7.9/10
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Catching Hell (2011)

After the Chicago Cubs blow an opportunity to reach the World Series in 2003, Cubs fans blame the team's misfortune on fellow fan Steve Bartman, who interfered with a foul ball and prevented Moises Alou from making a catch.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Moises Alou ...
Himself
Steve Bartman ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
Ron Borges ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
Bill Buckner ...
Himself
...
Himself
Josh Doust ...
Himself
Wayne Drehs ...
Himself
Leon Durham ...
Himself (archive footage)
Dwight Evans ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
...
Himself
Jeff Gowen ...
Himself
Brian J. Hedger ...
Himself (as Brian Hedger)
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Storyline

When Chicagoan Steve Bartman fatefully deflected a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, the city's long-suffering Cubs fans found someone new to blame for their cursed century without a World Series title. Director Alex Gibney explores the psychology of die-hard sports fans, the frightening phenomenon of scapegoating, and the hysteria that turned mild-mannered Bartman into the most hated man in Chicago. Written by Tribeca Film Festival

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Documentary | Sport

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10 June 2011 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?

Quotes

Mike Lowell: In the dugout we saw, you know, obviously the Bartman thing and I remember Mark Redman, one of our pitchers, said 'Let's make him famous.'
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Features Baseball Tonight (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

Interesting in summarising the tales of two scapegoats but cannot find the point behind them that it claims to be after
7 December 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I have watched a few of the ESPN documentaries recently because a couple of good ones made me watch more and this one looked like it had potential. Sports is always filled with great stories and even though I am not a baseball fan I was aware of the two stories here. Funnily enough I was only aware of Buckner because of his recent role on Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I was aware of Steve Bartman by deed rather than name, since the one-line summary of what he did essentially went around the western world as one of those "and finally" stories they like to close the news out with before chuckling and saying good night. That the film was written and directed by Gibney just made me more keen to see it because he had done very good work with Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side, so he is a guy who can make documentaries.

Sadly Catching Hell is not as good a documentary as it should have been because of how it sets out its stall but really fails to achieve its goal. The actual telling of the two sporting moments is well done; even those very familiar with both will find the retelling interesting because it is well structured and interesting. The focus on the Buckner incident is a good starting point and sets the theme of the scapegoat well before we go into the Bartman incident. The casual viewer will find much of interest here and indeed my girlfriend started watching this at one point without any knowledge of it and was quite held by the telling. However, where the film is weak is because it doesn't do anything beyond this telling, even though it is structured to do so and constantly sets itself up to do so.

The film is set-up with Gibney asking questions about why we always seem to have these scapegoats and what causes one specific moment to be blamed more than any other – after all, none of the games we look at here (or the many others you'll think of) are lost in just that one moment, so why? He looks briefly at the history of superstition around each club and he then moves on to look at each incident in terms of how it was handled by the media, the other professionals and the fans. However in none of these do we seem to go beyond just looking and in that we never go beyond the surface really. The questions Gibney asked at the start as his frame seem to be mostly absent from the rest of the film and it is a lesser beast for it. The role of the media in overdoing the talking points would have been a focal point I'd like to have seen chased, since this is where both incidents appear to have gone from frustration into hatred and being a focus for anger. Sadly, although Gibney gets some comments out of those speaking for the media, he really doesn't push it.

In the end what we are left with is a film that captures the two incidents and makes for an interesting sports film in that regard but really doesn't stand out as a good documentary simply because it doesn't question and probe in the way I felt it should have done. It captures events really well but it just doesn't explore them in a way that would have made for a better film.


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