BOSTON (CBS) — The practice of social scapegoating dates back to biblical times, when the sins of the community were symbolically transferred to a goat, who was then cast out into the desert to relieve the sinners from their culpability.
Over the years, scapegoating came to include innocent people, blamed for sins they had nothing to do with and demonized to make us all feel better.
And in this century, one of the more notable American scapegoats is Steve Bartman, the Chicago Cubs fan who simply tried to catch a foul ball hit right at him during a key 2003 playoff game.
His interference with what might have been a crucial out in a game the cubs wound up blowing led to a string of ugly scenes, Bartman being threatened as he was escorted out of the ballpark, years of subsequent threats, and vile behavior by knucklehead Cubs fans.
A 2011 documentary about Bartman entitled “Catching Hell” laid out the vulgarity and stupidity of this scapegoating episode, and now it seems this poor guy’s ordeal may be coming to an end.
The Cubs have gifted Bartman with a 2016 World Series ring, saying in a statement, “While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization.”
And Bartman himself, who has never spoken publicly about his nightmare, said, “My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating.”
I’m sure Bill Buckner, law-abiding immigrants, and other modern-day victims of mindless scapegoating would agree.