The Bartman Saga on film "Catching Hell"
'Catching Hell' explores Bartman saga
Film to debut at Tribeca Film Festival in New York
Drehs By Wayne Drehs
CHICAGO -- As he lay in bed one night last week and contemplated what the audience would take away from his upcoming film about Steve Bartman, Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney fell asleep and began to dream.
He said he pictured a parade filing through the streets of downtown Chicago in which everyone was dressed the same: Cubs hat, green turtleneck, navy sweatshirt and a pair of headphones. In other words, exactly what Bartman was wearing that fateful night. The parade wouldn't be held to mock Bartman, Gibney said, but rather to provide the city a chance to forgive, forget and harmoniously come together as one.
"I hope Chicago gives Steve Bartman a parade," Gibney said. "And I hope he doesn't come."
It's been 7½ years since Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, when a foul ball left the bat of Luis Castillo and tracked its way into the outstretched arms of Bartman, transforming an anonymous, meek 26-year-old Little League coach into the human target for a century of Cubs frustration.
Gibney's new film, "Catching Hell," which is scheduled to premiere Saturday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, probes the question of why. Not why did Bartman reach for the ball or why did Moises Alou act like a bratty 9-year-old when he failed to catch it, but why did Cubs fans choose Bartman as the target of their rage that night?
"Should Cubs fans forgive Bartman?" Gibney asks at one point in the film. "No. Because, really, it's up to Bartman to forgive Chicago."
In "Catching Hell," which is scheduled to air on ESPN this fall, Gibney explores all the ingredients that created a cauldron of hatred that night, from the wind speed to Alou's reaction to the not-so-carefully chosen words of Fox broadcaster Steve Lyons. Gibney interviews fans who were seated around Bartman as well as security guards who helped escort the fan out of Wrigley Field as he was being showered with beer, pizza, pretzels and death threats.
"Here's a story that seemingly had been done to death," Gibney said. "But there are so many things that were unreported or just unknown. I couldn't believe how extreme things were. The first time seeing that footage of him getting pelted with stuff and the entire stadium chanting 'a--hole, a--hole' … it's just really intense."
Through his lawyer, Bartman declined to participate in the project. But the film is less about Bartman and more about fans. Why do we feel the need to point blame at one individual? Why can't we let go? To help find the answers, Gibney, who grew up in Boston, interviews former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, another legendary baseball scapegoat. But while the Red Sox have won two World Series and Buckner has been long forgiven at Fenway Park, Bartman is still waiting for his day.
His story is one that, despite the pleas of many, never seems to go away. Six years ago, I wrote a piece for ESPN.com in which I stalked Bartman outside his parents' home and followed him to his place of work to ask for an interview. In my 11 years at ESPN.com, I've received more email about that story than any other story I've written. The comments range from the ridiculous -- "Your writing reminds me of Hemingway" -- to the truly ridiculous -- "I hope your children are born with birth defects." Not a month goes by without someone emailing to ask whether Bartman's legal team ever got back to me. (It did not.)
Gibney said the reaction to "Catching Hell" has been equally polarizing.
"I had a lot of people who wanted to know: Do we need to keep going after this Bartman?" said Gibney, who also directed "Taxi to the Dark Side," "Enron" and "Client 9." "I searched long and hard within myself as to whether or not I was just doing this for kicks or there was actually something meaningful here."
In the end, Gibney is confident he found meaning and ended up with a film that will prompt people to look at events of that night -- and, by association, at Bartman -- with an entirely new perspective. Even if he never does get a parade.
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alright Cubs fans, do you forgive him?
I forgave him before anyone had a chance to get mad.
1. what about the guy next to him that missed the ball by like.... an inch?
2. What about the fact it was still the 8th with 1 out. Allou catches that ball, and nothing gaurantees whats his fuck (prior?) doesn't give up what... 2-3 more hits?...
3. What about Gonzalez totally screwing up the double play that could have ended the inning?...
4. What about the 2 intentional walks that followed shortly after???
Steve Bartman didn't loose that game. the freakin Cubs blew that shit on their own. Bartman just became the scapegoat for a series of blunders that followed his "game ruining foul ball"....
it was BS then... it's BS now... and this poor guy had had to deal with a MOUNTAIN of bullshit from idiot fans on a knee jerk reaction.
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It's a curse, I tell you. I'm sure that the Cubbies will win it all one of these days. God knows every other team that went 80+ years without a championship did so.
Saw it last night. Was truly disgusted how people treated him.
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The lovable losers lol I watched it to to sober me up on the white sox dismantling