Of course the fan shouldn't be blamed for blowing the lead. The Cubs did that on their own. But if you're a good fan into the game as the Cubs are counting the outs on one hand to get to the World Series for the first time in almost half a century, there no way you don't back off to give your team a chance to play the ball. If it's the radio you're listening to on those ear buds, the announcer has to be talking about Alou having a shot at the ball. If it's not the game in your ears, you're an oblivious joke in the stands.
I've been in the front row in foul territory quite a bit, and I always defer to the defender. It's rare that people I've been sitting near don't. If the stakes were as high as they were in the Steve Bartman game, I don't see how other fans could have let that happen. I've seen fans harassed out of their seats for less than Steve Bartmen did.
I didn't see the play live. As it happened, I heard it on the radio in Alaska, and the announcers thought Alou had a play on the ball. After the inning ended, I went in to work to cover a planning commission meeting, and the commissioners were joking about the fan that cost the Cubs a trip to the World Series.
This wasn't just something that would have happened to anyone in a similar situation. It was embarrassingly bad form for a baseball fan, magnified under the circumstances. Of course, the Cubs collectively lost it after that. It's hard to imagine the way the play came down was just a coincidence. It was as if the team gave up, pitching-wise. Defense-wise. It was as if there was suddenly an enormity of pressure on the Cubs, and it they fell apart under it.
I can't imagine things would have gone the same way the foul ball had drifted six rows into the seats. I watched the replay of the inning and the Cubs are a different team after the play than they were before it. And after botching the Miguel Cabrera double play grounder, the Cubs became tighter still.
Steve Bartman wasn't to blame. But apparently the Cubs' psyche was so fragile, they were playing so tight, that one fan looking like he could have cost the team one out when things seemed firmly under control was all it took to unravel the season. I'm just happy that a White Sox fan isn't the object lesson Steve Bartmen has become around the country. But it wasn't, and a couple of hours after the game, there was an incredible aurora display over Juneau, as if in celebration.
No doubt the Cubs' NLCS collapse cost the Yankees a World Series title.