From the Vault: An Open Letter to That Guy

ESPN is running a wonderful and heartbreaking documentary called Catching Hell, about Steve Bartman and the Chicago Cubs in 2003.

If you don't have any idea what that means, you can skip this post.

For the rest of you, here's a repost of something I wrote to him back then, when he was Public Enemy Number One for Cubs fans:

An Open Letter to That Guy

Originally published at WWdN on October 16, 2003

Dear That Guy,

Like you, I am a huge Cubs fan. Like you, I've been telling people "next year! Next Year!" as long as I can remember. Like you, I am crushed that they aren't going to the World Series. Again.

Unlike you, most of Chicago (and the world, really) could give a shit about me. That's where this letter, from some guy you'll never meet and could probably care less about, comes in. See, I think we have a few things in common, and I just wanted to take a minute here and tell you that I think you're getting a bunch of shit that you don't deserve.

I used to be on this big cult TV show that had lots of very passionate fans. Many of those fans absolutely (and irrationally) hated the character I played on that show. Most of them wrote me nasty letters and heckled me whenever I'd show up at one of their events, they never called my house, or tried to hurt me, but I can sort of imagine what you're going through. That thing that makes a sports fan wear only paint and a diaper to a ball game when it's 15 degrees outside? It's the same thing that makes a Star Trek fan wear the same unwashed uniform for 5 days in a row at a big ass con.

I've read that just about every Cubs fan in the world is giving you hell for going after that foul ball. Well, That Guy, last time I checked, baseball fans like to catch foul balls. It's something we do, like paying too much for terrible beer and screaming at a player for not picking up that slider that we're so certain we'd be able to hit if they'd just put our fat asses in the game. Hell, I've been going to 20 or 30 games a season at Dodger Stadium for almost 30 years, and I try to catch a foul ball every single time I'm there. I've even had my hot wife flirt with the teenage bat boy in a pathetic effort to score one. To date, I am still empty-handed. But that bat boy, Jesse, is convinced that my wife's going to leave me just as soon as he gets out of high school.

Anyway, That Guy, enough about me. This is about you.

It's not your fault that the Cubs lost game 6. It's not your fault that Dusty Baker probably left Prior in too long, or that Alex Gonzalez chose game 6 to make his 11th error of the whole freakin' year. It's not your fault the Cubs stranded 7 runners. It's not your fault that they lost game 7. It's not your fault that Kerry Wood, normally one of the best pitchers in baseball, just couldn't get it together in game 7. (That was a sweet fuckin' homerun though, wasn't it?! I was screaming and cheering so loudly I scared both of my dogs!)

In short, it's not your fault the Cubs lost three in a row. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure it's the players fault they lost three in a row. Even Dusty Baker said, "We didn't lose the pennant, the Marlins won it. We were close and the Marlins took it from us, it's as simple as that." You'll notice that he didn't say "That Guy took it from us."

Yep. You know, now that I think about it, I'm positive that it wasn't your fault, and I'm pretty mad at anyone who's giving you shit about the loss.

It's pretty fucked up that those jackals in the news media printed your name, That Guy, and it's even more fucked up that they disclosed your workplace and forced you to change your phone number. But don't quit coaching the little league team, okay? Since you're not a dad, you're probably not coaching that team for your own personal glory, or doing it because it's the only way you know how to relate to your son. You're probably there for those kids, and you're probably having a positive impact on their lives. What are they going to learn if they lose their coach, That Guy?! Think of the children, okay? Don't be a quitter!

Tell you what. You keep coaching that team, and if you ever come to Los Angeles, I'll get some hired goons, and we'll take you out for a beer at one of the best pubs in the city. If anyone tries to fuck with you, those hired goons will kick their punk asses while we exchange high-fives. It will be sweet!

In the mean time, when someone gets in your face about the Cubs losing, you can say, "Hey! Wil Wheaton says back the fuck off!"

When they look confused and say, "Who the hell is Wil Wheaton?" you can just smile and laugh at them, because you know something they don't.

Rock on,

Wil Wheaton
Life-long Cubs Fan, 
living in Los Angeles

My life has changed so much, and gotten so much better, since 2003… I hope that, wherever he is, Steve Bartman can say the same thing.

19 thoughts on “From the Vault: An Open Letter to That Guy”

  1. That is still a touching letter, even after all these years. It was kind and thoughtful of you to take the time to make sure he knew that there was someone batting for his team!

  2. Wil, it is beyond awesome that you reached out to That Guy during an obvious low point of his fandom. I am not a super-fan of anything so I can’t truly understand the devotion it requires.(I’m a fan of many things, master of none) I hope that ESPN’s resurrection of his notoriety doesn’t reignite the outpouring of negativity towards That Guy. I understand sports fans aren’t exactly known for having short memories, but hope he is living as happy a life as possible. I love knowing that there are people out there willing to reach out to one another. I’m sure your kindness was appreciated!

  3. good doc…although it was padded a bit…most likely due to the fact that bartman still refuses to be interviewed
    in fact, although he has been offered hundreds of thousands of dollar to do appearances and endorsements….he wont
    but the guy who ended up catching that ball (its crazy eye guy in the vid) made 100k selling it
    and wil, you are right…it wasnt bartman’s fault….
    if you watch the vid he was reacting to everyone around him
    that section never looks down to see alou (amazingly) racing to try and catch the ball
    it was the wind that blew it back onto the field of play
    the ump shouldve called an immediate out due to fan interference….bad call by ump
    after the game…doofus (that is what i, a giants fan, lovingly call the guy who blew a ws and an lcs) threw bartman under the bus
    doofus was and is known for his mismanagement of both starters and pen arms
    did both to the giants and cubbies…
    what is great in the doc, is the media excusing themselves for destroying bartman
    the film maker compares it to what they did to buckner in 86
    poor buck….the hate shouldve gone against bob the steamer stanley…who threw a wild pitch to tie the game (man had the greatest sinker, but sometimes even he didnt know where it was going)
    so steamer gets a pass (and a long career as a pitching coach) and buck gets treated like crap till the sox finally win a ws
    life is shit

  4. How does one find out, if not contacted by the object of the letter, if he ever read it?
    As for long memories, that’s true if they have a bent towards history and uberfans are a bit crazy, like the word’s root implies, they are fanatics. Glad I’m not one. But I do have an interest in history.
    Thus I remember Bill Buckner but as an Orioles fan, remember Weaver leaving in Stanhouse WAYYYYYY too long versus the Pirates and thus loosing us the world series.
    The point is, we only remember the things that were important to us, not all things sports related. The memory is selective, and much like Sherlock Holmes, we get to choose what to stick in there and ignore all else lest things get overcrowded.

  5. Wil, there’s a nice treatment of this and the aftermath in the last chapter of the book Scorecasting, “Are the Chicago Cubs Cursed?”. Check it out if you get a chance.

  6. This is so sweet. And also reminds me of the exercise in futility that is arguing with my in-laws about their 100% surety that Ralph Nader single-handedly brought down the election in 2000.

  7. Amen. I was watching that game on TV when it happened. The most appalling part of the whole thing was watching Alou throw a temper tantrum in the middle of a ball game. He wasn’t going to catch that ball anyways. The moment a fan actually loses a game for a team, the Cubs will win the World Series.

  8. HI Wil Wheaton- This Letter, Your Spirited Defense of the Bloggess last week, and Many Other Things that are Too Numerous to Mention make you a gentleman, a scholar, and a badass. :D Also, hubby and I looking forward to Evil Wil on TBBT. We hate that guy.

  9. I’ll be a Goonie. You don’t even have to pay me.
    Oh, wait. You said goon? Doesn’t matter. I’ll be that, too.
    And wow…2003. That was such a short time ago, but like most, my life has changed significantly since then. That’s a lot to think about. I hope Steve Bartman found some peace.

  10. Goddammit Wheaton, you’re hard to track down!!
    I really need your help – or anyone else’s who knows the answer to my question;
    As ‘Stand By Me’ is my ultimate all time favourite film (movie – hey, I’m English!) ever, I really want to analyse the script/screenplay as part of my degree module. However, I’m faced with the toughest task of hunting the buggar down!! Can someone, anyone!, please guide me in the right direction of finding it!
    Thank you!
    Loula x

  11. You advised your readers that they -can- skip this post, but having no idea what you’re referring to and going ahead and reading anyway, anyone who might have skipped this one is missing out.
    Your style is always fun to read, but moreover this letter was awesome. From multiple standpoint. It’s late here, and I’m tempted to blather on about its construction, transitions and other things that would make me want to use it as an example in an English class were I an English teacher. Which I’m not. But I may print it and take it my next writer’s meeting…(If’n that’d be all right?).
    Instead, I’m just going to wish Loula x above me good luck with her project and in getting ahold of you.

  12. It is my sincere hope that Steve was able to find comfort in this letter during what can only be described as an excruciatingly painful time in his life. I cannot imagine how exhausting and devastating it must be for an individual to be plagued by bullies numbering in the tens of thousands.

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