Why did the Cubs miss out on the 2003 World Series?
Everyone knows the answer to that. Bartman blew it, right? Steve Bartman reached out on to the field of play and prevented Moises Alou from making a catch he otherwise would have easily made and cost the Cubs their chance at glory. Facts are facts, right? Bartman was to blame.
What cost the Red Sox the 1986 world series?
Everyone knows that the Red Sox were about to win it all when Buckner let a ground ball go through his legs and cost them the lead and ended the World Series. Facts are facts, right? Buckner was to blame.
There is a problem with both sets of facts. They are wrong.
Bartman reached for a foul ball that came at him (as millions have done before and since). The ball was in the stands and even Moises Alou has admitted he probably wouldn’t have caught the ball. But when he missed it, he threw a tantrum on the field and pointed at Bartman who then became the focus of the Cubs’ ire.
It was the eighth inning, the Cubs had a three run lead with their best pitcher on the mound and one out. Bartman’s (questionable) interference didn’t really change a thing. But then the pitching went bad, the defense became porous and within a few minutes eight runs had scored, the Cubs were losing and Bartman was being escorted by security out of the stands.
And they still had another game to play. This was the sixth game, not the seventh and the Cubs had another home game opportunity to win their way to the World Series.
Why did they blame a fan? It was easier than taking responsibility for their poor play, wasn’t it?
Buckner? People have a lot of facts wrong on that one. First of all, the game had already been tied on a wild pitch by Bob Stanley. If Buckner had made the play, the game would not have been over, it would simply have gone on to another extra inning.
And the Red Sox had another game to play. Again, it was game six, not game seven. The Red Sox led through most of game 7 before they gave that lead up. Was Buckner to blame for their failure in game 7 as well?
Of course not. But again, it was easier to pass the buck by blaming Buckner than to admit their failures.
I watched the ESPN documentary, “Catching Hell” last night, which chronicles the Bartman incident, but also examined the Buckner incident. It was riveting, fascinating and disturbing, watching the fans and lazy sports reporters taking the easy road of blaming Buckner and Bartman for their teams’ failures.
Bartman, a lifelong Cubs fan is now reviled by fans of the team he loved all his life. Buckner was a very good player who played the game the right way and did not deserve to be remembered for this one incident. But the media feeding frenzy and the crucial moments in which these events took place almost inevitably led to them becoming infamous.
But Bartman did not cost the Cubs a trip to the World series. Bad pitching, bad fielding and an aggressive Florida Marlins team did. Blaming Bartman was easy, but not fair. Certainly, Buckner’s error was not helpful and it was a big play, but Boston had already blown the lead with a wild pitch and they had another chance two days later. It was just easier to point the finger of blame than to admit their own failings. Find a scapegoat, pin the blame and absolve yourself.
What’s the Point?
I think we all have a tendency to Buckner and Bartman our problems. It is easy to find a scapegoat, pin the blame and absolve ourselves from all failures. It is not a godly response, nor is it helpful.
We will all admit, I think, that the SBC has some significant problems right now. We are plateaued in growth for the last decade or so, and the last couple of years have shown small numerical decreases that open the door to speculation that we are beginning a decline. At first, some denied the reality of the problem, but most of us admit that there is a real problem now.
So, what do we do in response? We look for a Bartman or a Buckner to blame.
- It’s the Calvinists fault.
- If only those non-Calvinists would stop their false attacks.
- We need to become more culturally relevant.
- If only those hide-bound traditionalists would stop standing in the way of progress.
- Those BI guys are the problem.
- The people who don’t accept “historic” Baptist doctrine are causing us to go astray.
- Our name needs to be changed.
- Those who want to change the name are destroying our convention.
I have opinions about each of those issues. But my point, I believe, transcends them. It is easy to find a scapegoat and pin all the problems on him. Sometimes (as with Bartman), the scapegoat really has little to do with the problem. Sometimes, (as with Buckner), the scapegoat may have played a part in the problem but does not deserve the bulk of the blame we have laid on him. But scapegoating is almost never productive.
Baptist bloggers disagree on almost any subject. But one thing we all agree on – the problem is the fault of the people who don’t agree with me. And the solution is for people to see things my way.
A Better Way
Might it not be better for each of us to look within, at our actions and attitudes, rather that just pinning the blame on the Bartmans and Buckners around us?
- Maybe I should look at my life, and my church, and see what we are doing to make the SBC stronger. The SBC is a convention of churches. The only way it grows is if its churches grow – spiritually, theologically and numerically. Maybe I should focus on what is going on at 4301 Old Lakeport and worry less about what Bryant Wright or Paige Patterson or Al Mohler is up to. Those thing matter and we need to discuss those issues. But the solution is in me and at my church.
- Maybe I should worry less about the GCR and think more about the Great Commission.
- Maybe I should not be so fixated on whether we change the name, but how I represent that name regardless of what it is.
Again, I’m not saying that none of these things matter. I’m just saying that it is intellectually lazy to look at our failures and just pin the blame on “them.”
One thing I think I can say for sure. The problems that the SBC faces will not be solved by finding a Buckner or a Bartman to villify.