This is how you handle fans that heckle you. First, you go out and kick butt on the field. Then you make a piece offering to the heckler that then makes them feel like crap for heckling you. If you do it like Bell did it, well...just check out this great piece reported by Scott Fowler. You can read the whole story over at Charlotte.com but I love stories like this.
Let's start with the obnoxious fan:
Carolina Panthers’ Byron Bell won over a heckling fan last Sunday – first with his play, then with his cleats | CharlotteObserver.com
"I've missed five home games my entire life," he said. He had gotten engaged the day before the Panthers-New York Giants game Sept. 15 and was feeling feisty as he sat in the stands with his fiancee and her parents.
"Hey Byron," Hurley yelled as Bell walked by him. "Mario Williams said thanks for last week!"
So we were all sore after that Bills game and Bell was a target by many. Yet rather than ignore the fan Bell let him know he was listening:
"He was jawing at me," Bell said of Hurley. "So I kind of looked up at him. Look, people can say whatever they want to say. I had had a bad game. But nobody's perfect." According to Hurley and nearby Panther fan Tripp McNeill, Bell – 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds – then started walking toward midfield. He kept staring at Hurley, who is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. "He was giving me the death glare," Hurley said.
I'm betting Hurley wanted to crawl under his seat after receiving the death glare. I've heckled players but its always under assumption they aren't going to notice me. Most might not be so mean about if they know they will be confronted by said player. I'm not advocating that by the way, just stating reality. Bell on the other hand wasn't letting Hurley off the hook.
"It couldn't have been any more obvious," said McNeill, who owns seats on the front row directly in front of the Hurley family's seats. "Byron walked from the 20, all the way to 50, and never took his eyes off of Johnny. It was a frozen stare."
Bell then proceeded to have his best game this season if not his career. But the story doesn't end there. You might think 'Oh its about to get ugly', but Bell is not that kind of guy:
That could have been it, but Bell decided he wanted to meet the fan. "It wasn't one of those confrontation-type deals," Bell said. "I just wanted to talk to him."
So after shaking hands with opposing players at midfield, Bell came sprinting toward Section 134. "Byron Bell is coming to kick your butt!" McNeill yelled to Hurley.
I'm thinking this fan was a little apprehensive as Bell approached him. Bell wasn't there to give the fan a piece of his mind. Instead he gave him something to remember:
"I want you to have something," Bell added. He took off his cleats. On them, Bell had written "Rest in peace Isaiah" – a reference to Bell's younger brother who died in a house fire in 2007 in Texas. He told Hurley and the other fans leaning over about his late brother. Bell handed the cleats up to Hurley.
Even though Hurley has been coming to games since he was in elementary school, it was the first time he had ever gotten something from a player. "I had to eat some humble pie that day," Hurley said. "Byron showed me what sort of guy he was that day – now I have an understanding of the man, not just the football player. I'm always going to be a Byron Bell fan."
Wow...what a great example Byron Bell just set for fans and players alike. I found this story very touching so I had to share as we gear up coming off our bye week.
I optimistic Byon Bell can play better the rest of this season. Even if he doesn't I have a lot more respect for this guy after reading about his kind gesture to a fan that really didn't deserve it. This is just another example of why I love the Carolina Panthers. They seem to cultivate guys like Byron Bell who regardless of the circumstance seem to rise about football and show us all what really is important.
Hat tip to Scott Fowler for reporting something that made me feel good on a Monday morning.