Thursday, October 14, 2010

He Was Not a Bad Man, Just a Bad Fan

Seven years ago today, a terrible thing happened. Well, that's my opinion, I suppose. If you are a fan of the Chicago Cubs, which I, unfortunately, am, then you will agree with my assessment of today's date in history.

Hmmm. Seven years ago. That would mean 2003. Chicago Cubs. October. What could he mean that something terrible...Ooooooohhhhhhhh! Now I remember.

Of course you do. With the Cubs just a few outs from going to the World Series, an achievement once thought impossible (as evidenced by the joke at their expense in Back to the Future Part 2), a foul ball lofted its way toward the stands in short left field. A poorly dressed fan by the name of Steve Bartman then made a poor decision to reach out and try to catch the ball. His attempt to procure a free souvenir prevented Moises Alou, the guy who was supposed to try and catch baseballs in left field from doing his job. The game proceeded to spiral downward like a spider in my toilet bowl after that.

Allow me to say this about the fateful events of that day. Steve Bartman acted like a bad fan. There were other bad fans in attendance that day, but his irresponsibility as a front row seat spectator was highlighted. I have helpfully pointed out the differences in the following photo:

It has been said that any fan would have reached for that ball. I disagree. In fact, above, you have photographic evidence that most fans did not reach for the ball. The fans to the right are pulling backward as are several fans on the left. In fact, a few fans on the left seem to be successfully holding back the other fans who were stupid enough to reach for the ball. Had the ball descended five feet further up the left field line, we might all know the name of the douchebag in the shirt with the blue stripe down the sleeve. But instead we know the name of the douchebag with the green turtleneck and the headphones.

You may think I'm throwing out the douchebag label pretty liberally right now. Yet, I would argue that I could sprinkle it over most of the left side of that photo. I won't. I will, however, marinate the following two people in it for their role in the result of that game:

Dusty Baker is apparently a hands-off manager (evidenced by the fact that Barry Bonds injected himself and rubbed himself with various illegal substances for several years under Dusty's not-s0-watchful eye). However, the manager with the laid back attitude (evidenced by the toothpick in his mouth despite this being a posed press photo) certainly knows what a mound visit is and I'm sure he was aware that they were playing in the National League Championship Series at the time. After Bartman's actions, it would have been the perfect time to go cool down the young pitcher on the mound. His lack of action had far more impact on the result of the game than anything Bartman did.

However, more than either of those two douchebags (there is that word again and it's not going anywhere, so embrace it) there was a third culprit that played perhaps the largest role of anyone in the Game 6 loss and subsequent crumbling of the team.

Alex Gonzalez was the shortstop with potential who never lived up to it (evidenced by...well, his whole career). After the 2003 season, he quietly left the Cubs (for the Blue Jays, I believe) and was never heard from again. He should be thanking Steve Bartman for taking the attention away from his error just two at bats later on a potential double-play ball.

While it breaks my heart to think of all of it, I feel the need to revisit that terrible day and set the record straight.

If it makes Steve Bartman feel any better (and it probably doesn't), I do not think he made the Cubs lose. Dusty Baker and Alex Gonzalez did much more to make that happen than he did. I don't think he deserved to have beer or anything else thrown at him and I don't think he should have to live the rest of his life in fear of some angry Cubs fan finding him and doing something to him or his car tires. He made a mistake and reached for a ball he shouldn't have. So did that other guy, but he was just unlucky enough to have the ball come closer to him. What's done is done and that was all seven years ago.

The healing process involves acceptance of what happened and willingness to move forward. In that spirit, I have one last thing to say to Mr. Bartman. It wasn't your fault, Steve, but you are a douchebag. Now deal with it and move forward.

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