Please forgive me, Steve Bartman

I was a smirking Sox fan during the worst-ever choking moment for Cubs Nation

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Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass was at the now famous Cubs game where Steve Bartman caught the ball. Kass apologizes to Bartman for the things he said at the game. (10/16/2013)

Please forgive me, Steve Bartman.

It's been 10 years since that historic game at Wrigley, the scene of the greatest choke in the history of Cubs baseball. And of all of the people publicly associated with the Bartman Game, you were the most honorable.

It seems everyone has had their say about what happened that night when you reached out for the ball. But they weren't standing right next to you minutes after it happened.

I was.

Watching it on TV or from a distance isn't the same thing as being there, as you rocked back and forth in your seat, in that famous green turtleneck and glasses and headphones, the single object of fear and loathing from more than 40,000 fans.

Their howling was primal. They threw peanuts, popcorn, beer. The droplets of suds shone in the outfield lights, forming perfect arcs of hate headed your way. The fans' faces were twisted in rage as if spawned whole from the mind of Chicago artist Ed Paschke. All of Cubs Nation was looking for someone to blame.

And I was there, just over Bartman's left shoulder, a smirking White Sox fan wearing a cap from McNally's — the Cubs-hating bar on Western Avenue — as I leaned over, pretending to be a neutral journalist, and asked him:

"Good Lord, man! Do you realize what you've just done?"

Of course he realized it. He's a baseball fan. And here I was gleefully decorating the goat horns already affixed to his head by most every Cubs fan in town.

And I still feel guilty about it.

"My goal for him is to not be discussing it," said Bartman's friend and legal adviser Frank Murtha. "We're dealing with sports. It's a game."

Murtha, a former federal prosecutor who has hunted some truly bad guys, knows that Bartman isn't remotely evil. And he ticked off major events since that game.

"We've been in two wars, we have chaos in Washington, a government threatening collapse, our home state is — in an accounting sense — insolvent," Murtha said. "There are so many more problems in the world than what went on in a sporting event 10 years ago."

But 10 years ago, on Oct. 14, 2003, there was nothing but that playoff game. The Cubs were five outs away from the World Series.

It was the 8th inning and the Cubs were leading 3-0 over the Florida Marlins, a team of destiny with the foul-mouthed Ozzie Guillen coaching third base. Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo hit a soft fly into foul territory in left, and the meat-handed Moises Alou went up to get it.

Bartman and several other fans reached for the ball, and it was knocked away. Alou, angry, threw his glove into the turf and glared at Bartman. The Cubs universe began unraveling, just as the fans feared it would.

"That fan saved our season. That fan gave us a chance we shouldn't have had," Castillo was quoted as saying later. "And you can't give extra chances."

In the 10 years since, there have been attempts to say it wasn't Bartman's fault. The ESPN documentary about that night featured a minister who said Bartman had been literally scapegoated, the innocent repository of countless sins.

No, it wasn't all his fault. But the problem between feel-good mythology and reality is that often reality bites.

Bartman did have a hand in it. He helped provide that extra out that triggered the collapse. And to his credit, he said so in a statement afterward:

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