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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024









The fan is probably the least-mentioned position in sports. Sometimes an innocent spectator can be thrust into the spotlight simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The most tragic example is that of Brittanie Cecil, who died from getting hit in the face by a stray puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets game in 2002. The tragedy spawned some much needed safety changes from the NHL, including the mandate of giant nets surrounding rinks. Despite the new measures, many spectators have been injured by pucks propelled into the seats, and hockey remains the riskiest sport to attend as far as safety is concerned.

The rink at the Clark Center is no different. With the fans so close to the ice, the risk of a puck to the body is very high, and at least four or five pucks get sent into the crowd each game, often causing scares. The ice rink was renovated over the summer and the issues seem to have been addressed. According to men’s hockey coach Peter Belisle, “We just put some new nets up on both ends. They just painted the arena in white with a blue trim[…] the whole arena has a whole look and it’s much cleaner and safer.”

While hockey is a risk as far as safety is concerned, baseball has quite the potential to make you infamous. There is no sport with a greater potential for fans to become a part of the play. Seating right alongside the field and players leaping into the stands to try to make plays can become a recipe for disaster at a huge game.

That’s just what happened in game six of the NLCS in 2003. With the Cubs five outs away from the World Series, Steve Bartman famously went after a foul ball and took it out of the grasp of right fielder Moises Alou. Even though the play was within his rights as a fan because the ball was in the seats, Alou and all of Chicago were furious with Bartman. The Marlins followed up the quirky play with an eight-run inning, and would eventually go on to take the pennant from Chicago and win the World Series. Bartman is still a recluse to this day, and has never given an interview about that night.

The play was brought back into the forefront when ESPN aired a documentary called “Catching Hell” a few weeks ago. The documentary talks to numerous fans involved in the incident including Pat Looney, who was mistakenly thought of as Bartman by many the first day of the aftermath. Looney sat two seats down from Bartman, and came wihin centimeters of touching the ball. He recently told the Mass Media, “I don’t regret sitting there[… ] I would say it probably would’ve been a bit less of a hassle if I wasn’t sitting there.” He added, “Me, knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have gone after the ball[…] I don’t think I did anything wrong.”

While Cubs fans were distraught by the incident, the Marlins were jubilant. Vice Chairman Joel Mael, when asked about whether he thinks that the Bartman play sent the team to the World Series, said, “It’s really hard to say. There were a couple of pretty bad plays after Bartman. Were those caused by the play or would those have happened anyway? Who knows? Generally speaking, people do believe that there are momentum changers in games and there are different things in different sports.” He added, “In baseball, you have less of those types of plays that could be a real motivational change.” When asked about whether he thinks implementing instant replay has cut back on controversies like Bartman, he said, “I think it has 100 percent, by definition.” He also said, “I think that they are talking about possibly expanding replay for the foul lines, as opposed to just home runs, and if the MLB were to do that, a natural outgrowth would be to do fan interference plays on the lines as well.”

It seems as though Bartman reached out a few years too early, because if the same play were to happen now, it is likely his life wouldn’t have been ruined forever. A fan is supposed to be an innocent spectator, but every once in a while a bystander can get hurt severely or become the bane of a city’s existence, so next time you think about buying those front-row seats, remember, it’s safer in the nosebleeds.