I want to see the Pittsburgh Pirates win 82 games this season.
This has not always been the case. When the Pirates were on their way to breaking the record for consecutive losing seasons (now at 20 and counting), I cheered every loss. This was mostly because I wanted that record to be disassociated from my team, the Phillies, who finished below .500 for 16 seasons from 1933 to 1948.
It’s likely also because of deep emotional wounds I suffered when my family lived in Pittsburgh for a few months in the late 1970s, in the midst of a years-long, intense, cross-state, NL East rivalry between the Pirates and our Phillies—one of the rare times when both Pennsylvania teams were competitive. (My brother, less than 10 years old at the time, once came home crying from a double header that the Phillies swept from the Pirates because of stuff Pirates fans said and did during the game.)
The good news: I get to do more racist profiling, and this time it seems the Tweeters aren’t Bruins fans or Bostonians.
More bad news: it appears many of the racist Tweeters in this case are actually Caps fans.
To recap, Ward committed a bad penalty – his first penalty, reportedly, since February – at the end of regulation during Game 5 against the Rangers Tuesday night. The ensuing Rangers power play produced the winning goal and a 3-2 loss for the Capitals.
To be sure, it was a BAD penalty; Ward basically wacked a Rangers player in the face while jockeying for position after a faceoff, and he cut the guy’s mouth open. So I can understand people getting upset, and he certainly deserves some criticism for a boneheaded play.
On one hand, it’s good to see that racist hockey fans aren’t concentrated in the Boston or New England area. On the other hand, I feel compelled to point out the volume of racist Tweets following Game 5 is significantly smaller than what occurred after Game 7 against the Bruins (see Meet The Racist Bruins Fans Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for more). So there you have it.
I’m not going to take this opportunity to gloat and turn this against all the Capitals’ fans who bashed Boston and Bruins Nation for those awful Game 7 Tweets. Because quite frankly, we deserved it, and the true Caps fans out there don’t need me to give them grief.
No, I’m taking this opportunity to gear up for another Vendetta Ride.
Because i can’t stand fucking racists. And because Joel Ward deserves my support.
Let me start by saying that Steve Bartman is a better person than I am. He’s a better person than Moises Alou, Mike Wilbon, and all the Cubs fans who still revile him and hold him responsible for the Cubs’ loss in the 2003 National League Championship Series. (And he had a similar fielding percentage to Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzales in the fateful inning that doomed him to a life of hiding.)
Steve Bartman, of course, is the fan (one of the fans, actually) who tried to catch a foul ball that left fielder Moises Alou may have been able to catch in the eighth inning of Game 6 of that NLCS. The Cubs had a 3-0 lead in the game and a 3-2 lead in the series. They needed five outs to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945, and if Bartman had not made contact with that ball, Cubs left fielder Moises Alou likely would have caught it and they would have only needed four outs. Instead, Alou did not make the catch and slammed his glove in anger at the fans—one in particular—who got in his way.
Long story short (in case you don’t know how this ends), the Cubs threw up on their shoes and lost that game 8-3, then were eliminated by the Marlins the next night in Game 7. Cubs fans, needing a scape (billy) goat for their frustrations, pinned the loss on Bartman. He was subjected to threats of varying severity, including a thinly veiled one from the charming young governor of Illinois at the time, Rod Blagojevich, who suggested that Bartman should enter the witness protection program. Pardon the Interruption host Mike Wilbon confessed later to hating Steve Bartman.
More than eight years later, just this past March, ESPN Chicago did one of those fan-voter March Madness brackets of Chicago’s Public Enemy #1. Steve Bartman was among the 16 people most hated by Chicagoans. You know who was not on the list? Shortstop Alex Gonzales, who booted a surefire double-play ball that would have gotten the Cubs out of that eighth inning with the lead intact. Or any of the actual players in the game who allowed the Marlins to score eight runs that inning after the Bartman incident.
Even notoriously tough Philly fans eventually forgave Mitch Williams for his role in losing the 1993 World Series. And he was an actual player in an actual game who gave up the actual Series-clinching home run. He wasn’t just some guy in the wrong place at the wrong time whose life changed forever with an impulse move that 99 percent of baseball fans would have made in the same situation.
Here’s the part where Steve Bartman is a better person than the rest of us: He has completely disappeared, and he has refused opportunities to cash in on this moment. He forwarded tongue-in-cheek gifts from Marlins fans after the game to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In the years since, he has turned down a ton of money—including a $25,000 offer to autograph a photo of himself and a reported six figures to appear in a Super Bowl commercial eight years after the fact.
Cubs fans have ruined the life of one of their own because they’re desperate to blame someone for generations of their team’s futility. But any Cubs fan who blames Bartman instead of Alex Gonzales or Mark Prior or Kyle Farnsworth or any of the other players who were actually in the game is misguided. If you pin the entirety of losing a series that your team led three games to one on that fluke of a moment, you are a hateful, spiteful loser—and you’re part of an irrational mob.
I know many Cubs fans rationally, as individuals, do not profess hate for Steve Bartman. But there’s a reason he went into hiding, and that a guy who clearly loved his team has not been back to Wrigley Field since. The mob mentality that forced Bartman to leave the city in a disguise, and that had six police cars guarding his house, and that forced his family to change phone numbers still exists—it may have diminished, but ESPN Chicago’s bracket proves that it’s still there.
I’ll be honest, I love this commercial for MLB: The Show 2012, which went viral because it tugs at the heart strings of all baseball fans. I think most sports fans can relate to the release Chicago will experience when the Cubs do eventually win it all after 100 years without a title. Chicago is a great city, and the Cubs are a historic franchise, so I think on some level, most baseball fans root for them at least a little.
But so long as Steve Bartman keeps showing up on lists of people Chicagoans hate the most, along with the likes of Bill Laimbeer, Brett Favre, and Albert Belle, I will root against them. Because they don’t deserve a title.
One of the questions I’ve attempted to answer here is whether or not the people who Tweeted racist statements regarding the Capitals’ Joel Ward were in fact true Bruins fans and proper Bostonians. So far, after looking at 10 of the authors of those racist Tweets, it appears that most of them are what a sane and rational person would consider a Bruins fan (Editor’s Note: Part 2 of this series has been updated with new information).
The second question – where are these people from? — has produced more distressing but not entirely unexpected results. The collection so far includes Massachusetts towns like Plymouth, Attleboro, Danvers, Bolton and other regions well outside of Boston. In fact, we have Tweeters from New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut. So it seems that this is not just a Boston or even a Massachusetts problem but one that spans New England.
To be sure, not all of these Tweeters are from the area. As you’ll see below with Ryan Clifford, some folks had no affiliation whatsoever with the Bruins and just happened to be watching the game and suddenly felt compelled to blurt out racist comments regarding the outcome of a hockey game that really had no bearing on their lives. Which is just sad.
In any event, before we get to the next couple racist Tweets (due to time constraints, I was only able to get two for this installment), let’s turn our attention to one of the few Tweeters who issued an apology on their own.
The first is to own up to your actions. Apologize. Face the music. Repent. Show remorse. Make amends. Be a better Bruins fan, and more importantly a better human being. Do all that, and you will be taken off the list. Like Mike Spiewak, a.k.a. @Spee_Durr.
Mike, a diehard Bruins fan, Tweeted something pretty awful – “You know the games over when the nigger scores. Goodbye bandwagon fans, see you all next April. #Bruins losing in #Game7 #breaksmyheart” – but to his credit he quickly apologized, deleted his remark, and then spent the next several days apologizing. And kept apologizing. And then for good measure, apologized some more. He took the heat. He owned his actions without making excuses or rationalizing them. We at BTBNL appreciate that. Mike is off the list.
Your second option is to ignore the fallout, hide in anonymity, and hunker down at the Winchester until this all blows over.
People who have sent us helmets out of the kindness of their hearts:
Barb Buse Breen (and her aunt Ellen)
Kelly Farrell (and her sister Camille)
Scott & Susan Mealey
Katie Caputo Roberts
Minor League teams that have generoulsy donated helmets to the collection:
New Britain Rock Cats
Oklahoma City Redhawks
Toledo Mud Hens
Wilmington Blue Rocks
We write about sports. We make a lot of jokes. We do our best to use good grammar.