story of the infamous steve bartman play. for those who have lived in a cave, away from baseball for the last 10 years, the play involves the perennially cursed cubs finally making it deep into the playoffs with a good team. 5 outs left to get to the world series a ball is hit down the left field line stands and hooks just enough to be on the border of the stands and out of bounds. multiple fans make a grab for it as does left fielder moises alou. steve bartman gets his hands on the ball first and alou isn’t able to make the out. he blows up and everyone in the stadium eventually gets wind that bartman has ruined the game. this feeling escalates as the cubs proceed to choke in epic fashion, allowing 8 runs in the 8th inning. double play ball is missed in the 8th by the shortstop and the pitchers couldn’t get a hold of the game seemingly after the bartman incident.
the film is directed by alex gibney who did enron: the smartest guys in the room and taxi to the dark side, which i think may have won an oscar for best documentary. it’s not just a documentary about bartman and the one play, though, it’s a film that looks into the very nature of humans and the mob mentality that takes over in these situations. people are savages, it’s really that simple. it’s very easy to see that we “evolved” from apes because most of us are still quite close to them.
gibney gets a lot of good interviews with people who called the game, people who were close to bartman at the time of the play, other people who were at the game, writers who have tried contacting bartman or have written about the play, as well as players who were involved in the game/series. he also puts it in the context of bill buckner, another infamous scapegoat who also blew a play in a critical game 6. unlike bartman who was a fan, though, buckner was an athlete on the field. like bartman, buckner was singled out despite the facts. in each case it was the 6th game, not the deciding game. in each case there was a play either just before or just after that was just as bad as the scapegoat play – for buckner it was the wild pitch by the pitcher which allowed the tying run, for bartman it was the double play ball that was bobbled by the shortstop.
it’s a depressing sight to see a humble and innocent guy be lambasted for doing what basically everyone who has been around baseball would do – go after the ball. the documentary runs a little bit long, but it’s great because it works on so many levels. it recalls other close calls, it gets conversations started about sports, the role of the spectator, mob thinking, the role of the media, etc. good stuff