While Philadelphia sports fans have drawn their share of criticism over the years – and let’s face it, not without reason – it’s hard to envision a more shameful chapter in fandom than the treatment of one Steve Bartman by a certain segment of Chicago Cubs followers.
On Monday the Cubs gave their most infamous devotee a World Series ring, while acknowledging it in no way makes up for all the grief he has taken since 2003, when he deflected a foul ball in the eighth inning of Game Six of the National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. Cubs left fielder Moises Alou was, as a result, unable to make the catch for the inning’s second out, and acted like the south end of a northbound horse when Bartman, seated along the railing in Wrigley Field, intervened.
You can view the play here.
The Cubs being the Cubs, they went on to allow eight runs in the inning, obliterating their 3-0 lead. The Marlins went on to win by that very score that day, then won Game Seven as well en route to a world championship.
Bartman, of course, was vilified for all time (starting almost immediately).
Never mind that this wouldn’t have become an issue at all if Alou didn’t over-react the way he did. (Or if Bartman looked like, say, Mike Singletary.)
Never mind that there are precious few among us who would have the discipline to not reach for a foul ball in our vicinity.
Never mind that the Cubs imploded that day, and in Game Seven, with their two best pitchers, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, on the mound. (FYI – they frittered away a 5-3 lead in a 9-6 loss in the finale.)
It’s all Bartman’s fault. Right. Got it.
It’s enough to make you wish the Cubs had never ended their 108-year World Series drought last fall – except it was just as well that they did, so the rest of us no longer have to listen to all the whining Chicago fans used to do every year, self-pity having long ago become their stock in trade.
Steven Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times had perhaps the best take on things, when he wrote Monday that while it was admirable that the Cubs were giving Bartman a ring, he should have it fitted for a certain finger.
The middle one.