This has been a difficult week for many reasons, mostly because of my paternal grandfather’s passing at the age of 86. But it’s also the week preceding the Academy Awards, one of the highlights of my year no matter what.
This year, I started the week before the Oscars by interviewing current Documentary Feature nominee Dan Lindsay about his film, Undefeated, the True/False Film Fest and how he became enraptured with the documentary medium. Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my life goals is to attend the Academy Awards. I don’t care if I’m a seat-filler—I have just always wanted to be in Hollywood for the biggest night in entertainment. And so to interview Dan Lindsay, a 2001 MU graduate and now an Oscar nominee, is as close as I’ve gotten so far.
Lindsay, originally from Rockford, Ill., went to the University of Missouri to study advertising, but he ended up studying finance and some theatre. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles where he hoped to get some sort of production work, he told me. At a Kinko’s (because there were actual Kinko’s back then…I used to love hanging out at Kinko’s and making copies when I was 4 and 5), Lindsay met a guy with showbiz connections. When 9/11 happened, that contact he met asked if he’d be interested in driving from Los Angeles and New York to make a documentary, and that’s how things began for him.
I’d say more, but I think you should just listen to the interview itself—it’s only the first part of a two-part interview series I produced for KBIA, the NPR affiliate in Columbia, Mo.
The most recent 30 for 30 film on ESPN, “Catching Hell,” explores how one man with front-row seats to a NLCS game became Chicago’s newest sports pariah eight years ago. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, the film veers beyond Steve Bartman to examine Gibney’s own experience as a Red Sox fan after Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. But unlike in 1986, the heartbreak did not happen on the field; it happened on the fringe of the delicate plane between player and spectator. It happened under the unnatural nighttime glow of Wrigley Field.
“It’s a damp, chilly night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. We welcome you to Game 6 of this National League Championship Series, where the Cubs are trying to close it out on the homefront, leading this best-of-seven series over the Florida Marlins three games to two.” —Thom Brennaman, MLB on Fox announcer
On Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2003, the Chicago Cubs were headed to their first World Series since Harry Truman’s presidency, and it looked like the Red Sox could be joining them. Even I, a loyal Cardinals fan, couldn’t help but appreciate the moment. (Sorry.)
“Well, the stars seem to be aligned for the Chicago Cubs. They have Mark Prior getting the ball tonight, their best pitcher; Kerry Wood, waiting in the wings should there be a Game 7 tomorrow. But we are talking about the Chicago Cubs, a franchise that has not been to the World Series since 1945.”—Thom Brennaman
The Cubs scored one run in the first, sixth and seventh innings, staking Prior to a 3-0 lead in the eighth.
Sometimes, teams just have bad innings.
Marlins pinch hitter Mike Mordecai flied out to Moises Alou. One out. Juan Pierre doubled to left. The next batter would also send the ball to left field.
On a full count to Florida’s Luis Castillo, Cubs starter Mark Prior loosed the ball from his grip and fired. Castillo made contact, fouling it down the left field line. The ball landed just inside the first row of seats. It wasn’t in play for left fielder Moises Alou, though it’s not impossible to think he might have made a miraculous catch. All the same, Alou is no Derek Jeter.
Fans reached for the ball in mid-air—a souvenir they could show their children and grandchildren from the night the Cubs won the pennant on the North Side. Or sell on eBay for an unreasonable amount. Instead of two outs in the eighth, Castillo walked. Game 6′s real turning point happened in the next at-bat, when Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez committed an error. It didn’t look like Bill Buckner’s infamous 1986 gaffe, and people remember Game 6 for Steve Bartman, not Gonzalez.
Steve Bartman is invisible eight years later, Chicago Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson writes. His life, so very different before Luis Castillo laced a foul ball in his general direction, changed. It changed not because of what he did, but because of how Alou and the Wrigley crowd reacted. Because Prior threw a pitch, because Castillo swung, because the ball traveled to an area where fan and fielder can collide and because the ball found him, Bartman’s life changed.
But the game continued.
The Marlins struck the Cubs for eight runs in the eighth, and the North Siders never got off the canvas. Not even an early lead in Game 7 would help them. On the precipice of history, the Cubs backed away because they were pushed, and they didn’t push back hard enough.
Believe it or not, the Cubs still led 3-0 after Castillo fouled away a 3-2 pitch. The sky wasn’t falling. It never did. Security spirited away Bartman, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t really his fault.
Maybe Gibney’s “Catching Hell” focused too much on the hypothetical: “What if Alou had made the catch? Would it have mattered?” No one can say.
Sometimes, teams just have bad innings.