Catching Hell: Part 2 of 3
Director: Alex Gibney
Writer: Alex Gibney
Cinematographer: Keith Walker
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
NOTE: I wrote this a month before the Cubs would go on to win the World Series
I like other teams, and believe this is attributed both 1) the MLB.tv and MLB At Bat Apps and 2) the fact that I no longer live in my home city, and therefore having (until the App) an inability to even watch the games, and therefore simply appreciating that your hometown city is getting attention, and that your hometown teams are doing well is good enough for me. It’s very odd to me watching the Sox vs. Cubs feud, which while mostly all in good fun, does go to some pretty extreme levels as I’ve witnessed many times, often revolving around a lot of homophobic Cubs jokes. The idea of wanting the other side to lose, not at all caring what it does for the city is so bizarre to me - in that I both kind of understand the more innocuous bantering, and just don’t think the animosity is worth the logic of going much heavier than that. Now that I’m in Los Angeles I’m definitely falling in love with the Dodgers, and actually find myself in a hypocritical position for not really liking the Angels, though a far cry away from wanting to abuse someone.
The best part of the MLB.tv App is the ability to watch any game (other than in city games), with either side’s commentary, and so my process has often been looking at the scores, seeing if there are any close games going on, or if a good feud is occurring (i.e., interdivision battles), or if one of my favorite teams is playing a team that’s doing well that I don’t like. My favorite teams are: the Cubs, White Sox, Blue Jays, Athletics, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, and Mariners. And I know I’ll eventually have to ditch the Giants if I’m going to get any more serious about the Dodgers, but they have a special place in my heart for getting me into the game. The Athletics remind me of Moneyball, and I like the underdog, leaving me close to getting really into the Devil Rays, having bought the book and enjoyed “The Extra 2%”, but not quite won over for how terrible the stadium is to watch. The Cubs and White Sox are hometown pride, with the White Sox’s Hawk Harrelson reminding me of summer times back at home, with my dad having the game on during the summer days as I was entering and leaving the house. The Blue Jays just make me feel good when I see their uniforms, and I hear they have an awesome stadium, they’re the last team from Canada which is weird in a good way, and they have an awesome logo. The Red Sox embody that historic American Tradition I love in the game. And the Dodgers because I’m now in LA and they’re a badass team, also with a rich and shocking history. Thus I can watch the Athletics play the Texas Rangers or Yankees, hoping for the upset, possibly leaving the game on in the background. What I find almost kind of weird, at this point, is that people love one team and one team only. The problem is that with the MLB.tv and At Bat apps, I can’t watch local games due to black out rules (it’s why the app is so cheap). That’s fine for transplants. Still, it boggles my mind that anyone could only love one single team, only watching those games and no others. It’s like being into MMA and only rooting for one fighter.
These new Apps make the game more exciting, as you’re watching a diversity of skills and formidability. The idea of watching a single team seems far less exciting, as I rather watch eighty good games a year, based on the rivalry or what’s going on, as I’m able to select from around fourteen games a day, rather than a fraction of that when limiting myself to only one team. It is here where the superfandom becomes all the more confusing, especially with how aggressive feuds can occur between Cubs vs. White Sox fans, or Dodgers vs. Giants fans, in which people have been assaulted or even killed. I understand it exists, I just cannot imagine my mind ever taking something this innocent that seriously.
Catching Hell is a brilliant documentary that takes first hand footage from that infamous Game 3 with Steve Bartman, dissecting the moment with vast and precise detail. What got me excited to watch the film was after I posted about how great the OJ Simpson ESPN documentary was, someone had commentated that Catching Hell was like a sports meant JFK doc. I recalled the situation, and grew nervous when reading what it was about, something about dissecting the idea of scapegoating in sports. I was expecting some Frontline type of documentary, interviewing expert psychologists and how fandom occurs. Instead it was exactly what I was hoping for - a deep dive into that dreaded night.
Other than maybe later this year (I wrote this a month before the Cubs 2016 win), I don’t think there’s a better time to watch this documentary. The Cubs are in first place in the entire MLB, having won 64% of their games, with the next closest competitor at around 59%. Keep in mind that winning by 5% or higher of the popular vote in a presidential race is considered a land slide. Alex Gibney opens up the film on the Red Sox who were in Game 6 of the World Series, playing the Mets, winning 3-0, Bucker missed a slow roller at first base by inches. The Red Sox went on to lose both that game and the series, embodying what fans believed was the “Curse of the Bambino”, scapegoating Bill Buckner, who was mentally damaged by the incident. One might initially think, “Oh poor guy, got paid millions to play baseball and he’s sad about missing a hit”, or something along these lines, but keep in mind the super fandom aggression. It wasn’t some type of cute curse, but rather an incident that destroyed what some people were waiting all their lives for. Say what you will about a person’s love of sport, for many it provides meaning to their lives, whether supreme or minute. And for some, having the highest actualization of this meaning then destroyed was unforgivable. Buckner was blamed for decades, eventually breaking down during a press conference, blaming the media for replaying the incident over and over and over again, and keeping the anger alive. He continued to receive threats, until the club publicly forgave him for the harassment. This is only a about a fifth of the documentary.
Stay tuned for Part 3...
BELOW: Bartman on family guy
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