Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bartman and Both Sides of Forgiveness: Review of Catching Hell

Last night on ESPN was the debut of the documentary movie "Catching Hell".  Initially this movie was to be included last year in the 30 for 30 Series but got bumped.  However, they released it as the first movie in the new "season" of documentaries on ESPN and in my opinion is right up there with some of the best in the 30 for 30 series.

The story of "Catching Hell" essentially one of a scapegoat.  Although the main part of the story is about Steve Bartman, Chicago Cubs fan, there is also the story of Bill Buckner, Red Sox player that bookends the story.  In both instances, the label of scapegoat is placed because fans essentially want someone to blame for the losses that their long suffering teams had to face.

The movie itself was very good.  When it first started and the majority of the first twenty minutes was about Buckner I was kinda eh.  I was like "When are we going to get to Bartman?"  But the director, who's a Red Sox fan, tied it together and it ended up working out using Buckner in that capacity.

As some may know, growing up as a kid in Tennessee in the 80s, my allegiance to a MLB team were fluid.  In 1986, it was the first time I actually kinda kept up with it.  I liked the Red Sox and was pulling for them.  At the time, I was disappointed that they lost but didn't realize until later why I wasn't supposed to like Buckner.  Later on, I found out why and looking back now I understand why part of the blame should go to him but not all of it.  It wasn't just him who caused the team to lose but it was easy to put the full blame on him.  (Side note, in the documentary there was a clip of the postgame interview of the losing pitcher who was more than willing to throw Buckner under the bus, highly disappointed in that guy for not standing up for his teammate).  Red Sox fans for the longest time could not forgive Buckner, so much so that he had to move from Boston.

Fast forward to 2003, both the Red Sox and the Cubs were in the championship series with a chance at the World Series (side note, one of two contentions with the documentary, the movie made it seem in a sense that the Red Sox/Yanks series was over with prior to the Cubs/Marlins series, those two series were going on at the same time).  At the start of the playoffs, I predicted a Red Sox/Cubs World Series....mainly because I thought it'd be an awesome series.  Unfortunately on the AL side that didn't happen thanks to Grady Little and Aaron Boone in Game 7.

On the NL side, the Cubs had the opportunity to clinch a World Series berth in Game 6 of the NLCS.  They had the lead into the 8th inning when an innoculous foul ball hit by Luis Castillo is interferred with by a Cubs fan.  Later on in the inning, an error by Alex Gonzalez extends the inning and from that the Marlins blast open the game and end on winning Game 6 to force a Game 7.

At the time, I thought two things.  One, how in the world could a fan of the home team reach out onto the field when the home team was playing defense?  Second, what was he thinking?

After the fact, was it told who the person was & there was a firestorm from it.  Local media then national media picked up on the story.  Everyone knew about him but no one knew him.  And he wasn't talking, he issued a statement that was read by his brother in law but other than that nothing.  The Cubs ended up losing the series and the long streak of no World Series victories continued.

I had thought that Cubs fans were mad at Bartman more so after Game 7 but watching the documentary it was evident fans in the stadium were mad that night.  Home video from inside the stadium showed how hostile "The Friendly Confines" became.  The documentary does a great job of incorporating that footage into the story.  I think the main things that I picked up from that footage are that from an angle in the upper deck right over the really does look like Bartman interfered with OF Moises Alou in making the catch (there was long dispute whether Alou really had a chance at it) and that people really hated Bartman for that.

Since that incident, there has been no public words from him.  Aside from an reporter trying to track him down in 2005, there has been seemingly no contact with him.  He has seemingly disappeared.  And in some ways, it has made it even easier to keep protraying him as a scapegoat for that series.

What is a scapegoat by the way?  It refers to an Old Testament ritual that was established for the Israelites after they had left Egypt.  As part of the process for atoning for the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would have two goats brought to him.  One of the goats would be sacrificed in response to the need for atonement.  The other goat would be presented in front of the people.  The high priest would then lay hands on the goat and that symbolized the sins of the people being placed on the goat.  The goat was then released out into the wilderness, hence the scapegoat.

(The other point of contention with the documentary was that they had a female Unitarian minister explain what a scapegoat was...could've got someone with a little more authority to speak on that but that's my opinion)

The documentary ends showing Buckner throwing out the first pitch at Opening Day at Fenway Park in 2008 after the Red Sox had won the World Series for the second time in four years.  It was a touching moment because Buckner was shown to have forgiven the media (who he blamed, not the fans for the troubles) and the media and fans forgiving him.  I had forgotten about that scene and was really cool to see.  With Bartman, there is a question mark still left.  The director thinks (and maybe rightly so) that Cubs fans will forgive Bartman when the Cubs win the World Series.

After watching the documentary, there were several things that came to mind that I tweeted about.  One, what would it have been like if Twitter or iPhones had been around?  In 2003, social media wasn't what it was today.  There were blogs but not to the extent there is now.  Texting hadn't really taken off as a means of communication.  Second, how would it have been different if the play had taken place in like the 1st inning or the 3rd inning instead of the 8th inning?

I think the main one was "What if Bartman had spoken up right after it or that offseason?"  I think it's one thing to issue a statement, it's another to speak out.  I wonder in some ways if Bartman hasn't forgiven Chicago and Cubs fans for how they treated him that night.  I wonder if he still holds a grudge and if that isn't a part of why he has never talked about it.  I don't know.  I do know that forgiveness is best when it's both ways.  God calls us to forgive one another.  When situations happen and when we are wronged, we are to forgive as He has forgiven us.  Sometimes the other person will not forgive but we are still to forgive them.  We are to do our part to reconcile.

It would be cool for this story to have a happy resolve.  That would be up to the city of Chicago and Cubs fans and also to Steve Bartman.  There can be a great example of forgiveness and redemption here.  Hopefully, someday that can be seen.

"Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."  (Colossians 3:13 ESV)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Predictions for 2011 NFL Season

It has been over a month since my last post.  I really need to write more.  Maybe this will be the start.  Considering that the NFL season starts tomorrow, I guess I should get in my picks (sure to be wrong) for 2011.

NFC East
NY Giants

NFC North
Green Bay

NFC South
New Orleans
Tampa Bay

NFC West
St. Louis
San Francisco

Wild Card:  New Orleans, Detroit

AFC East
New England
NY Jets

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West
San Diego
Kansas City

Wild Card:  Cleveland, Houston

Super Bowl:  Tennessee over Atlanta