Why social media unfairly branded this Cubs fan a villain

Liz Roscher

A video captures just one moment in time. When we see a viral clip on Twitter, we don’t know what happened before, or what came after. And it turns out that the Chicago Cubs fan who appeared to steal a foul ball from a child at Wrigley Field on Sunday isn’t actually the cartoonishly evil villain social media made him out to be.

How he became a villain

Here’s how the saga began: Cubs first base coach Will Venable tossed a ball to an adorable kid sitting in the first row at Wrigley Field. The kid couldn’t catch it, and it dropped to the ground. A man sitting in the row behind him then scrambled to reach down and grab it, which he did. He triumphantly showed it to his female companion, and a viral video was born.

Social media’s swift reaction

If you felt anger or rage after watching that video, it’s understandable. It looks like that guy stole a ball from a child, since Venable clearly tossed the ball to the kid. (The Cubs gave the kid a ball signed by Javy Báez to make up for the ball he lost.) MLB’s Cut4 tweeted the first video of this now infamous Cubs fan, and Twitter users were not shy in sharing their opinions of him.

CNN’s Jake Tapper, in some since-deleted tweets, got in on the action, too:


The video caught fire and went viral, and the media noticed. Stories about this dream-crushing villain appeared everywhere, including on Yahoo Sports. It seemed like the 12-second clip showed a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. But the beginning of the story started before the clip did, and the story continued after the video ended. That context cast the clip in a whole new light.

The internet branded this guy a villain for appearing to steal a baseball from a kid, but there’s more to the story than the video showed. (Screengrab via MLB)
The internet branded this guy a villain for appearing to steal a baseball from a kid, but there’s more to the story than the video showed. (Screengrab via MLB)

The real story

Of course, it only looks like that guy stole a ball from a kid. The video didn’t tell the whole story. Radio host David Kaplan got the details straight from the Cubs.

And there’s even more proof. Reddit user btbrian actually found tweets from people sitting near the scene of the “crime,” and they told the same story: the guy had helped that kid and other kids get baseballs earlier in the game. This is from the gentleman in the solid blue shirt sitting next to the supposed baseball-stealer.

The ball he “stole” even went to another kid!

Lest you think this is just a Cubs fans defending another Cubs fan, here’s another eyewitness account from the guy in red sitting next to the kid. He’s in red because he’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan, the natural enemy of Cubs fans.

Now that the whole story is out, people are reassessing their opinion of the baseball-stealer-turned-baseball-gifter. He’s not actually Scar from “The Lion King” mixed with Jafar from “Aladdin,” he’s a guy who helped kids get baseballs during the game. But because the contextless video went viral on social media, he may want to print out some of the updated stories that prove he’s not a baseball-stealer and have them on him at all times. Just in case he starts getting yelled at by angry people on the streets of Wrigleyville.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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