Remembering Hell

Note from Cyn: I wrote this on July 3, 2011.  It’s archived in the old posts but figured it couldn’t hurt to bring it out since the Cubs are finally in the NLCS again.

I reviewed the documentary “Catching Hell” without intending to. I wrote the below because while watching the documentary I started yelling at the television and then remembered I wrote a blog where I could vent my frustrations.  So here it is.

July 3, 2011: So I’m home and going through the On Demand listings and I come across “Catching Hell“, a documentary described as exploring “the phenomenon of scapegoating by examining what the fateful deflected foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS did to Cubs fans and Bill Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series did to Boston fans”.  Sounds like 104 minutes of fun, right?  This was made for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and I almost didn’t watch it.  I really go out of my way, even now, to avoid watching anything from Game 6 but in buying this On Demand I made the decision to watch it.  No sense in paying to watch the documentary and skip through the painful parts, right?

I know that it is completely insane that after 2004 and 2007, watching the end of that game is still painful, but it is.  It hurt me physically to watch it.  Really made my heart and body ache.  There was never, ever, a time when I “blamed” Bill Buckner for what happened, never, but there is no denying that there were many who did (truth be told, more in the media and around the country than locally.  I’ve honestly never met anyone who held hatred or anger toward Buckner who lived in the area.  Hell, he got cheered when he came back to Boston as a player…that bit of information always gets left out of any discussions about Bill Buckner).

So I expected to watch this and be annoyed by comparing something that happened in the LCS to something that happened in the World Series (as far as the pain of the fans) but I wasn’t.  Alex Gibney, the filmmaker (and Boston Red Sox fan) did a wonderful job of showing in painful detail how scapegoating both Bartman and Buckner was so ridiculous and unfair that the personal pain kind of went away.  I’ll say this about the Cubs fans, I have a different view of them now.  I will never get over hearing the fans not only chanting “asshole”at him but yelling things like “we’re going to kill you!” and  “Put a twelve gauge in his mouth and pull the trigger” and throwing things at him.  Definitely not a high point for baseball fans.  I did NOT expect to be more upset by the Bartman incident than the Buckner one but the filmmakers really covered it in such detail that I couldn’t help getting upset for Steve Bartman (not the Cubs fans.  Definitely not the Cubs fans) like it just happened.  I was genuinely yelling “Oh my God!” at some of what was shown. How Fox and Steve Lyons hammered the visual of Bartman over and over and how the fans fed off of Moises Alou and instead of supporting the team after that, spent the rest of the game torturing Bartman.  (And, really, based on the audio and video, Lyons and Fox are as responsible for what happened to him as the Cubs fans are. )  Friendly Confines, my ass.

Ironically, anyone who blamed Buckner or Bartman seemed to forget that both games were game sixes.  Each team had an entire game to finish things off and couldn’t seal the deal.  I guess it’s more fun to blame folks than it is to accept that your team failed.

I have to tell you, too, that after watching the replay of Moises Alou’s reaction over and over, I take issue with how he acted.  His actions (or REactions) helped fuel the fire that changed Steve Bartman’s life forever.  It pleased me that Gibney says in a voice over “Moises Alou was NOT a great fielder.  Would he have made the catch [had Bartman not been there]?”  To this day, Alou is “…convinced 100 percent” that he would have made the catch.  Using technology where they erased the crowd from the shot, it does look like Alou would have made the catch.  But we’ll never know.  Is ruining a man’s life a good trade off for your favorite team losing?

The filmmaker wants to get your blood boiling and  he does.  Not only showing us Buckner and Bartman, but reminding us about Jeffrey Maier.  (Interesting that Maier gets treated like a God for legitimate fan interference while Steve Bartman is forever reviled for doing something all the fans around him were also doing.)

All in all an interesting, but also sad look at how fans protect their own feelings by picking a scapegoat so they can continue to root for the laundry.

The majority of the documentary covers Bartman and what happened surrounding what happened in game 6 but it is bookended by Bill Buckner and the Red Sox.  Fascinating to hear him talking about how he really didn’t know how he missed the ball and never watched the replay until recently where he studied in slow motion what happened.  (According to him, the ball went by his glove not between his legs. Not sure what he means specifically by that)  Buckner didn’t watch the 2004 World Series because Fox kept showing his error video.  (Yes, this film is full of more reasons to hate Fox.)

The Boston segment ends with Bill Buckner’s trip back to Fenway in 2008 for Opening Day.  A quote from him at the pre-game presser that I had almost forgotten about gives us more proof of where the whole vilification of Bill Buckner came from.

“I had to forgive, not the fans of Boston per se, but in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through”

On the record for the film he says that he felt the crowd “wanted me to feel better”. We sure did, Bill.

It also gets pointed out that Bill Buckner, in becoming a professional baseball player, asked for the limelight and the good and bad that came with it and Steve Bartman didn’t ask for any of it.  I do agree with this in a sense. I can’t imagine having your entire life change over something you didn’t even realize was happening at the time.

To this day, Steve Bartman is in hiding from Cubs fans.  The stories are that he doesn’t even use credit cards because he doesn’t want to risk anyone recognizing his name.  In a sense, he’s lost his identity because people don’t know where to draw the line.

“There are many who say the city should forgive Bartman but it’s really up to Bartman to forgive Chicago.”  Can’t really say I would blame him if he never did.

Posted in 2015 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Remembering Hell

NESN Drops the Ball

Don Orsillo with Gary Tuck - June 2010 - Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill and used with permission.

Don Orsillo with Gary Tuck – June 2010 – Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill and used with permission.


“It’s like he’s trying to speak to me, I know it! You know, you’re really cute, but I don’t know what you’re saying! Say the first thing again!” ~Marlin baffled by Squirt in “Finding Nemo”.     Also, me to all the students presenting at the Saber Seminar last weekend.


If I had to guess, I’d say maybe every other presenter at the Saber Seminar this past weekend made a “not all baseball fans are like this group here” comment. Every time someone said it I thought “Hell, I’M not even like this group!”

I love baseball. LOVE it. Fall asleep every night to a random game playing on Extra Innings long after the Red Sox have finished their game. But I have to admit that the advanced statistics often times go right over my head. I try to have the same passion for it that I do the game itself…but I don’t.  And that isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the Saber Seminar.  I did. It was two days of a lot of fascinating discussions, baseball stories and like-minded people getting a chance to interact. It was my first time there and it was time well-spent.

But there are a boatload of genuine, passionate, baseball fans who would have lasted about a half an hour and then gone looking for a bar with a tv showing a baseball game.

And that’s okay. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

As I’m guessing anyone reading this already knows, it was announced today that after the 2015 season NESN will not be bringing Don Orsillo back to the broadcast booth.

I mean what the hell?

After giving it some thought, my reaction was “Well, this is terrible news but I guess no one has their job forever.”  And then I thought “Why the hell not?” I mean, unless you are absolutely terrible at your job why shouldn’t you be able to keep it?



If the outpouring of emotion all over social media outlets today is any indication, most Red Sox fans (as well as the Boston sports media) are quite fond of Donnie O and genuinely upset about the situation. There are support hashtags for D.O. and nasty comments to NESN’s twitter account that have been flooding Twitter all afternoon. People are threatening to cancel their Extra Innings or MLBtv subscriptions next season while others are posting videos of Don and Jerry Remy at their most entertaining.

But one tweet stood out for me. It was in response to a Chad Finn tweet:


Now Joe Palladino is quite possibly a very nice man so I’m not here to specifically call him out – especially since he isn’t the only person to make this observation. But it was the first tweet of its kind that I saw today and it made me think about baseball fans and their expectations.

(As an important aside, it was pointed out to Mr. P and many others that Don Orsillo’s job is to provide play by play, not analysis. That fact doesn’t take away from the point I’m about to make.)

Don Orsillo has two jobs, the first is to tell us what is happening in the game, the play by play if you will. The second, and this is so very important to his job, is to ENTERTAIN US.

Some will argue that plenty of announcers do their jobs perfectly fine without breaking into giggle fits or showing off their packing skills and those people would be correct. But that doesn’t mean that you CAN’T do your job without acting like you’re enjoying the heck out of it and that’s what Don Orsillo has done ever since the first night he took the microphone next to Jerry Remy.

There are so many different levels to enjoy baseball. Some people enjoy lots of hits and runs, some prefer pitching duels, others keep their noses buried in their scorecards, while others go to the park to take photos of the action. Some spend hours and hours pouring over statistics and working on creating new statistics to mark every moment of the game. There are fans who go to the park to enjoy a summer evening outdoors and fans who collect baseball cards for the pictures of the cute guys. And there are many, many fans who use baseball as their soundtrack to summer. Either with the radio or the television, every night around 7pm people some people settle in to spend a few hours with their baseball friends.

There is no wrong way to be a fan. Unless you’re a jackass. Don’t be a jackass.

But I digress.

The Saber Seminar’s connection to Mr. Palladino’s above tweet is tenuous but does exist in MY mind. The majority of the folks at the seminar were wonderfully welcoming, interesting and fun (and obviously passionate about baseball). They were also incredibly focussed on the science and statistics surrounding baseball. For the most part, the weekend wasn’t about being entertained by the game, it was about the deeper meaning behind each pitch, hit and run. And that’s great. And I get that some people, like the folks at the seminar and Mr. P above, might turn into a baseball broadcast to learn more about the statistics and the science. They want more than just “Swing and a miss” or “Hitters are batting .283 versus Smith over his last 12 appearances.” But in fairness, those folks, passionate and wonderful as they are, don’t make up the entirety of baseball fans.

The fans who just want to hear the game being called by a familiar voice make up the majority of the fans. The folks who enjoy hearing Don and Jerry lose their minds over some idiot who tossed a slice of pizza at another fan or who get excited that Jerry surprised Don with a desk lamp, those are the fans who thought NESN got it.

With Don Orsillo we’ve celebrated three World Championships and three no-hitters (four if you count Derek Lowe, but Orsillo didn’t call that game). We’ve mourned the losses of Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky among others…and we laughed. Holy cow have we laughed.

What folks like Mr. Palladino above and, apparently, all the suits at NESN don’t get is that for many of us a member of our family is being kicked out of our home with, seemingly, no good explanation. If he was spreading his wings and taking his talents elsewhere on his own we’d be sad but understanding. Being unceremoniously dumped makes no sense to us and we’re left hurt and angry and with questions that NESN probably won’t ever answer.

Don Orsillo isn’t an analyst but he’s an entertainer and he does that job well. NESN is taking away someone who has grown dear to so many of the people they rely on for their ratings. Maybe they don’t care – it’s a fair bet that they don’t care – but that doesn’t mean that WE can’t care. Watching NESN next season might not be an option for me because I don’t know that I want to support a business who cares so little about people.

I guess what I’ve been trying to say is that I will miss Don Orsillo terribly when he’s gone and that makes me sad. I’m so tired of baseball making me sad.

Posted in 2015 | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments
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