Steve Bartman, Soup Nazi and Moises Alou: Ghosts of the Past

Can you forgive the past? Steve Bartman an unassuming Chicago Cubs fan and Chicago resident is, in many people’s minds, the central figure of the 2003 Chicago Cubs season. For some, that is the only name they even remember from that season. You see it was he who had the audacity to reach for a foul ball. How could he think of doing that? What supposed fan would reach for a souvenir while sitting in the stands? Oh, you mean everyone would? Yeah, that’s true.

Of course the aftermath of the “Foul Ball Incident”, is highlighted by the absolute temper tantrum that Moises Alou throws. Moises Alou uninhibitedly goes Full Toddler. He slams his glove. Yells and screams. There isn’t actual video footage, but I’m pretty sure he was on the ground kicking and slamming the ground with his fists. It was a bad look for a grown man to act like that. Though I’m not surprised, as I have played in adult sports leagues and seen many full grown adults, like adults with real jobs that pay bills and read newspapers, do the same thing if something didn’t go their way.

This play of course did not alter the game. It was the 8th inning and they were ahead 3-0. It was the series of mental and physical errors, bad pitches and the Marlins taking advantage of the obvious meltdown that cost the Cubs the game. No one wanted to look at the passed balls, walks, errors, missing cut-off men, or anything else. (Do people even remember that the Cubs gave up 8 runs in that inning?) They wanted a scapegoat. Bartman filled that role perfectly. There was just enough evidence to allow the idea that this guy affected the game. In actuality, it wasn’t the evidence that mattered, it was the emotion. When things looked like they were going so well, the emotion took over and all was lost.

I’ve seen this play out so many times in my life, allowing emotion to control life like some sort of authoritarian dictator. Remember the Seinfeld show with the “soup nazi”? If the customer didn’t order exactly as he liked, he would spout his famous and often quoted line, “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” This happens to me all the time. Something doesn’t go my way, so I throw a Moises Alou fit, and my emotions go all “soup nazi” and no one gets soup, or happiness, or success.

One example I can remember is when I was a teacher. The principle was going to move me from 6th grade to 4th grade. I was really happy with my team. I liked my fellow 6th grade teachers, I was comfortable and then that was taken away from me. I was going to have to be on a team with teachers I didn’t know, and from a distance, I didn’t think I would enjoy working with at all. So, I got mad and I quit. I hated the rest of the year and I didn’t do very well with it. I let one little thing get in my way of happiness and it snowballed. It was a miserable finish to the year, and I spent the next year bouncing around from real estate agent to construction estimator back to substitute teacher. It wasn’t my best year.

Just like Cubs fans, I played the “What-if” game in my head and that just made me more angry and the incident was so blown up in my head that I had real vitriol for my principle. I didn’t throw beer on her or make angry threats against her life like what happened to Steve Bartman, but I was angry.

I had to do a lot of soul searching and take some ownership for my actions before I could move on. So, when I hear that Tom Ricketts, the Cubs new owner, has thoughts of reaching out to Steve Bartman as an organization to bury the hatchet or give forgiveness, I don’t know what he has planned really, I feel like the ghost of Steve Bartman might get the R.I.P. it deserves. Can the Cubs fans finally let go now that they have experienced the ultimate success? Or does it still haunt them?

It doesn’t haunt me anymore. Just as that experience with the principle doesn’t haunt me anymore. I’ve moved on and I hope Cubs fans have, too. There is a fine line between acknowledging the past and fixating or blaming it. Maybe now, the “Foul Ball Incident” can become an even smaller footnote in the past of the Chicago Cubs. It is only when I acknowledge and let go of the past that I’m able to move forward. Living with the past is like trying to run the bases with the catcher holding on to your leg. It’s awkward, unnecessary and really slows you down.

So on behalf of myself and the entire Teachable Moments in Sports team (which is also me), I say “Rest In Peace Foul Ball Incident. You are free to go from our present and future. For you are in the past and you no longer have any emotional control over the Cubs or its fans.” And the same sentiment goes out to the principle and all of those other incidents and “unfair” moments in my own past. My present is in control, as I look to the future.