into the stands and pulling Ficker apart like a chicken wing.

Ficker even had the ability to rattle Michael Jordan himself, which is how he ended up in Phoenix taunting Jordan, holding a copy of a book alleging Jordan was an inveterate gambler. Ficker got the near-courtside seat courtesy of one Charles Barkley, whose Suns were playing the then-two-time defending champion Bulls and needed every advantage they could get. (It didn’t work.)

As it turned out, Phoenix security wasn’t nearly as indulgent as Ficker’s hometown ushers, and Ficker was bounced from the arena in the first quarter. A few years later, when Washington moved into a new arena, Ficker found his courtside seats were no longer available for him to purchase. Around the same time, the NBA created a code of conduct banning fans from bellowing at players during timeouts; the unofficially-named Ficker Rule remains in effect today.

Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne is literally a world away from the NBA’s domain, but Novak Djokovic spent a frustrating evening there at the Australian Open this week effectively begging for something similar to a Ficker Rule. While working his way through a four-set victory over French qualifier Enzo Couacaud, Djokovic played through constant heckling from a quartet of Australian fans dressed as “Where’s Waldo” characters.

Some Australian Open patrons didn't much care for Novak Djokovic. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Some Australian Open patrons didn’t much care for Novak Djokovic. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The heckling lasted for so long that at one point in the third set, another fan shouted for the Waldos to shut up, which inspired a “thank you” from Djokovic. Finally, in the fourth set, Djokovic approached umpire Fergus Murphy and begged him to intervene.

“You know who it is,” Djokovic said, pointing at the crowd. “The guy is drunk out of his mind. From the first point he’s been provoking, provoking. He’s not here to watch tennis. He just wants to get in my head. So I’m asking you, what are you going to do about it? You heard it at least 10 times. I heard him 50 times. What are you going to do about it?”

Djokovic presents an attractive heckling target for multiple reasons. He’s the best tennis player in the world, and it’s always fun to…

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Read More: How much is too much? 2023-01-20 17:13:30

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