If you remember the 2003 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins, the Cubs were just five outs from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945. However, in a fly ball out to left field, Steve Bartman tried to grab a foul ball, preventing outfielder Moises Alou from catching it. That moment shifted the momentum of the game and helped the Florida Marlins rally for an 8-3 victory to tie the NLCS. The 26-year-old Bartman, a youth baseball coach, was escorted by security guards from Wrigley Field after he was threatened by angry fans and pelted with debris.
With his life threatened by angry fans, a police guard was posted outside his suburban Northbrook home that evening. Bartman issued a public apology to Cubs fans saying, “I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart.” He would go on to ask that, “Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.”
His wishes were unanswered. The Marlins would go on to win Game 7 and advance to the World Series thereby cementing Bartman’s gaffe as a key moment in the Cubs’ history. Angry broadcasters castigated him. Thousands of people blamed him for playing a role in the Cubs’ loss. Can you imagine an entire major metropolitan area blaming you for the loss of your team’s ability to go to the World Series. Even worse it wasn’t really the guy’s fault. One fan didn’t blow the game. It was the eleven other goofs and blunders on the part of the Cubs that cost them the series. Furthermore, the loss of the sixth game just tied up the playoff. The Marlins beat the Cubs without fan interference in the seventh game.
In one degree or another, I guess we all operate like Cubs fans, looking for someone else to blame. Blaming makes us feel better about ourselves, so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions, and no amount of truth to the contrary will convince us. Yes, in playing the blame game, we hope to exonerate ourselves by making sure that the person, who we believe has failed, is properly identified and punished.
Those who play the blame game set themselves up as judge, jury and dispenser of punishment. And it’s a nasty little game that God absolutely demands we forfeit, because he has a different intention for us. Instead he wants us to stop blaming others and learn to accept ourselves in spite of our imperfections, knowing that our worth is not dependent on our performance, but on what God says is true of us. For living in the reality of what God says is true of us, gives us the freedom to extend grace and compassion to ourselves and others, in the same way that God extends grace and compassion to us.