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.
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.