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updated: 10/15/2013 9:45 AM

Bartman just part of stuff that happens to Cubs

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  • Moises Alou and Steve Bartman became a part of Cubs history on Oct. 14, 2003, in Game 6 of the National League championship series at Wrigley Field.

      Moises Alou and Steve Bartman became a part of Cubs history on Oct. 14, 2003, in Game 6 of the National League championship series at Wrigley Field.
    Associated Press File Photo

 
 

Cubs fans are a perpetually confused gaggle of baseball fans.

Like, they don't know whether it's politically OK to condemn Steve Bartman for his part in the Cubs going 105 years without winning a World Series and 58 years without even playing in one.

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People seem afraid to say out loud that they believe Bartman did something that helped cost the Cubs a victory in Game 6 of the 2003 National League championship series.

The Cubs lost Game 7, too, and along with that their best chance since 1945 to qualify for a World Series.

Few are willing on this 10th anniversary to acknowledge that it mattered that Bartman blocked Moises Alou's opportunity to catch a fateful pop fly down the left-field line.

Maybe leniency toward him is appropriate considering the immediate indignities he suffered. Fans threw junk at Bartman, who was sitting in the front row not far down from the Cubs' bullpen. Security personnel had to escort him out of danger. He later received death threats.

"By the end of the night," The New York Times wrote this week, "he was the most infamous fan, perhaps, in the history of American sports."

My goodness, really? It's not like Bartman committed a federal crime. No, not even in the context of the flustered Cubs proceeding to do what they do best -- play terribly, blow a lead, lose the game, lose again the next night and fail to advance to the World Series.

It's just sports, folks, so maybe Cubs fans should treat Bartman gently now. Still, there must be some response between launching missiles at him and being reluctant to acknowledge his role in the 2003 meltdown.

Cubs fans shouldn't feel required to change history by pretending that Bartman didn't contribute to the debacle. Game 6 still is known as the Bartman game for a reason.

If the young man wearing a Cubs cap, green turtleneck, eyeglasses and earphones didn't get in Alou's way in the eighth inning, the Cubs had a solid chance to pull within four outs of the World Series.

Wrigley Field paranoia being what it is, the widespread theory is that the title of Tuesday night's CSN Chicago documentary "5 Outs" would be different but not "The 10th Anniversary of the Most Glorious Victory in the History of Chicago Cubs Baseball."

It simply would be "4 Outs" because shortstop Alex Gonzalez likely still would have booted a groundball, pitcher Mark Prior likely still would have given up the lead and manager Dusty Baker likely still would have made a couple of debatable decisions.

If all of those guys did everything correctly, the Cubs would have concocted a way to lose Game 6 anyway and then Game 7, right?

They're still the Cubs, after all.

However, their inevitable gaffes don't mean Bartman has to be patronized. It's all right to acknowledge that he played at least a minor role in the Cubs' collapse.

Bartman can be praised for preferring privacy and anonymity the past decade instead of accepting money for telling his story. At the same time he can be criticized for getting in Alou's way … even if you, I and just about anyone else would have reached out to grab at the ball.

Because Bartman happened to be the wrong person in the wrong seat at the wrong time, he was in position to do the wrong thing.

That's enough for the Cubs to have a Bartman curse and for him to be known as a human Billy goat.

All in the spirit of fun, we hope. Please don't throw anything at Steve Bartman if he ever comes out of hiding.

It's just baseball and stuff happens … usually to the Cubs.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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