How to zing friends and negatively influence people
Some of the great things about cyclocross include mud, pushing yourself to the limit for an hour and feeling trashed at the end of a race. Some of the bad things about cyclocross include mud, pushing yourself to the limit for an hour and feeling trashed at the end of a race. Heckling – which works so well in ’cross because riders move slowly compared with other cycling disciplines – also falls into the both good and bad categories of cyclocross.
I’ve been on the receiving end of some good and bad heckles. Once, I was chasing James Cook, a designer of this mag, late in a race on a snow-covered course in Ottawa. Our friend Bob Bergman, former Ontario provincial masters cyclocross champ, watched the action. (Actually, to call it “action” is a bit generous.) As James came by Bob, he yelled loudly enough for both of us to hear, “Matt’s a few seconds behind you. Keeping pushing, James. You can stay ahead.” As I came by, Bob yelled, “James is just a few seconds ahead of you. Keep pushing, Matt. You can catch him.” Bob both encouraged and razzed us. Masterful.
The least successful heckle I received came during a miserable race, one of those in which I suffered way, way at the back. The heckler started at me when I was at a distance. He was harsh and loud. Like really harsh. I thought, “Wow, this guy is really givin’ ’er.” As I approached the heckler, I realized I knew him. OK. Maybe the volume was supposed to signal that he didn’t mean to be harsh – some kind of irony by volume. This guy continued the shtick for a few more laps. Now, I’m not such a sensitive flower that he hurt my feelings, but he did wear on me, just like the race. Neither was much fun. To his credit, he did leave me a beer that I discovered at my car. That lifted my spirits.
This magazine’s first editor, Dan Dakin, got me good at a race. He was at the side of a turn as I bailed. “Hey, you should read Canadiancyclingmagazine for tips!” Zing! Well played, Dan. The heckle was short, cutting and funny. Another favourite came at me from a friend in Cleveland who saw me go last into the hole shot of a race. Quietly and with no detectable sarcasm, he said, “Great start, Matt.” The deadpan delivery is what gave the line its sting and boosted its humour.
So what have I learned from all these heckles? I should train more. And, if you are going to let the verbal missiles launch this fall, it’s best to keep them short. (Few are as talented as Bob. Only the best should attempt a two-part heckle.) Like any good zinger, timing and tone are important. Finally, if you feel your heckle wasn’t successful, I’m positive that giving the hecklee a beer after the race will fix everything.
Matthew Pioro Editor