Monday, June 27, 2011

Catching a ball only takes a second ~ "Catching Hell" can last a lifetime

Bartman.  What does that name mean to you?  Do you even know who I'm talking about?  Maybe you're thinking about the Simpsons.  Maybe you have no idea.  However, if you're from Chicago or love the Cubs, you probably know who and what I'm talking about.

I like baseball, but it's not my favorite sport.  I'm from Ohio and rooted for the Red and the Indians when I was growing up.  I'm not a lifelong Cubs fan.   I've always told myself that I wanted my own Wiki page, but I guess I should be careful about what I wish for.  For those of you that don't know or need some background, here's a link to the Steve Bartman incident.  If you'd rather cut and paste the link to stay in this window, here you are:

October 14, 2003.  Steve Bartman instinctively (i.e. along with  the people sitting near him) tried to catch a foul ball.  Unlike other people around him, Bartman got a piece of the ball and unfortunately, Moises Alou missed the catch.  After that, depending on who you talk to, EVEN THOUGH the Chicago Cubs were leading at the time, Bartman cost the Cubs Game 6, and the National League Championship series (i.e. even though there was a Game 7 that still needed to be played).

I'm not going to go into the specifics of the game.  Check the box scores and play by play and you'll see that the Florida Marlins' bats were HOT and that the Cubs were making mistakes.  I'm a gambler by nature and I believe in luck.  I believe in coolers, that dice have memory, and some dealers have signatures.  I'm not going to blame Bartman for the Cubs demise, because I also have an appreciation for the technical nature of baseball and interest in sports psychology.

I find athletes fascinating in their ability to come from behind to win and at other times choke away leads.  I think athletes and other high-achievers can follow their own self-fulfilling prophecy through hard work and WILL.  I believe that the crowd can influence the outcome of a game as well.  Ever been in sleepy arenas or in a crowd where everyone is yelling and hyped up?  Don't tell me that that doesn't play a factor in the minds of the players and vice versa.  Regardless, I do believe in luck, both good and bad.

I have no idea what it would feel like to have so many people in a ballpark dislike me.  I have no idea what it would feel like to have people seek me out to harm and to abuse me.  I have no idea how Bartman, aside from his apology, has managed to stay silent about his feelings towards the entire incident.  To be the object of a ballpark and city's REJECTION had to be incredible (i.e. in the literal sense of the word).  Individual people can be cruel, but to be the target and victim of individuals with a "gang mentality" has to be terrifying.  No one wants to be the butt of a joke, and to have people dress up like you for Halloween had to be a surreal experience.

I screened Alex Gibney's latest film, "Catching Hell", last week as part of the AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs film festival in Silver Spring, Maryland (i.e. Washington, DC).  I screened it because sports have obviously slowed down for me and I wanted to review another film.  I was also curious about the Bartman story because I didn't know it.

"I'd rather eat rat poison than relive that moment," was the comment I received from my friend, Bryan Erwin.  ****  This is a picture of us, when a group of us went to the Cubs home opener in 2010.  Bryan lives and dies with each Cubs W or L.  I immediately thought to invite him when I decided to attend the screening and I couldn't have been more shocked by his reaction.  After all these year, the mere mention of the Bartman incident opened up old wounds.

To the casual observer, sports are on the periphery of one's life.  However, for the devoted fan, sports are a part of his/her soul.  You feel the game in your bones.  Your heart races, drops, and or skips a beat if you're full ingrained in the action on the field, in the ring, on the court, etc.

People cope in different ways.  Some people internalize, some people externalize, and other will point to someone and assign blame.  In a time when television and digital cameras are as prevalent as hot dogs, there's no such thing as anonymity.  Big brother or someone is almost always watching so you better be camera ready...  If your moment is "compelling enough", a replay of the video or your photos with show over and over and over and over and over...

Unfortunately for him, Bartman's video and pictures in the cubs hat, green turtleneck, and headphone are burned into peoples' brains.  He has had more than his 15 minutes of "fame".  Just last week I was watching Pardon the Interruption, and Bartman's name came up.  Maybe it's time we "let it go" and learn a lesson from the experience ~ that is, after you watch the movie.

The narrator of the film poses an interesting question as the film weaves in the story of  the Boston Red Sox  organization and the Bill Buckman story.  Maybe as suggested, once the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, Bartman will be forgiven.  However, will Bartman forgive Chicago?  I guess we will never know, because he isn't talking...

According to producer, Gary Cohen, "Catching Hell" will air on ESPN on September 27.



  1. Worst moment (when it comes to sports) of my life. I was depressed for at least a month.

  2. There was definitely a primitive, strong reaction in the crowd to the unfortunate events. Talking about riding the emotional highs and lows at a game!

  3. haha well i guess that some people need some control anger therapy because i had saw many things on the street that i can't really believe, i wonder why but seems like the world is going crazier everyday...

  4. In these kind of sport events, emotions really run high. It is funny how a catch by a fan affects the outcome of the game, this kind of thing is only present in baseball.

  5. True. Fan interference is a game-changer...