I Am Bartman

I’m not sure what else there is to say about this. When I heard about […]

Howie Espenshied / 8.1.17

I’m not sure what else there is to say about this. When I heard about Steve Bartman getting a 2016 World Series ring from the Chicago Cubs yesterday, I got a little choked up, and I wasn’t sure why. I’m not a Cubs fan. In fact, I rooted pretty hard against them last season. Where was my emotional reaction coming from? (This actually happens all of the time, but it always comes from left field.) I then thought about that little self-description that I once put in my Twitter profile years ago: “self-deceived, loved, shunned, cherished, left for dead, rescued, buried, resurrected, ridiculed, exalted…location: sinners’ hospice.”

Yeah, that’s what I came up with–pretty cheesy. I like it though, because it’s true about me, and I wanted to put something true about me out there into the infinite social media space (or at least to my 120 followers). The Cubs’ gesture yesterday brought Bartman full-circle, and he now comes to resemble all of us who, though shattered and broken when betrayed by their own state of sin, are suddenly (miraculously) restored to fullness, from a place that they would never expect.

Steve Bartman is the “every-fan”. He’s you and me, and at Wrigley Field in 2003, he happened to be sitting in the front row along the left field line, watching his team in a key playoff moment as the New York Post summarized yesterday:

During Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, Bartman became the face of Cubs’ misfortune when he interfered with a foul ball in the top of the eighth inning, preventing left-fielder Moises Alou from making the catch. The Florida Marlins would go on to score eight runs in the inning after an Alex Gonzalez error further opened the door, winning the game, the pennant, and later the World Series over the Yankees.

After the incident, so much hate was directed at Bartman that then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested he go into the witness protection program. Bartman didn’t go that far, but has continually declined to appear publicly.

…Although he reportedly still works in Chicago, Bartman has avoided public appearances since 2003. He refused to appear in an ESPN documentary, “Catching Hell,” about the incident and has turned down numerous interview requests to numerous outlets, including this one. Among other opportunities, Bartman has also turned down the chance to be in a Super Bowl commercial.

Even non-sports fans can identify with Bartman. We all want to be in the front row to see the artists/performers/athletes/idols who have grabbed us at our most formative moments and have never let us go. What if though, when you least expect it, that idol hands you his guitar, paint brush, sculpting tool, microphone, (or in this case) the ball, and says “you’re up brother, we’re counting on you, don’t blow it”?

The rest is infamy:

Bartman continues to prefer to keep a low profile, but he issued a statement yesterday, upon receiving the ring, valued at over $100,000.

Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring,” Bartman said. “I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations.

Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organization and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over…

The curse is broken. Of course, employees in various teams’ administrative offices, groundskeepers, equipment managers–and even the occasional life long fan–have all received World Series rings over the years, but this is different.  The Cubs have reached out to the most notorious living representation of their 100+ year curse, and have brought him completely into the fold. Deserved? Heck no. It is beautiful though, especially considering that it took a miracle for the Cubs to win the World Series in 2016.

I am Bartman. Saying that feels good today, and not because he did anything special. I am Bartman because I’m the baseball-nerd type at the game who has his headphones on so that he can listen to the play-by-play, and his glove on because, hey, there might be some action. I am Bartman because I have felt shunned, and cast out, and ridiculed, but I have tasted a little bit of what it means to be brought back to life by a miracle and an act of love. Stay classy, Chicago.