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.
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.
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.