On Steve Bartman

On Tuesday night, I watched the ESPN documentary Catching Hell directed by Alex Gibney.

The film debuted at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, and it was excellent.

The show's premise is to explore how society typically tries to simplify failure.  Rather than see all of the miscues that contribute to not succeeding, people tend to focus on one shortcoming or perceived shortcoming to create a "scapegoat."

"Catching Hell" focuses on two such scapegoats in baseball history--one being that of Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman.

In October of 2003 at a Cubs playoff game, Bartman, along with seven other fans reached out to catch a foul ball that was hit near the stands. 

Bartman's hand was closest and interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou causing the player to miss the ball--and what would have been an out.

What happened next to Steve Bartman, in the short and long term, was shameful. 

Television coverage and announcers singled out Bartman.

A near riot at the stadium ensued.

His face invoked anger among fans.

Talking heads like ESPN and ABC's Michael Wilbon spoke of "hatred" for Steve.  Really, hatred...

He received multiple death threats.

Then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (the same character who was later impeached and convicted of a range of crimes) fueled the fires by trying to be funny in announcing that there would be "no pardon" for the young man.

The press published Steve Bartman's name and home address--police then had to provide 24 hour security at his residence.

His life was forever altered.

Even almost ten years later, Bartman lives the life of a hermit living and working in the Chicago area. 

His friends say that he put the incident behind him, but to preserve his family's privacy, he won't even apply for a credit card--trying to prevent some still angry fan from tracking him down.

All this for simply trying to catch a foul ball at a game.

Something almost anyone else in the same situation would have done. 

Strange how life is.

One unsung hero from this sad tale was Erika Amundsen who worked security during the game.  She helped Steve escape the angry mob at the stadium and hid him in a secured area until the game ended.

She then helped him to change his appearance, and led him away from the stadium where she tried to secure a cab--so that Steve could get home. 

When Steve was recognized on the streets, the pair fled to Erika's nearby apartment where she allowed him to take refuge until the early hours of the morning. 

She risked her personal safety and offered her own residence to someone that she had never met--a person who could have been a serial killer for all she knew. 

But, she just saw him as a person in need.

Erika was finally able to get a vehicle to shuttle Steve home.

With the show detailing her compassion and courage, I hope that Erika's actions are now recognized and rewarded.

It is not something that many folks would have done.

In any event, the documentary is moving and well worth your time.

Though if you are a sports fan like me, it will have you reflect on priorities and how low on the list that sports should actually be.


Lipstick said...

My goodness...that makes my head spin. Sort of reminds me of the security guard who was the bomb suspect at the 96 Atlanta Olympics...seems like it was an agonizingly long time before he was exonerated.

Poor guy, Bartman. Maybe this film will finally "exonerate" him.

and Blagojevich....that's just inexcusable.

Pat Hatt said...

As you say people always look for someone to blame. It's a friggin game with a bunch of over paid whiny cry babies.(I like sports, but that doesn't change my opinion)

Any normal person would have tried to catch the ball as well. Sad how people always need that scapegoat.

Audrey Allure said...

Interesting! I will definitely look out for this.

Bob G. said...

Gonna have to check that out, becasue I've seen frenzies related to sporting events...not nice to watch.
(but nit as bad as soccer in the UK)
"Our" priorites have become SO messed up over the last few decadess...I agree with that.

As a society, we've COLLECTIVELY allowed sports (in general) to become way too overblown, too hyped up, and too full of more CELEBS than athletes.

And that's just the tip of this 'berg. (imho).

Good post.
(I'll be looking for that show, too)

You stay safe out there.

Tara said...

Shameful isn't even the right word! That's bullying at its lowest form. Grr.

I'll have to check this one out. Sounds lije Erika is pretty amazing human being!

ladyfi said...

What a terrible sad story. Sometimes people's memories are too long. And what a wonderful thing Erika did!

Michael Offutt said...

Poor Steve. People are just animals and treat others like crap all the time. This doesn't surprise me at all.

Brian Miller said...

this is shear madness...people take things way serious...sports in particular...went to an NFL game recently and there were people genuinely pissed off and ready to fight each other...ugh...

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

It really bothers me how people are so quick to judge and send hate mail. When they don't actually know the person at all. Tremendously sad.

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

That poor man! I'm so glad someone helped him. It sounds like an amazing story!

The Blonde Duck said...

I heard this was really good.

James (SeattleDad) said...

Sounds like a must see. And what happened to Bartman was a shame.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

I LOVE this! What a great post. I would love to watch that Documentary. That POOR man, honestly, like you say at the end - in the scheme of things, that is so not important. Not at all. Not even a little bit. How said that this man was so affected by what was likely an impulse... :( That makes me very sad for that man. I want to try and Netflix this Documentary, sounds like it's right up my alley.

Maxi said...

This type of story always leaves me with one thought…

The children are watching.

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

Wow! Isn't that crazy. Sometimes people just need to chill out ;)

Ed Pilolla said...

i didn't see the espn show, but i think bartman is a special person. he could certainly sell his story and write a book but he hasn't ever used his 'fame' to do any of that. this actually presents a problem for the media, because he is a true victim. the usual response for someone who gets toasted in the media is that he or she wrote a book and made money off the whole fiasco so what's the harm? but bartman is really pure this way. he's even -- dare i say it -- prophetic that way.