When the Wizards moved to Verizon Center (then MCI Center), Robin Ficker very publicly announced that he wouldn’t be moving with them. The local attorney and world-famous heckler was a constant just behind the opposing team bench in Landover, but when he seats were relocated at the new arena, Ficker gave up his role.
And he stayed away from NBA games for 16 years. Until Sunday night. When he showed up two rows behind the Pacers bench, with a Terps T-shirt, a dry-erase board, and several props, ready to give Indiana heck. (He doesn’t curse, obviously.)
I talked to Ficker on Monday morning and he wouldn’t exactly explain how or why he broke his drought on Sunday. An attorney gave him the ticket, he said, and he didn’t pay a dime for it. He claimed it was all just a big coincidence. But he certainly left his mark on the game.
“I was talking to Roy [Hibbert] and telling me that he looked very tired, he looked like my bicycle — two-tired — and he needed a rest and he needed to take a nap,” Ficker said. “I had my dry erasable board; I was trying to send message to him there, writing that he looked too tired and that he needed to take a nap. Then I told him that he should do maybe what his mother would suggest, seeing as how it was Mother’s Day, and that was to take a nice hot bath with his favorite toy. And luckily I had my granddaughter Beau’s little rubber ducky with me, I said you could put this in the bath with you Roy and just relax like your mom would tell you and maybe take a nice nap.”
Hibbert evidently heard.
“He woke me up,” Hibbert said of a heckler after the game, via CSN Washington. “He said I was tired. He was saying a lot of obscenities. I’m a God fearing man so I’m not going into saying what he was saying…He got me going and I let him hear [me].”
I don’t believe Ficker would have used obscenities; he has always avoided that. And another fan was apparently joining in on the fun; Ficker said the other fan received a formal warning. So I don’t know exactly who woke the big man up in the second half, when he had 15 points and 7 rebounds. But Ficker said Hibbert was definitely responding to the heckling.
“He started saying some nasty things, which surprised me quite a bit. I don’t know why; I was just trying to help the guy,” Ficker said. “My suspicions were confirmed later on when Roy started telling me hey you woke me up. Which confirmed to me that he did look very tired, and he did need a nap and he did need a hot bath with his rubber ducky toy.”
Not sure if the TV cameras caught this, but Lance Hibbert barking at a Wizards fan in the front row.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) May 12, 2014
Of course it wasn’t just Hibbert. Ficker heckled Paul George about his stolen watches, suggesting he tell time with an iPhone instead. He heckled Frank Vogel about his plays, drawing up alternative plays on his dry-erase board and suggesting Indiana use his advice. He asked the Pacers bench players to sit down so fans could see. He wrote a message that “Larry Nerd” needed to trade Hibbert. Bird, an old sparring partner, recognized Ficker.
“Then Larry Nerd walked by right there at the end of the [first] half and he started saying some naughty things too,” Ficker said. “I said ‘Larry, I thought we were friends.’ Maybe he had seen the sign I put up that said Larry Nerd Says Trade Roy. He suggested that I might have had a hicky on my neck, which seemed like an odd thing to say because I’m trying to talk to him about basketball.”
Ficker saw one of the ushers who used to work at the Cap Centre. He said he was recognized by many fans, posing for photos after writing personalized messages on his dry-erase board. He said one official warned him not to call players names; “I wasn’t calling anybody any names. I was just trying to tell Roy that he looked tired and he needed to rest,” Ficker said.
And while he didn’t say whether he might be back, he said he enjoyed his return.
“It was déjà vu. It was exciting to be there with the guys, to be able to talk to them and to be able to take their mind off the game, because I know some of them were feeling stressed, especially in that first half,” Ficker said. “It seems to me just from looking at the demeanor of those hot heads on the Pacers that they should be an easy team to beat. I mean, they’re easily distracted, their heads are not in the game. I was impressed with George’s focus, but he’s only one guy, and one guy can’t beat you.”