Jackson doesn't ignore him. Glaring at Ficker with disgust, he barks, "If you don't shut up, I'll have you thrown out!"
A minute later Jackson himself is thrown out, for berating a referee. The Bulls lose the game, and Ficker laughs a self-satisfied little laugh. Knick fans swap high fives with him. "You're the reason we won," one says. "You're a psychopath, but a great psychopath."
Ficker, who flew in from Washington, D.C., just to pester the Bulls, clearly loves to harangue. Loudly and continuously. He's a plain pain in the butt, extraordinarily irritating and thoroughly embarrassing. "Don't forget persistent," says the 49-year-old Potomac, Md., attorney. "I'm an Aries. That's the ram. Get it?" If you're standing beside him, you get a jab in the ribs with that gel it.
For nine seasons Ficker has been a fixture at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md., where he holds forth at the same elevated decibel level at least 41 times a year. His thunderous disapproval of all opponents of the Washington Bullets is legendary: Ficker is so disruptive that during timeouts, some teams move their huddles into the paint. The Philadelphia 76ers once raised a banner behind their bench to muffle Ficker's taunts and epithets.
Bricked into Ficker's brain is the belief that he can break a visiting team's concentration. "The best way to distract players is to keep repeating their names with little variations: Hare Jordan, Airball Jordan, Airhead Jordan," he chortles. Hee hee. Jab. "Get it? And it's important to do your research on their private lives."
It works. "I've seen Robin totally mess with a guy's mind," says former Bullet guard A.J. English. "It's like having a sixth man on the floor."
Which is how Ficker sees himself. "The Bullets need me as a sixth man, because the five they have on the floor aren't good enough to make the playoffs," he says.
All this Fickering has earned him the title Heckler From Hell. "If there was an open season on fans, he'd be the one I'd bag," wrote Larry Bird in Drive, his autobiography. "He's mouthy the whole game.... He doesn't even watch what's really going on; he just hollers all the time." Jordan once heaved a basketball at Ficker. Former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden spit at Ficker. Indiana Pacer forward LaSalle Thompson spit at him, then spit again and again. The Golden State Warriors doused Ficker with Gatorade, prompting forward Chris Mullin to say, "He was the only thing I hit all night."
Layden admits that his own aim was not as good. "I spit and missed," Layden says. "And I tried to throw water on him. I was hollering at him and I was going over the seats after him, but he was a coward and kept yelling 'I'm a lawyer!' But let me tell you, I wish that we had a Robin Ficker in every visiting arena we go to. Because he gets your team up, he gets you up. He would do more than I ever could to motivate my team. If I were with the Bullets, I'd get him out of there."
Some opposing players claim they actually get a kick out of Ficker. "He's talking jive, and what's wrong with that?" asks 76er guard Hersey Hawkins. "Besides, a lot of things he says are true." Charles Barkley, of all people, calls Ficker "the best fan in the NBA." Ficker returns the compliment by branding Barkley "the biggest baloney sandwich in the NBA." After Barkley, then with the 76ers, fouled out of a close game with the Bullets, Ficker presented him with a T-shirt that proclaimed I'M HAVING A MAALOX MOMENT. The following season Barkley offered Ficker 76er playoff tickets. "Behind the visitors' bench," Barkley says.