‘Catching Hell’ review

“Catching Hell” – the ESPN documentary about Steve Bartman and Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS – is a must-watch. Some observations and highlights (and, don’t worry, some Reds-related stuff):


• Alex Gibney did an outstanding job with this. And you can’t help but agree with him when he sums it up by saying, “Should Cubs fans forgive Bartman? No. Because, really, it’s up to Bartman to forgive Chicago.” My only criticism is that it could have been about 45 minutes shorter.

A half-hour into it, they’re STILL talking about Bill Buckner and the ’86 Red Sox and I’m thinking, “Wait. I could’ve sworn this was supposed to be about Bartman.” I totally get the comparisons between Game 6 of the ’86 World Series and Game 6 of the ’03 NLCS. And I get that Buckner was a former Cub (wearing a Cubs wristband) when the infamous ball between the legs happened. And I thought it was great that “Catching Hell” included a couple of soundbites from Buckner that specifically were about Bartman. But 98 percent of the stuff about Buckner from “Catching Hell” was just about Buckner and 1986. It was WAY too much Buckner. It was great stuff, don’t get me wrong, but PLEASE make a completely separate documentary about Buckner instead of trying to force it into a documentary about the Bartman game.

Only other criticism (also related to the length of the documentary)? Jumped the shark a little with the minister from Rocky River, OH (who had delivered a sermon about Bartman) talking about the religious aspects of scapegoats. Could’ve left all that out, or at least warned me that I could go use the restroom without having to hit pause on the DVR.

But like I said, other than that, it was pretty outstanding.

• It’s amazing how much things have changed in less than 8 years. In October of 2003, Bartman was referred to as the mystery fan on the news more than 24 hours after it happened. If that play happened in 2011, we’d have a TweetUp involving Bartman and all of the fans surrounding him at least before the end of the game and probably while the Marlins were still pounding the crap out of the Flubs in the top of the 8th inning.

• What’s with all of the current “Reds” who were involved in the Bartman game? You’ve got Dontrelle Willis, who started for the Marlins. (It was a no-decision for D-Train and “Catching Hell” just shows him in game action before the 8th inning.)

You’ve got Dusty Baker, then the Cubs’ manager. (“Catching Hell” kinda makes Dusty look bad by including his famous post-game quote (when asked if he had a message for Bartman), “The only words I have is, maybe he was a Marlins fan.”

And, of course, you’ve got Thom Brennaman, who called the game along with Steve Lyons for FOX. (Thom gets a pass; while Lyons was obviously one of the four or five key subjects interviewed for the documentary, Thom wasn’t interviewed; and the Bartman-related soundbites from Thom that they included were not particularly damning.) They obviously included Thom’s famous, “Again in the air, down the left field line. Alou reaching into the stands and couldn’t get it and is livid with a fan” and “And that’s a Cubs fan who tried to make that catch.” It’s not like you get to hear what Thom and “Psycho” Lyons say during the entire rest of the game during “Catching Hell” (maybe if they’d spent a little less time on Buckner :) But it seemed like Thom stayed relatively neutral. And definitely didn’t say anything as bad as Lyons’ infamous, “Why? I’m surprised someone hasn’t thrown that fan onto the field.” (Lyons, by the way, comes off looking surprisingly good and sympathetic in the documentary.)

They do include Thom leading off the 8th inning with this:

39,577 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, for Game 6 of this National League Championship Series. On this October 14, 2003. It was on this date in 1908, 95 years ago today, that the Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers 2-0, to wrap up their second straight World Series championship. With a victory tonight — as he said, he did not go around on the pitch there — with a chance to win their first title since this day, 1908.

(Others, by the way, who played in Game 6 who either had previously or later went on to play for the Reds include Juan Encarnacion, Jeff Conine, Alex Gonzalez (not the Cubs shortstop who booted the double-play ball and easily could have been the goat if not for Bartman but the OTHER shortstop named Alex Gonzalez), Paul Bako and Mike Remlinger.)


• The female security guard who escorted Bartman out of Wrigley and spent time with him and whose apartment Bartman hid out at briefly while watching TV coverage of the play provided outstanding insight. Gibney & Co. also got outstanding insight from the fans who were seated near Bartman.

• Moises Alou acknowledging that he and Aramis Ramirez had booked tickets back to the Dominican Republic even before Game 7 they were so sure that the Cubs were destined to lose the series after Game 6. If I were a Cubs fan, I think I would’ve rather heard something along the lines of Alou regretting that he threw the tantrum and cursed and glared at Bartman. Learning instead that he and his teammate had little to no confidence in their team heading into Game 7 of the NLCS might arouse my ire a little.

Then again, Alou is the same guy who in 2008 was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “You know what the funny thing is? I wouldn’t have caught it, anyway.” Then he later insisted he didn’t remember saying that.

• Rod Blagojevich’s soundbite where he says if Bartman was ever convicted of a crime, he would never get a pardon from the governor. Hahaha … Blago … once a jackass, always a jackass. And the footage they showed in “Catching Hell” where you can hear some of the horrible, awful things fans at Wrigley were saying to Bartman offered great perspective and illustrated just how despicable some people were as far as how they treated Bartman that night and what they wanted to do to him.


  1. FredNo Gravatar

    I thought it was the best thing i have seen in a long time. it was really really good. i disagree with you about the minister, i thought that was highly relevant. i thought the study of the human behavior was very interesting, it was really ugly the way people behaved and the scapegoat concept spoke to that behavior. she also mentioned that scapegoats tend to be easy targets, people that are alone and vulnerable. it’s very interesting to consider how bartman’s style and personality fed the mob bullying mentality. people should be very ashamed for piling on him mostly in my opinion because he was an easy target. i thought his friends that accompanied him to the game should be most ashamed. they took off on him at the end and during the game didn’t seem to stand up for him. it was just an excellent study on mob mentality, scapegoating, and the ugly side of people.

  2. FredNo Gravatar

    you mentioned lyons, i thought he backtracked and tried to paint himself as a good guy when he really wasn’t. he needed to admit guilt for that “throw the fan onto the field” comment. he was just as guilty as everyone else.

  3. ScottNo Gravatar

    I agree it was a great documentary. I really find it amazing that Bartman NEVER took a dime from any publicity stunt after that fateful nite. A lifelong Cubs fan doing what any other 5-6-7 people around him were trying to do at that moment….catch a foul ball during a possible Cubs run to the World Series. A souvenir he could share with his kids FOREVER. They vilified that man for a simple act of fandom.

    I agree also what Fred said “thought he backtracked and tried to paint himself as a good guy when he really wasn’t.” revisionist history, isn’t it great??? he was part of the mob mentality

    F*ck the Cubs

  4. ColeNo Gravatar

    I liked how that reporter was told to track down bartman and when he did find him Steve told him that he had to talk to his legal team i mean since when does bartman have a legal team hate to throw a football refrence into a baseball topic but come on man

Leave a Comment