As a Cubs fan, I've forgiven Steve Bartman... I haven't forgotten that October night in 2003, but I have forgiven the man so many have cast as a scapegoat for continuing the Cubs championship curse. And even though it's approaching 8 years since the Cubs most infamous loss in the NLCS to the Marlins, there's never been any real closure to the entire Bartman episode. Maybe it's because Bartman has gone into hiding, refusing to further address his part in the Cubs' Game 6 loss. Maybe it's because the Cubs have continued to fail time and again in the postseason in the years following 2003. Maybe, it's because so many Cubs fans haven't forgiven Steve Bartman.
With ESPN's latest 30 For 30 offering, "Catching Hell", a small, perhaps naive part of me was hoping this documentary could provide some closure for Cubs fans. Unfortunately, after watching for two hours, that wasn't the case. The film itself was fantastic in parts and as well-produced as all the 30 For 30 series, except for the director cameos by Alex Gibney as the subject of a radio interview; I think it ranked somewhere between M. Night Shyamalan and Alfred Hitchcock's self-appearances in terms of subtleness. Let's face it though, we're often critical of parts of ESPN, but the concept and execution of 30 For 30 continues to shine as one of the best things the network has ever done. But, there was a sense of false advertising after seeing the actual documentary. As Jim Miller pointed out on Twitter, the film was largely marketed on Bartman alone. Yet, the first 15 minutes of "Catching Hell" were spent chronicling Bill Buckner and RED SAWX NATION.
Now, the connection between the two clubs is obvious, especially during the 2003 postseason where both teams fell five outs short of the World Series. But, as the documentary mentions, the Red Sox went on to break their curse... twice. The Cubs are still waiting for their championship. So, the last thing I needed to see as a Cubs fan was having the Red Sox, their failures, and their success shoved down my throat during a documentary that was supposedly about my team and their failures. As soon as I saw Dennis Leary on my screen in that patronizing Bruins hat, I almost turned off the documentary entirely, especially when I had this in the back of my mind.
But, I pressed forward, and for that I'm glad, because "Catching Hell's" finest moments came when it captured the atmosphere of Wrigley Field right after the Bartman incident. To see the vitriol and anger even to this day towards Bartman from the raw footage in the stadium was eye-opening. And even though it was healthy to see the animals sports fans can unfortunately become in the heat of the moment, at times the film felt like it overvilified Cubs fans just a little bit too much for my liking. Wouldn't any fan at least be angry at one of their own "costing" their team such a crucial out? Maybe not to the point of hurling death threats or beer, but can anyone honestly be so pious to say they wouldn't join in on the chants of "asshole?" Is it too wild to assume there was a sect of hardcore Sox fans who, until the Sox won the World Series, might have held Bill Buckner in the same disregard as a sect of Cubs fans still hold Steve Bartman...