Last year baseball’s “Loveable Losers”, the Chicago Cubs, ended a 108-year championship drought by rallying from being down in the series 3-1.
The superstitious “Curse of the Billy Goat” had finally been broken.
But despite the century-long exorcism, there was one more demon that had to be vanquished.
The Cubs issued a World Series ring to embattled superfan Steve Bartman, who famously became the scapegoat for a Cubs NLDS meltdown in 2003.
From the New York Times:
Steve Bartman was given a World Series ring on Monday, which should make any Chicago Cubs fan pleased for the poor fellow and grateful for an act of peaceful reconciliation.
The #Cubs today presented Steve Bartman with a World Series ring
But if this was really the conclusion of a stubborn, 14-year civic grudge, then somehow it didn’t feel like a truly happy ending. Bartman received his bejeweled gift from Cub executives in a closed-door meeting, then put out a statement that more or less admonished everybody.
“My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating,” Bartman said, “and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.”
Where is the glee, or the closure, in any of that?
In a true fairy-tale finish, Bartman would have to be honored at a game at Wrigley Field, receive a standing ovation while throwing out the first pitch, and then lead everybody in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.
That is unlikely to happen, for a number of reasons. Bartman appears to be a very private person who has had his fill of the spotlight, and of the vilification that resulted. He has again advised the news media to stay away.
It is hard to know the kind of hateful greetings he endured after interfering with a foul pop in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series — an instinctive reaction that may have prevented Cubs left fielder Moises Alou from registering the second out in the eighth inning. The Cubs were trying to protect a three-run lead, but after Bartman’s mistake, they quickly gave it away.
It is that way, still, for Bartman. Imagine the reaction if he showed up at a playoff game this October, and the Cubs lost. The bullying cycle would restart. The harsh universe of Twitter — created in 2006 — would be operating at full throttle.
Bartman’s battle was never with the Cubs, who did reach out to him through the years. His war was always with a fringe fan element that took this stuff way too seriously and never acknowledged that the team, not Bartman, blew the series. In that dreadful top of the eighth, the Cubs gave up eight runs, five hits and three walks to the Miami Marlins. They also recorded a wild pitch and an error.
Now the Cubs have won a championship after 108 years, Bartman has a ring, and the world still doesn’t feel quite right. The Cubs appear to be trying too hard to make amends. Bartman comes off as a sourpuss with his lecture, when most of us want him to join a celebration.
It isn’t fair, but sometimes a dropped foul ball is always foul.
ESPN’s Linda Cohn wasn’t moved by the Cubs’ gesture, either.
This is ridiculous. I almost thought it was a joke. Sadly it is not. Obvious peace offering to help alleviate guilt for way he was treated. https://t.co/vgeGbPIvyJ
Bartman received numerous death threats and was forced into exile, so it’s no wonder 14 years of rancor didn’t disappear instantly with a piece of jewelry.
Bill Buckner, the scapegoat for the 1986 Red Sox meltdown, finally reached a détante with the organization and the Boston fans after decades of torment (and three championships to ease the pain of their own 86-year drought), so perhaps there’s still hope for Bartman and the Cubs to have a storybook ending.