With five outs remaining in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, a foul ball descended from the cold
Chicago sky, destined for the glove of left fielder Moises Alou. But it was not meant to be, as one inconspicuous hand reached down from the left field stands at Wrigley Field and seized the potential out. That hand belonged to Cubs fan Steve Bartman, and many believed that he snatched away Chicago's chance of advancing to the World Series. Even though Bartman was one of many who reached for the ball, and even though Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez let a sure inning-ending double-play ball go through his legs later in the same inning, and combined with the fact that the Game 6 victory by the Marlins only tied the series at 3-3, Bartman still became the most hated man in Chicago. Bartman attempted a public appeal, but his fate was already sealed by the Cub fans' need for a scapegoat to explain a near-century of losing. Although Cubs Nation has since moved on to other seasons and other losses, Bartman remains ostracized from a community he lives in and a team he once loved. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney will explore this relationship and try to answer the question, Can Steve Bartman ever forgive Chicago?
Alex Gibney is the writer, director and producer of the 2008 Oscar-winning film, "Taxi to the Dark Side". He is also the writer, producer and director of the 2006 Oscar-nominated film, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room", which also received the Independent Spirit Award and the WGA Award. He has recently released "Gonzo", narrated by Johnny Depp about the writer Hunter S. Thompson. "Gonzo" premiered at the 2008 Sundance film Festival and was released on July 4, 2008. Gibney is also in post-production on "Casino Jack", a feature documentary on political corruption; and "My Trip to Al Qaeda", a drama written by Lawrence Wright, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower.
Gibney also served as executive producer for "No End in Sight," which won the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was also nominated for an Oscar; a producer for "Herbie Hancock: Possibilities," a film about the jazz legend's collaboration with musical talents such as Santana, Sting and Christina Aguilera; and consulting producer on "Who Killed the Electric Car."
In 2004, Gibney produced the classic concert film "Lightning in a Bottle", starring Buddy Guy, Macy Gray, Bonnie Raitt, Chuck D, Mos Def, Dr. John, Angelique Kidjo, Solomon Burke and many others. In 2003, Gibney served as the Series Producer for "The Blues", an Emmy-nominated series of seven films in association with executive producer Martin Scorsese. Gibney also produced "The Soul of a Man," the film by Wim Wenders for that series, and was awarded a Grammy for producing the 5-CD box set based on the series.
His recent credits include the theatrical documentary for the BBC and First Run Features The "Trials of Henry Kissinger," "Jimi Hendrix and the Blues," the HBO documentary "Soldiers in the Army of God," "Speak Truth to Power" (Producer), a PBS special about human rights defenders starring Alec Baldwin, Sigourney Weaver, John Malkovich and Kevin Kline and "Brooklyn Babylon."
I am thrilled to participate in ESPN's 30-for-30 series. A longtime sports fanatic and hopeless tennis flailer, I have always wanted to do films on sports that capture the thrill of the contest and the human drama of the players. I zeroed in on the story of Steve Bartman because I am interested in the collective mania of a city and the need to find a scapegoat for disappointment.
As a lifelong Red Sox fan who has been recently released from the Curse of the Bambino, I can show the best and the worst of Cub mania through the lens of one who has been there. Also, having done Taxi to the Dark Side and the upcoming Casino Jack, about Jack Abramoff, I am also very interested in the need for scapegoats. I want to hear from the goats and the scapes. Seeing the tears of Bill Buckner at Fenway as he was released from his torment, makes me curious to know what might happen this year to Bartman if the Cubs manage to win. Will they forgive him? Will he forgive them?
I don't want to get too pointy-headed about all of this, however. One of the reasons I'm doing 30 for 30 is for the fun of it and because, even in my story, there is a lot to say about the game of baseball and how it plays out in mysterious ways that encourage and defy expectation. Was Buckner's boot the real story, or just the nail in the coffin of the Sox untimely demise. Do players really "choke" once they feel things start to unravel, or is it just that, in the words of Don Rumsfeld, "stuff happens?"
It's also good to be back working with ESPN. I did a number of interviews for "SportsCentury," with stars including Ted Williams, Magic Johnson, Bobby Orr, Martina Navratilova, and Pete Sampras. I was the one who was interviewing Rod Laver when he had his life-threatening stroke. After we rushed him to the hospital, I watched as the doctor—who luckily happened to be a rabid tennis fan—asked Laver his occupation to test his mental acuity. "The Rocket" couldn't speak very well.
"Tennis purayer," gurgled the man who had won 11 Grand Slam tournaments. Then he tugged on the doctor's white coat. "I used to be a fairly good tennis player."
Yes, he was.
Back in the saddle.