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The Bartman Game Revisited Ten Years Later

You might find it odd for a White Sox site to post something about the Cubs unless it involves the Crosstown Classic but the “Bartman Game” was a moment in Chicago baseball history and as a baseball fan from Chicago, I felt it appropriate to look back on that moment.

As a White Sox fan I was not emotionally invested in that game, that is to say I didn’t live and die with it the way Cubs fans did.

To say that I had no emotional investment in it would be a lie.  Like many Sox fans I was worried that the Cubs were on the verge on finally breaking a curse and would be doing so before the White Sox, thus giving my Cubs friends bragging rights for who knows how long.

Possibly more concerning than that, was the possibility of a Cubs vs. Yankees World Series matchup, leaving me the option of rooting for the Yankees or just slitting my wrists.  There was a part of me, I can admit, that was a little bit intrigued with the possibility of the Cubs in the World Series.  It was something that seemed so far-fetched that actually seeing it happen would have been like watching something out of the pages of fiction, not unlike seeing a leprechaun riding a unicorn.  However the thought that most often passed through my mind was, “I can’t wait to see how they blow this.”

It’s a terrible thought when you think about it, but that’s just it, EVERYONE was thinking it, whether it was Cubs fans, Sox fans or just the casual observer.  How can you not?  Generations of baseball fans have watched the game knowing nothing but failure from the team on Chicago’s north side.  They are the loveable losers, destined to come up short.  It is ingrained in our way of thinking.  Every Cubs fan, no matter how optimistic, had the same thought in the back of their minds whether they wanted it there or not.  And then it happened.

A harmless foul pop fly down the left field line signaled the beginning of the end.  I knew it as soon as it happened.  I knew it the moment Moises Alou threw a fit and pointed to the stands.  It was going to come apart.  It couldn’t happen any other way, it was too Cubs.  I turned to my roommate and said, “That was it, they are going to lose this game.”  What happened next was unexplainable, except that it was so Cubs.  Their best pitcher started to melt down.  Their best fielder made a critical error.  The floodgates opened and what had seemed like a night that would shine forever, instead lives in infamy. 

What really happened was that the history of the Cubs got the better of everyone.  Fans can get a free pass for letting the impending feeling of failure creep in, after all that’s all they have known.

What was shocking was that the feeling of doom in the stands somehow made its way onto the field and infected the players.  At the same time the Cubs began to wilt, the Marlins became empowered.  Momentum is a funny thing, many people say it is a myth, but if you watched that game you know better.

Predictably, as each on field failure compounded on itself, the fans in the stands turned their ire towards Steve Bartman.

It was never fair the ridicule that came Steve Bartman’s way, but there is nothing about being a Cubs fan that is fair.  I can’t blame the fans for the way they reacted in the heat of the moment, although I in no way condone the way the fans acted by pelting him with beer cups and anything else they could get their hands on.  But I can’t sit back and say that if that happened to the White Sox, that I wouldn’t have been angry with him because in the heat of the moment, I would have.

I would have blamed him, however unfairly, for stealing the dream of seeing my team play in a World Series.  The rational fan in me likes to think that in the next day or so before Game 7 that I would have shifted the blame where it belonged, to the players on the field, but there is a part of being a fan that is totally irrational and I can’t say for sure if that would have been the case. 

It is 10 years later and I think that most Cubs fans know that Steve Bartman isn’t the reason the Cubs lost the 2003 NLCS.  What Steve Bartman is, is a part of baseball and Cubs mythology.  He is as ridiculous as the goat or the black cat or the Black Sox or the “Curse of the Bambino,” nothing more than an attempt to blame some higher force for a team’s lack of success.  Some day in the future the Cubs will break through and win it all, just like the Red Sox and White Sox did.

When that day comes, everything that happened before it will be forgotten.  I only hope that Steve Bartman is around to see that day, because no one would deserve a Cubs World Series Championship more than him. 

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