Chicago Has a New Steve Bartman

Kyle Koster

By now you’ve likely seen this clip of a young fan losing a souvenir baseball to a more aggressive adult man at a Chicago Cubs game. And you no doubt have some strong feelings about the gentleman’s ungentlemanly actions. It was an extremely unchill thing to do and an unfortunate way to go viral. No baseball is worth the headaches he now faces.

It’s been a long time since the internet has shown such solidarity in disliking a person. Such unbroken and uniform rage is impressive. But considering this situation had a happy ending — thanks to the generous spirit of the home team — perhaps we can dial it down a bit.

Thanks to the intrepid reporting of David Kaplan, it appears a Cubs fan sitting down the line is once again being vilified unfairly. The ghost of Steve Bartman shudders. The new information suggests the so-called bully had worked to get the youngster a different ball before the incident.

This is not completely exculpatory if true. The ball in the video was clearly intended for the kid. The man was a bit too grabby and alpha considering the situation. But it does provide context. Ask yourself: how many free baseballs is a kid — no matter how precious — entitled to? Two? Three? Fourteen? When is enough enough?

Something about souvenir baseballs drives people crazy. Otherwise sane people risk life and limb — and the lives and limbs of others  — just to fight for foul flies and homers. Kids incessantly clamor for every batting practice chance fielded in a 140-foot vicinity. Adults choose to wear baseball gloves on the minuscule chance they’ll get to use them.

Perhaps judging a person’s character and worth on a six-second clip when a baseball was being given away isn’t the most scientific method. And perhaps the clip doesn’t tell the whole story.

Look, no matter the circumstances, the incident was entirely avoidable. And there’s no backstory that leaves the guy coming out great. But maybe, just maybe, those pitchforks can be put away.