‘Catching Hell’ a Chilling Reminder of Bartman and the 2003 Chicago Cubs: Fan’s Take

'Catching Hell'

The ESPN film series "30 for 30" has provided a number of great films about some of the best players, teams and stories that took place during ESPN's first 30 years. But as a lifelong, diehard Chicago Cubs fans, I was eagerly anticipating 'Catching Hell.' This film chronicles the tragic 2003 Chicago Cubs postseason and Steve Bartman's unfortunate role in its downfall. 'Catching Hell' is a masterpiece which brought me back to a dark time as a Cubs fan.

1984 Chicago Cubs

At the age of 12, I lived through what was and still is my favorite Cubs team of all-time, the 1984 Chicago Cubs. The close call of 2003 chronicled in 'Catching Hell' and even my hometown New Orleans Saints winning Super Bowl XLIV were not as special as the magic of 1984.

Maybe it was because that was my first experience of having my favorite team reach the postseason. And yet, after the Cubs lost game five of the NLCS to the San Diego Padres, I remember playing ping pong with my uncle like it was no big deal. I guess I was naïve enough to think great Cubs teams would come along every year.

2003 Chicago Cubs

However, my reaction when the Cubs lost game six to the Florida Marlins was quite different. Although I was a mature adult with a respectable job, I'm not ashamed to admit I cried like a baby that night. Director Alex Gibney did a masterful job in 'Catching Hell' of capturing the mood of Cubs fans after the Bartman incident. Although Kerry Wood(notes) was starting game seven, I knew the Cubs were going to lose.

In 2003, I was teaching high school and my students were fully aware that I was a diehard Cubs fan. I remember one of my students asking me if I was alright the day after the Bartman incident. I remember telling him, "I'm fine. I got his name. His name is Steve Bartman." My student's eyes widened and he looked a bit scared. I had gotten up early that morning and done an Internet search and by then Bartman's name had been discovered.

Before game seven, I remember watching PTI and Steve Stone was the guest on the "Five Good Minutes" segment. He boldly predicted that with Kerry Wood on the mound the Cubs would win game seven. I didn't know if poor Stoney was delusional or if he was trying to sound like a homer. But like all the Cubs fans who were captured in 'Catching Hell' I knew the Cubs were doomed after Bartman's gaffe.

'Catching Hell'

'Catching Hell' brought many factors to light which I had not previously known. First, 'Catching Hell' showed that Bartman attended the game with friends. Also, 'Catching Hell' obtained video footage taken by a Cubs fan almost directly above Bartman. I was also surprised that in an interview with Moises Alou, the Cubs OF claimed he would have made the catch. I had heard that Alou recently admitted he would not have made the catch.

However, the most interesting part of 'Catching Hell' was a computer-generated shot that eliminated Bartman and all the Cubs fans from the background and only showed Alou and the ball. It becomes apparent here that Alou would have made the catch. 'Catching Hell' also conducted an interview with a Wrigley Field security officer who was so concerned with Bartman's welfare that she took him back to her apartment until things settled down outside.

If there was one disappointment with 'Catching Hell' it was that the big payoff never came. After witnessing interviews with virtually everyone seated in the vicinity, I was hopeful that the climax of 'Catching Hell' would be an interview with Bartman. However, the Bartman interview, like Bartman himself and a Chicago Cubs World Series victory, remains elusive.


The question that every diehard Chicago Cubs fan who blames Bartman for the Cubs defeat in 2003 must ask himself or herself is, "Would we have done the same thing if we were in that position." To that question, I can unequivocally answer, "No!" Living in New Orleans, I've only been to one MLB game in my life. But nothing is more important to me as fan than living through a Cubs World Series championship.

Catching a ball that's worth the price of a pizza pales in comparison to the joy I would experience witnessing the Cubs win the World Series in my lifetime. Still, 'Catching Hell' is an incredible film that examines the 2003 Cubs and Bartman from numerous perspectives. 'Catching Hell' is a must-see for every Cubs fan. Maybe if the Cubs win the World Series, Bartman can throw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field one day like Bill Buckner has at Fenway Park.

Then again, maybe not.


"Catching Hell," yahoo.com

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Updated Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011