On his first day on the job, Theo Esptein, the new Chicago
Cubs president of baseball operations, was asked if he was
going to reach out to Steve Bartman, the scapegoat of the
2003 National League Championship Series. Epstein, who
didn't navigate through the Red Sox and shark-infested
media waters of Boston without being savvy, said that
it was time to reach out Bartman.
"From afar, it seems like it would be an important step,
maybe a cathartic moment that would allow people to
move forward together. I'm all about having an open mind,
an open heart and forgiveness."
As smart as the Yale-educated Epstein, his statement about
giving Bartman "forgiveness" just accentuates what is wrong
with the sports culture, our world, and the fans of Chicago.
Eight years after the Cubs imploded in the NLCS against
the Florida Marlins, people are still blaming Bartman for the loss.
As I write this, I'm thinking of former NBA great Allen Iverson's
diatribe on his feelings about being criticized for not practicing
hard. Iverson, at the time, was averaging more that 20 points a
game an MVP candidate.
"We're talking about practice, not a game, but practice,"
Iverson said emphatically. "Wait, wait, wait. Not a game,
Eight years later, the Cubs are still not talking about a player,
but a fan. Not someone who played in the game. But a
fan. Not a player like Alex Gonzalez, who butchered a
tailor-made double-play ball that would've gotten the
Cubs out of the inning, but a fan.
After reaching for a ball that supposedly caused Cubs
outfielder Moises Alou, whose defensive prowess will
never be confused with that of Ichiro, to miss a ball,
everybody in Chicagoland blamed Bartman for what
followed. Leading 3-0 in Game 6 and just five outs
from reaching the World Series, everybody immediately
vilified Bartman as if he were serial-killer John Wayne Gacy.
Thanks to Alou, who made a tantrum of epic proportions,
with a death stare on a kid wearing a headphone, a Cubs
hat, and a green turtleneck, fans showered Bartman with
beers and berated him with words reserved for players like
The Cubs go through the regular-season and the playoffs,
and they blamed Bartman for their loss. And still are. Epstein
is talking about "forgiveness"? For what, being a fan who did
what everybody else would do?
Bartman's life as he knew it was destroyed the moment Alou
yelled at him in front of Chicago and the entire baseball world.
He went into hiding. Reporters from ESPN stalked him at
work. He received death threats, hate mail, and had to have
police protection outside of his own house. He was a die-hard
Cubs fan who suddenly was wanted dead by every fan of
IT'S INSANE. Fans directed their hate at another fan, not
another player, but a fan. Imagine having your life destroyed
and being vilified for being part of a play that didn't even
count. It was nothing more than a long strike.
Fate is twisted and it is cruel. In 1996, Jeff Maier reaches
out and helps a ball hit by Derek Jerek to carry over the fence.
He is immortalized in New York, while Bartman tips a ball
that's out of play and he is ostracized. Do you think a day
goes by when Bartman doesn't think about what happened
and all the hate that comes his way. This guy loved the
Cubs but now, can no longer even go to the friendly confines
of Wrigley Field that turned out to be anything but friendly
Theo, get Bartman. Bring him out of hiding and support him.
As the new messiah in Chicago, people in the Windy City will
follow your lead. In a normal thinking world, Bartman wouldn't
need "forgiveness", but you're right, he needs it now. This
kid has been tormented long enough. Nobody should have to
live in the world Bartman has for the last eight years. Free
Bartman, give him back his life and the happiness that he