Noisy fan won’t follow Wizards to downtown D.C.
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) _ For 12 years Robin Ficker mercilessly taunted the Washington Bullets’ opponents from his seat behind the visiting bench.
He wasn’t vulgar or profane. Just LOUD. And relentless.
When Michael Jordan was in a team huddle, Ficker read unflattering passages from the book ``The Jordan Rules″ or poked fun at Jordan’s gambling habit.
When Charles Barkley approached the foul line, Ficker chanted ``Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun!″ for the McDonald’s burger the pudgy player endorsed.
When Chris Webber arrived with the Golden State Warriors, Ficker never let him forget how he mistakenly tried to call a timeout for the University of Michigan in the final seconds of the NCAA championship game when his team had none.
``TIME OUT!″ he would yell at Webber. ``STOP THE GAME! Chris Webber wants a TIME OUT!″
But one of the NBA’s most vocal fans will not be heard from this season when the renamed Washington Wizards play their first game at the MCI Center in downtown Washington in December. Ficker won’t be moving with them because the team didn’t offer him the same seats in the new arena.
Wizards spokesman Matt Williams said the area behind the visitor’s bench was going to be designated for the handicapped, although the plan later was changed. The team offered him another seat, but Ficker didn’t want to sit behind the basket.
``I wish he could be at the MCI Center. He was always on our opponent’s behinds, giving them heck,″ said Wizards guard Calbert Cheaney, avoiding coarse language just as Ficker would.
Ficker constantly taunted Barkley about his ambition to become governor of Alabama, shouting questions about the economy, health care and NAFTA.
Ficker remembers Barkley’s response to one policy question: ``Well, I do have a view on the death penalty: They should use it on you.″
Barkley once scrawled on Ficker’s white posterboard ``My name is Robin. I’m retarded.″ But, grudgingly respecting Ficker’s enthusiasm, Barkley also once called him ``the best fan in the NBA″ and gave the heckler two game balls over the years.
Others shared the mixed feelings about Ficker’s departure.
``I’ll miss him a little bit, but there’s probably a lot of guys glad to see him go,″ said Reggie Miller, an Indiana Pacers All-Star with his own reputation for trash talking. ``It’s hard to say stuff to him because he’s always yelling so much.″
How did this 54-year-old defense attorney from suburban Washington gain such expertise in the art of basketball? Well, he played the game himself, at Montgomery Blair High School. And he was pretty good too, he says, ``except for shooting and dribbling.″
Nevertheless, he remained a lifelong sports fan, traveling several times to watch the Olympics and holding season tickets to the Washington Redskins. The rabid cheering helps him break out of the white-collar world without drinking, swearing or attacking anyone.
``I think at a sporting event, you should be able to let loose a little bit and have a vicarious thrill,″ Ficker said. ``I think it’s a very healthy release.″
``I’ll miss the players,″ he said, ``and not the owners.″
With 41 free nights each basketball season, Ficker can now concentrate on making a ruckus in another arena: politics. He has already been the impetus behind local petition drives in Montgomery County to cut taxes. Now he is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2000.
And Ficker has other games to watch. His son Flynn plays football, wrestling and lacrosse at DeMatha High School in Prince George’s County. His daughter Desiree is attending the University of Alabama on a track scholarship.
Webber, now a forward for Washington, remembers being stung by Ficker’s ``Time Out!″ taunts when he came to town as a Golden State Warrior.
``He was getting on me. It was funny and I actually hated it until we won the game,″ Webber said.
But it became different when Webber was traded to Washington.
``He’s a part of the Bullets,″ Webber said. ``He’s not out there booing us, like some fans out there. With all the people that come and boo, I’d rather have Ficker there.″