October 22, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 29  

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"Do the Bartman" declines Chicago fan not responsible for Cubs' loss

On the DL
David Lee

Sports Editor

"Fans, fans, in the stands, stop interfering with your hands!" That revamp of an old crowd-rallying cheer could very well be the slogan for the 2004 Chicago Cubs. Last week, as the Cubs were five outs away from a National League Championship, they were seemingly cheated out of it by a fan trying to make a souvenir of a ball that could have been a crucial out.

In an instant, Steve Bartman became the newest goat in the Chicago Cubs' folklore and the most notable baseball fan since Jeffrey Maier. The whole ordeal was exacerbated by the fact Moises Alou tossed Bartman the ball he had caught to record the final out of the seventh inning. It seems Bartman lusted greedily for a second.

Fans interfering with play are nothing new. Homer Simpson himself once admitted to a lifelong dream of running onto the field during a game (a dream that came true, according to a framed headline kept bedside saying something to the effect of "Idiot runs onto field: Springfield forfeits pennant."

Then there was the fan that tried to streak onto the ice at a hockey game, only to knock himself out when he slipped. Western has also had its share of fan involvement, underlined by the two streakers at this year's Homecoming football game.

When there's nudity or drunkenness involved, it seems like it's all fun and games. But fans taking an inadvertent role in sports is a problem that's nearly impossible to eliminate.

Does anyone remember the fan who ran onto the field during a Monday Night Football game a few years back, only to be destroyed when Antonio Freeman ran into him at full tilt? As Dennis Miller commented, "Look, mom, I came to the football game and got my skull caved in!" While intentional fan interference is one thing, "Bartgate" belies another problem altogether -fans that are unaware of the game situation and not deliberately trying to interfere. After the debacle, Sportsnet showed a clip of Boston fans moving back while outfielder Trot Nixon made a leaping catch by the right field wall at Fenway Park during the American League Championship Series.

For Sportsnet, "fan awareness" was the difference between Nixon making his grab and Alou being robbed. While Bartman technically did nothing wrong, he should have been following the game situation -he shouldn't have obstructed Alou from making a fairly easy play.

If the Cubs had gone on to win game seven, Bartman would simply be a footnote. Instead, he is the popular person to blame in Chicago. What if his "interference" had cost the Marlins instead and allowed the Cubs to win? He'd be a hero akin to Maier, the boy who turned a long fly ball into a dinger for his beloved Yankees.

Replays showed Maier was clearly in the wrong, reaching over the wall to aid the Yanks. Bartman, on the other hand, merely got in the way of a ball many deemed catch-able by Alou.

It's unfair to blame Chicago's collapse on one fan. If fans are looking to blame someone, try manager Dusty Baker -he left an overworked Mark Prior in the game when he should have moved to his bullpen.

Meanwhile, Bartman's apologized profusely, claiming he's a true blue Cubs fan and he never meant to hurt his team's chances. He acted on instinct, doing what most baseball fans would do with a foul ball headed straight towards them. Bartman will have to leave Chicago to live in peace and he'll probably never be able to return to Wrigley Field short of major plastic surgery.

For any true Cubs fan, that penalty is more than ample.





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