Why me? Steve Bartman 10 years later

Steve Bartman went to support his Cubs, afterward he would feel the wrath of a city

Steve Bartman went to support his Cubs, afterward he would feel the wrath of a frustrated city.

We’ve all been there. Sitting in the crowd, hoping that a foul ball will come our way. A physical memory from our favorite pastime. However, for one fan he din’t catch a memory, he caught  hell. Being a Cubs fan is about dreaming. Dreaming that your team, a ball club that hasn’t won a championship since 1908 will win the World Series. Then you wake up. Your team is not in the playoffs, they’re still cursed by a billy-goat, and all you can think is “maybe next year”. Steve Bartman was one of those fans. A lifetime Cubs fan who thought he had bought a ticket to the long awaited exorcism of the Cubs’ curse. Finally the Cubs would go from the Lovable Losers to champions. He had a front row view, aisle 4, row 8, seat 113. Little did he know, this would be the spot where his life would change forever.

In 2003, the Cubs were on the verge of history. That year they dominated baseball with an 88-74 record and looked like they would finally overcome their franchise’s demons. After losing game 5 to the Marlins, The Cubs returned home to Wrigley Field with a 3-2 series lead. Cubs fans packed the friendly confines and the streets around the ballpark realizing that their salvation was 9 innings away. They had Mark Prior, the leading candidate for the CY Young Award on the hill, they were at home, it all appeared to be destiny. After jumping out to a 3-0, Cubs fans were still filled with an anxious excitement. They were six outs from glory, then five. Then, it happened. Luis Castillo fouled off a pitch that headed toward the left field foul line. A lazy pop up that was begging to be caught. Moises Alou drifted over, leaping into the air glove outstretched and then, confusion. The ball bouncing into the stands, Alou throwing his glove, screaming at the top of his long, and a fan slumped over. Then the air was filled with silence. No one knew what happened, it all happened so fast.

Bartman wasn't the only fan going for the ball

Bartman wasn’t the only fan going for the ball

In a sea of outstretched arms Bartman’s were  the ones that hit the baseball. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal. Alou couldn’t make a difficult catch, it was a foul ball. But for some reason, Cubs fans thought that this was the end. Reaffirmation that they were cursed. On the field, the Cubs were coming apart. After walking Castillo, Prior induced a perfect double play ball to Alex Gonzalez, the best fielding shortstop in baseball, who closed his glove and dropped the ball right in front of him, error. Why doesn’t anyone remember this? How was Gonzalez not the scapegoat when he cost the Cubs the chance to get out of the inning with the lead? Then, the Marlins erupted. With there new life the Marlins just keep hitting and hitting and hitting. When the dust finally settled after the barrage of hits the Marlins were winning 8-3. Eight runs, one inning, game over. The attention though wasn’t focused on how one of the best teams in baseball gave up eight runs in an inning, but with the fan with the headphones. The image of the young man wearing the glasses, black sweatshirt, green turtle neck, headphones, and Cubs hat was the picture that Cubs’ fan would vent their frustration on.

In a ballpark known as “the friendly confines”, nothing was friendly about game 6. Instead of rallying behind their Cubs, the fans instead vented almost a hundred years of frustration on one of their own. They didn’t even pause for a second to think, “hey that could have been me”. Fans began to hurl obscenities, food, and beer at their fellow Cubs’ fan until he was escorted from his seat. When his identity was finally revealed Bartman received thousands of death threats and had to go into hiding. The next day was filled with Bartman death threats, and disgusting internet jokes about how fans wanted to kill him. However, there was still a game seven left to be played. Cubs fans went from being ecstatic that the team could clinch at home to there might as well not be a game 7. Despite another opportunity, the Cubs would fall the Marlins in game 7, blowing a 3-1 series lead and the opportunity to play in the World Series. With the Cubs finished fans decided that the blame rested with an innocent fan, rather than a team that choked away three opportunities to go to the World Series. Much like Bill Buckner in Boston, both of these men were given all of the blame for losses that weren’t solely their fault, or not their fault at all. Unlike Bartman, Buckner’s demons were exorcised in 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series. As long as the World Series drought continues, fans will blame Bartman because he reminds them of the “curse” on the Cubs that has plagued the team since 1908.

It's not what Bartman did to the Cubs, it's what Chicago did to him and the people of Chicago that owe Bartman an apology

It’s not what Bartman did to the Cubs, it’s what Chicago did to him and the people of Chicago that owe Bartman an apology

10 years later the biggest question surrounding the Bartman game to me isn’t if the Cubs would have won, but what happened to Steve Bartman? In an age with technology and media where  if we sneeze people know about it, how has Steve disappeared?Like many great conspiracies there are a number of theories. Some say he moved, some say he changed his name, but none knows for sure. Despite being offered thousands of dollars to appear at shows or in commercials, Bartman has declined to show his face. Meanwhile, the man who got the “Bartman ball” sold it for 100,000 dollars. Think about that. For all of Bartman’s suffering some other Cubs fan made 100,000 dollars. One thing that is certain, the event cost Bartman the chance for a normal life. Today, he still lives in hiding because a whole fan base is against him. While ten years have passed and most have probably forgiven Bartman, he probably realizes that if he reveals himself that some nut might take a swing at him because he’s Steve Bartman. I personally feel terrible for Steve Bartman. He went to a game as a fan, he made a mistake, and asked for forgiveness. Usually, I’m the first to point out the positives that sports provides individuals in their lives, but this is not one of these cases. This is the unfortunate incident where a sporting event hurt an innocent person and their life. For all the negativity and chaos surrounding him, Steve Bartman is one of the bravest men I can think of. While most people would use this fame for material benefits or as a chance to get back at the Cubs fan base, Bartman has instead decided to move on. While we may not know where he is today, Bartman is continuing with his life as best he can despite having to live in secrecy.  It’s unfortunate but until the Cubs win a World Series, Bartman will still be the unfortunate scapegoat. This fan base has associated Bartman with the team’s World Series drought, which until it’s over means that the Cubs fans will never fully forgive Steve. However, they should be the ones apologizing. I  hope that somewhere out there that Steve Bartman is living a happy life, because if anyone deserves it, it is him. Maybe Steve Bartman might even read this article one day and I hope he does. He is one of us, a legion of loyal sports fans who could have been in that seat. 10 years later, Steve Bartman has become the most famous fan in sports history. Hopefully, this will never happen to another fan again.


Chicago Fire: Blackhawks surging!

Blackhawk up Chicago has dominated the NHL in 2013

Blackhawk up Chicago has dominated the NHL in 2013

Lockout? What lockout? The NHL is back with a bang despite the shortened 2013 season.  What’s amazing is that there’s already  a clear favorite for Lord Stanley’s Cup. While Chicago Fire may be the hottest new show without question the hottest thing in the windy city is the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are on a historic start in which they have set an NHL record of 23 games with accumulating at least 1 point. They remain the only team with a big goose egg in the lost column as they’ve scorched through the NHL season with a 20-0-3 record to start the season. How have the Blackhawks been so dominant on route to a league leading 43 points? Well for starters the have one of the best goals per game average of 3.13  and one of the best penalty killing units by killing 88.8% of their opponents power plays. But the real key to the success of the Blackhawks has been their goalkeeper Corey Crawford.  For  years the goaltending for the Blackhawks has been a large question mark. In 2013 though Crawford has seemingly come out of nowhere to lead the league in wins for NHL net minders.

Crawford could be the final piece to a Stanley Cup picture.

Crawford could be the final piece to a Stanley Cup picture.

He is second in the league in both save percentage .940 and GAA 1.53. We’ve known the Blackhawks can score but now add in one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and you have a deadly combination. It’s a pretty easy equation when trying to figure Chicago’s success. When your one of the best teams at putting the puck in the net while also being one of the best at keeping it out of your own net your going to win a lot of games. Patrick Kane has added 12 goals and 15 assists while Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have added a combined 19 goals and 19 assists apiece. The talent on this team is without question, but the only question that remains is when will this team finally drop a game? That will be interesting because it’s easy to win when you’re on a winning strike, but great teams can quickly adapt to adversity. If this team loses a game and goes on another win streak then they will have solidified themselves as Stanley Cup favorites. However, if they go on a losing streak or play 500 hockey for an extended amount of time then you have to question this team’s ability to overcome losing. While it’s great for hockey if the Blackhawks keep winning, we will not really find if this is the best team in hockey until they lose some games.  Things are going great in Chicago right now and this team is hot, but you also have to worry as a Blackhawk’s fan is this team getting too hot too early?

How Toews and the rest of the Blackhawks overcome losing will show the team's true character

How Toews and the rest of the Blackhawks overcome losing will show the team’s true character

Don’t forget it’s better to be hot in the playoffs then at the beginning of the season. No one will care how amazing this team’s start was if they lose early in the playoffs. The old saying “it’s not how you start it’s how you finish” is a great analogy for this team because if the season ends well short of a Stanley Cup victory then it has been a failure. While the playoffs are still a few moths off one thing I do know is this. This is by far the most dominant team I’ve seen in the NHL in a long time. If they continue to play anywhere near this level come playoff time, I think we will be seeing the Stanley Cup residing in the Windy City at the end of the 2013 season.