Steve Bartmen, The Cubs, The Red Sox and random thoughts that I will write about to pass the time at work
Okay, not really knowing where to start here, I am going to start by telling you that I don’t really know where to start other than it is 6:35, I am working here at the circulation desk in the library, and my Fundamentals of Journalism teacher just walked past the window with his wife and I assume his dog though I couldn’t see it. I make this assumption based on the fact that it looked like he had a plastic poop bag in his back pocket and a blue leash in his left hand (the kind that wind up like a tape measure).
Anyway, on Tuesday night I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 films documentary on Steve Bartman called Catching Hell. I watched, for the most part, the whole thing. For those of you who don’t know who Steve Bartman is…well you need to get a life that involves a little bit of sports…I mean come on. He is the most well known fan in the world. But, ill explain anyways that Bartman was a die hard Chicago Cubs fan. So die hard that he bought 3 tickets to Wrigley Field (one for him, one for his brother, and one for his brothers girlfriend) to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) game six. The Cubs were looking to wrap up their first trip to the World Series since 1945. I remember watching this game live because my dad is a Cubs fan. The Cubs were ahead of the Florida Marlins 3-0 in the top of the eighth inning and were just five outs away from victory with their Cy Young candidate pitcher, Mark Pryor on the mound, when Luis Castillo, second basemen for the Marlins, hit a fly ball down the line in left. If it were not for the wind blowing from left field to right field, the ball would have been well foul. Instead, the wind gave Mouses Alou, Cubs left fielder, a chance to make a play. (Quick side note: Wrigley Field has almost not foul ground territory. In other words the bleachers are right over the field.) Alou and about 10 fans all reached for the ball at the same time. Unfortunately, Bartman’s outreached hands were the first to touch the ball. The ball bounced away in the stands. Alou went crazy, throwing his arms around in a temper-tantrum like fury and yelling Spanish swear words at Bartman from the field below.
From that point on the Cubs fell apart. A walk, past ball, many Marlin hits, and a Cubs error later brought the score from 3-0 to 3-8. The fans, not wanting to believe what they were seeing, need a scapegoat for the collapse on the field. (Quick Side note #2: Wrigley Field also know as the Friendly Confines, was packed that night being that Cubs fans were starved for a World Series appereance. At least 42 thousand in the stands and an estimated 20 thousand standing on Waveland and Shefield Ave. ) So they turned their attention to Bartman and thus the Friendly Confines entered its darkest hour. The chant of ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE! and the pointing of fingers rained down on Bartman as he sat there. tens of thousands of voices rang out ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE!
Bartman was not the most intimidating man. In fact, he looked like a nerd sitting their in the stands. He was wearing the shirt of the Little League Team he coached, a green scarf, classes, a Cubs hat, and headphones, but not cool head phones like ear buds or Beats by Dre. More like the head phones from a 1985 Sony Walk-men.
As if the chants of ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE! and the pointing of fingers was not enough, the fans started throwing beer, pizza, popcorn, hotdogs, brats, pretzels, nachos, and pop at Barman. Videos that surfaced later picked up people from all over the stadium yelling things like, “Lets F*cking kill that guy!!” and “I hope you F*cking rot in hell!” and “Go stick a 12 gauge in your mouth and pull the trigger!”
Bartman had to be escorted out of the stadium by security before the game was over for his safety. He was taken to a security office in Wrigley where officers changed his identity so he could be sneaked out of the stadium. After the game in the streets below, fans held up signs reading, “Let’s kill that fan!”
That’s all he was to everybody was a fan. Nobody knew his name was Steve Bartman. The Cubs still had a game the following night where they could still clinch the series and go to the World Series. Then, one person idiotically released the identity of the mysterious man and Steve Bartman became the name above all other names that this generation of Cub fans will remember.
The Cubs went on to lose in game 7 in almost as dramatic of fashion, but the whole game was almost a side note to the Bartman story. Bartman could not go to work for weeks, as many as six police officers had to sit outside his house day and night to protect him. Many speculated that he changed his identity, others speculated that he moved out of Chicago or change his name. Neither of these things happened because no one would be able to recognize him if he wasn’t wearing a green scarf, Cubs hat, and head phones.
This sad story still continues today. Few people would be able to pick him out of a crowd if he was not wearing the outfit he was wearing that night. He has been able to go back to work but just wants to live his life in obscurity. He has to constantly change is phone number to avoid harassing calls. He has a lawyer team now which is crazy if you think about it. He has turned down hundreds of thousands (some people estimate millions) of dollars hat he has been offered to do interviews, commercials, and autograph signs. He is still a die hard Cubs fan.
Many Cubs fans still think they are cursed by the “Curse of the Billy Goat.” Google it if you want more information on it. In my opinion, the whole Cubs organization should reach out to Bartman and invite him into the Cubs family. Let him throw out an opening pitch, give him box seats for a whole season, and support him as a true, die hard Cubs fan in the media. Unfortunately, I don’t feel Cubs fans will let Bartman off the hook until the Cubs win the World Series, which they have been waiting for since 1908.
Where do the Red Sox come in to all this? Well, the Red Sox and the Cubs used to be compared to one another because because they were both lovable losers. The Red Sox had a streak with out a World Series crown that was only 10 years shorter than the Cubs. The Red Sox had their own Bartmen incident when Bill Buckner let a ball go right through his legs in game six the 1986 World Series when the New York Mets were down to their final out. Buckner and his family received death threats and other unfair treatment until the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.
Today, the Boston Red Sox are not looked at as lovable losers. Instead, they are looked at as an Evil Empire just like the New York Yankees. Evil Empire means they are a team that spends money with reckless abandon. Instead of developing talents, they buy talent. Yesterday, the Red Sox lost the wild card race to the Tampa Bay Rays. This should never happen because Sox payroll is 170 million more than the Rays. Since 2004, the Red Sox have gotten away from their core values, and today they are the laughing stock of Major League Baseball.
I want to end this long blog post with the end of columnist Ryan Rudnansky’s September 28, 2011 article “Steve Bartman: Have Sports Fans Learned from Wrigley Field Debacle?”
“After what happened in Wrigley Field, that day should have taught sports fans a lesson: again, that no fan should receive the kind of treatment and harassment Bartman did.
But you wonder if anyone got the message.
Bartman was pelted with drinks, peanuts and other debris and eventually had to be escorted from game from stadium security for his own protection—but later turned into a manhunt outside the stadium. Police were forced to sit and watch over his home following the death threats, and struggled mightily for a return to normalcy.
Remember Bill Buckner, the former Red Sox first baseman who let a ball go through his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series? Sure, he was forgiven to an extent, but it only happened because the Red Sox were finally able to capture two championships since.
If they hadn’t, Buckner would still receive death threats to this day, let alone get to throw out a first pitch at Fenway Park.
Bartman? Not so much. He’s not off the hook yet; not until the Cubs win a World Series of their own. And it’s sad. His name will forever live in infamy for being an innocent fan who happened to get in the way.
Outside Candlestick Park in an NFL preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, two fans, a 24-year-old and a 20-year-old, were shot in separate incidents, and a 26-year-old man was beaten unconscious inside a stadium bathroom.
When will we learn, folks? When will we learn that sports aren’t life and death?
There have been so many sad moments because of overreaction to a simple game. We watch sports because they are our outlet from the stresses of the world. Since when have sports fans become so misguided?
There are plenty of lessons to be learned spanning sports history.
When will we begin to come around?