Jewish World Review Oct. 20, 2003 / 24 Tishrei, 5764

Keith Olbermann

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Grief becomes celebrity | Not even 48 hours after the baseball Cubs fan, Steve Bartman, reached into history by attempting to reach in for a foul ball, and word is they're going to make a movie about it.

In their grief, in their anger, many of the citizens have turned on the 26-year-old financial analyst trying to make him the fall guy for the fact that the Cubs, five outs away from their first trip to the World Series since 1945, have instead headed home.

And then there are the people trying to make him into a movie. Before the body was even cold on game six, the TV sitcom actor Kevin James ("King of Queens") proposed a film called "Fan Interference" to a studio called Endeavor. The industry didn't move this fast on the Jessica Lynch flick.

The trade publication, "Variety" says the deal was consummated by yesterday afternoon and that James will play, "a man who screws up an easy out and then has to deal with the ramifications." I wonder if there are copyright ramifications, maybe if Steve Bartman can sue, after all, it is his living hell.

But, the movie is least of his problems. There is a police guard at his home. The governor of Illinois made stupid, possibly incendiary remarks about him, and a commentator has suggested plastic surgery. Steve Bartman is just the latest scapegoat for the Cubs' 95 years of misery.

And, the word "scapegoat" is chosen carefully. For the last 30 years or so, a lot of weight has been given to an incident that allegedly happened during the last Cubs World Series. Something about the team refusing to let a fan and his pet goat attend the games and the owner thereby cursing the team. Though, supposedly, the story dates to 1945, nobody in baseball can actually recall hearing the story before about 1976.

Still, a curse is a curse. It doesn't have to make sense. The idea that Babe Ruth somehow cursed the Red Sox makes no sense either, but when reality is equally unbelievable, a curse against Chicago beloved, but hapless Cubbies, sounds like a reasonable explanation. Steve Bartman may be the least popular civilian in that city since the equally blameless Kate O'Leary whose cow did not start the Chicago fire of 1871.

Getting use to his status as the new goat can't be easy for Steve Bartman. Jay Leno, on the "Tonight Show" joked, "What do Cubs fans have in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger? They should learn to keep their hands to themselves. "

It's tough to keep the heat off Bartman, as long as responsible officials like Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich make comments like this about Bartman: "If he commits a crime, he won't get a pardon from this governor. You've got to be looking out for your team." Somebody say recall?

Presumably the governor was joking like his Florida counterpart, Jeb Bush. Governor Bush has offered Bartman asylum in the Sunshine State, if needed- a condo in Pompano Beach in Florida. Eager for a little free publicity, offered Bartman a three-month stay there for free. That poor Mr. Bartman is being blamed, so the fans don't to have blame the shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, or the manager Dusty Baker, or the heretofore tightfisted Tribune company, which has owned the team and has, like its predecessors, the Wrigley Gum Company, been satisfied to see it stink as long as it made money. Though all that is true, it does not change the fact that Steve Bartman is, and will remain, on the hot seat. They still talk about Mrs. O'Leary, don't they?

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The writer hosts MSNBC's “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” The news program, dedicated to all of the day’s top stories, telecasts weeknights, 8-9 p.m. ET. Comment by clicking here.

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