A Cubs fan and a Bart Man
Besieged fan becomes unlikely, unwanted part of Cubs lore
It's OK, Steve Bartman, it's not your fault. Still, if I were you, I wouldn't catch that 8 p.m. show of Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater tonight.
No, you don't deserve to be pinned as Public Enemy No. 1 in Chicago. You didn't cost the Cubs the game or the series. You simply did what any one of us would have done. Except most of us would have caught the ball. Two hands, my man, two hands.
Ignore that throbbing mass of humanity outside Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, the mob that wanted to go Day of the Locust all over you. Most of those people were only hanging around Waveland Avenue because they were too wasted to get a seat in the Jerry Springer studio audience. One minute, you're in a stadium with 38,000 kindred spirits ... the next minute, most of them think you're the Antichrist. One minute you think you're going to be eyewitness to one of the greatest moments of your lifetime ... the next minute you're a punchline for life.
Listen, Steve -- can I call you Steve? -- I imagine most of your friends simply call you Bartman, or more likely: The Bart Man. As in "Dude, did you see The Bart Man getting whisked out of Wrigley like Lee Harvey Oswald coming out of the Texas Theater?!"
Seriously, man. You are not a criminal. Your team was up 3-0 and five outs away from the World Series when you got in the way of that foul ball. That's all it was, a foul ball. Nobody reached base because of it, nobody scored. The fate of that ballgame was still in the hands of the men on the field. They blew it. Not you. Not in Game 6, which has historically always been the game when things go a little haywire.
There are plenty of people who make good arguments that Don Denkinger didn't lose the '85 Series for St. Louis and that Bill Buckner didn't lose the '86 Series for Boston ... and both of them sure as hell had a bigger impact than you. Nobody told those teams to go out and cough up Game 7 just because something went awry in Game 6. But they did, and so did your Cubbies.
And a lot of people want to compare your play with Jeffrey Maier's grab at Yankee Stadium in the 1996 ALCS. But it's not even close. No offense, but Maier became a hero for pulling a fly out into the bleachers for a Derek Jeter game-tying home run. You, Bart Man, are no Jeffrey Maier.
You're more like Gavrilo Princip, whom many blame for starting World War I by assassinating the Archduke Ferdinand. But just like World War I, we knew a Cubs collapse was inevitable. It was going to happen. It just needed a spark. And you, Bart Man, became that spark, an unwitting pawn in a bigger picture you couldn't have possibly forseen.
Try to see the positive in all of this. You're a native Chicagoan, a lifelong Cubs fan. And now your name will forever be linked in Chicago lore, like Al Capone, Mayor Daley and Mrs. O'Leary's cow. Enjoy the ride. I hear a Hollywood studio already has production plans for a movie based on you. No doubt Jim Belushi will be involved with that, maybe even play you.
I'm not helping, am I?
OK, look. You may be feeling down right now, and understandably so. People are saying you'll have to move, that you'll never get another job in Chicago, never get another date. People are wondering if you have to fear for your safety. Your house and your workplace have been besieged by fuming fans and smirking media. It's not fair and it's not right.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has offered you asylum if you feel the need to escape the persecution. I advise to you turn him down, for someday he may need you to return the favor.
Stay in Chicago, Bart Man. Live your life. You need to laugh about this thing because it's not really THAT big of a deal. You apologized, you feel bad ... 'nuff said. You didn't lose the game.
Besides, the Cubs will get back here again. It might not be until you're 80, but they'll get back here again.
David Vecsey's Voice of Reason column appears weekly on SI.com.