'Catching Hell' Is a Much-Needed Look at Psycho Sports Fans

Maressa Brown
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wrigley field catching hellChicago fans will never forget Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. That's when that infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman touched a foul ball, once it crossed into the stands, disrupting a potential catch by the Cubs outfielder. If the ball had been caught, it would have been the second out in the inning, and the Cubs would have been just four outs away from winning the National League pennant.

For months, I remember Cubs fans and other baseball fans made Bartman out to be THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD ... or at least in The Windy City. There were even Halloween costumes mocking the poor guy. Well, now, ESPN has gone and made a documentary about the incident. Called Catching Hell (catchy title!), it'll premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.

According to a news release from the film festival, the film "explores the psychology of die-hard sports fans, the frightening phenomenon of scapegoating, and the hysteria that turned mild-mannered Bartman into the most hated man in Chicago."

Well, it's about time.

The Cubs have defended Bartman over and over again to no avail. The thing is, regardless of what happened with that foul ball, the team still had a chance to get to the World Series! They didn't go, because they lost Game 7. Not because of Bartman. What ended up happening with him in Game 6 was just a real d'oh! moment; it was certainly made out to be more than it really was.

It seems like Catching Hell will delve into just how much unnecessary crap Bartman had to take and what that says about the culture of sports. The main question I hope the flick addresses: What the hell is wrong with some sports fans?! I'm a Cubs fan, and I get it -- it drives us all crazy that we haven't won the Series in so long, but we've gotten sooo close ... and then, FAIL. But that's never an excuse to publicly degrade someone who didn't mean any harm. It makes me want to say, come on, guys -- if it was the Curse of the Billy Goat, then it couldn't be helped! It wasn't Bartman's fault.

But it all comes back to how some sports fans just take the game way way way too seriously. It's not just a game to them; it's a lifestyle, it's a religion. Sometimes I'm really proud that I'm loyal to an institution with so much history and tradition. But I'm also ashamed that a few fellow fans took their loyalty to new extremes in '03. Hopefully, now that we all have some distance from the event, ESPN's documentary can effectively shine some light on why what went down was wrong. With hope, it'll give super-crazy fans some perspective!

Are die-hard sports fans just misunderstood or does their out-of-control behavior need to be reined in?


Image via Daniel Morrison/Flickr

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