Painful Moments In Sports
Monday September 19th, 2011

(This story first appeared in SI in 2003.)

Come out, come out wherever you are, Steve Bartman. Don't you realize that time is of the essence? This is the 21st century, the age of fleeting celebrity. The 15 minutes of fame that ordinary people like you used to get has been pared down to about a minute and a half. Just ask that guy from American Idol. You know, whatshisname. See my point?

You've played it well so far, going into hiding after you inadvertently kept Cubs outfielder Moises Alou from catching a foul ball that would have brought Chicago within four outs of the National League pennant. Your gaffe began a chain of events that ultimately denied the Cubs what would have been their first World Series berth in 58 years. Becoming a recluse was a smart move, and not just because half of the Windy City wanted stuff you into Sammy Sosa's bat like a human cork. By dropping out of sight, you made yourself an even hotter commodity. Every newsmagazine from 60 Minutes to 20/20 would no doubt love to have you. So would Letterman and Leno. You're more in demand than Rush Limbaugh's housekeeper.

Now's the time to strike, Steve, while most people are sorry for you but not sick of you. There are any number of ways for you to cash in. Remember those headphones you were wearing at the fateful moment? Do you have any idea what you could get for those on eBay? That's just the beginning. Think of the endorsement opportunities. You could do beer commercials: ("Remember fans, when a popup comes your way, reach for a Bud, not the ball.") Century 21 would be crazy not to sign you up as a spokesman: (Hi, I'm Steve Bartman. Recently, I needed a realtor in a hurry, for obvious reasons...) Or maybe you could do an ad for one of those long-distance calling programs: ("Sign up for the Friends and Family plan ... while you still have some.")

Can't you just see yourself hosting Saturday Night Live, Steve, or doing a guest voice on The Simpsons? (Bart Man -- what could be more perfect?) How about a spinoff of that new show, we'll call it Queer Eye for the Hated Guy, on which the Fab Five teach you how to redecorate your house after it's been repeatedly egged and toilet papered? You might not have heard of it, but there's also a TV show called Extreme Makeover, on which they drastically alter a person's appearance. Need I say more?

It could all happen -- if you ever show your face in public again. You do want to be famous, don't you Steve? Doesn't everybody? You ought to know by now that it doesn't matter how you get to be well-known, as long as a lot of people pay attention to you, at least for a little while. That's the reason people eat animal intestines on reality shows, the reason liquored-up fans streak across baseball fields, the reason people share their most intimate problems on television with Dr. Phil.

There are people out there who would kill for the kind of attention you're getting right now, Steve, including every Democrat running for president. But maybe you're different. Maybe you're one of the last people left in America who is not starved for celebrity, no matter how brief or empty. Maybe you'd actually rather live your life in privacy and peace. That's all the more reason you should chase every last cheesy opportunity out there. The more you drink from that cup of publicity, the faster you'll drain it. Before you know it, hardly anyone will remember who you are or why they once cared about you so much.

So come on out, Steve. It's the only way you'll ever get back to obscurity. Trust me, it's a very short trip.

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