The Chicago Cubs were five outs away from the 2003 World Series—and a chance to end a century’s worth of disappointment. But as outfielder Moises Alou leapt into the stands for a crucial foul ball, a fan happened to deflect the ball away, cursing the team to ongoing failure. In an instant, the fan’s name became a byword for blowing it in a critical, high-stakes moment. Though dozens of errors contributed to the Cubs’ loss, the name “Steve Bartman” is etched into the annals of sports infamy. Why?
Catching Hell probes the topic of sports curses, superstitions, and scapegoating, tracing the roots of our compulsion to focus blame for a team’s sad legacy on brief moments of identifiable ineptitude. In the process, its comprehensive interrogation of this under-examined sports phenomenon lends insight, and even heroic tragedy, to Bartman’s own curse of undeserved notoriety.
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