Eight Years Later, Bartman Wounds Still Fresh

By Maggie Hendricks
|  Wednesday, Apr 20, 2011  |  Updated 5:04 PM CDT
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Eight Years Later, Bartman Wounds Still Fresh

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CHICAGO - OCTOBER 14: Fans interfere with outfielder Moises Alou #18 of the Chicago Cubs on a ball hit by Luis Castillo #1 of the Florida Marlins scoring two runs in the eighth inning during game six of the National League Championship Series October 14, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Where were you on October 17, 2003?

I was in my parents' living room in Melrose Park, watching what would be a moment in history. My father and I, both Cubs fans since birth, were six outs from seeing our team go to the World Series. We had watched the Bulls championships together and even a Bears Super Bowl victory, but a Cubs World Series would be the pinnacle of fanhood. His father brought him to Cubs games as a child, then took his granddaughter to those same seats. Though my grandfather had passed away years before, he was on our mind as the Cubs were up 3-0 on the Marlins in game six of the NLCS.

Then, it happened. A nerdy-looking baseball fan reached out and kept Moises Alou from making one of those outs that the Cubs so desperately needed. My stomach turned as I saw Alou yell in anger at the fan.

"It's over, Dad," I said. "This is the black cat at Shea Stadium. This is the ball through Leon Durham's legs. This is it, Dad."

My father, forever the optimist, disagreed. After all, there were only six outs. The Cubs should easily take this game, and if not, they still had game seven. That's not what happened. The Marlins won that game, and the next, and went on to win the young franchise's second World Series.

Nearly eight years later, a documentarian is trying to heal the old wounds. "Catching Hell" is debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival, the work of famed director Alex Gibney. It tells the story of Bartman and Chicago, and how this Cubs fan turned into a Cubs villain. Gibney's work focuses more on the fans and how we turned focused all of our wrath on this once-anonymous fan.

I won't lie. I focused plenty of my own hurt and anger about the Cubs losing, about my family missing out on that celebration and that joy that Chicago would have had, on this man I had never met.

The rational side of me knows that blaming Bartman is ridiculous. It's not his fault that Dusty Baker wore down Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, that Alex Gonzalez fumbled a routine play, or that bad strategy allowed the Marlins to come back from a 3-0 deficit.

But there is still a part of me that scowls at the name "Bartman." Gibney is absolutely correct that Chicago needs to take a hard look at ourselves and how we turned on one of our own for doing what most of us would have done in the same situation. Eight years later, those wounds are still a little too fresh.

Maggie Hendricks is a Chicago based sports blogger who spends most of her time penning articles for the NBCChicago.com Bears blog Grizzly Detail.

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