It being the season of the transfer window (*hyperventilates*), teams in the Premier League are making a huge point of just how much they value their fans by squandering their freshly invested season ticket funds on players who will earn more next season than most people in a lifetime.
Said players will then make their own contribution to their valuation of the fans’ sacrifice by hosing that cash all over various luxury products, while fist bumping their pals on Instagram.
No top player has yet gone so far as to stage the full Mayweather “in bed with my bricks of cash”, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that many had imagined themselves in such a scenario, and one or two even taken the trouble to withdraw a few mill and stage the event for their own private reminiscence. Mario Balotelli always seemed like the kind of person who’d get maximum enjoyment from such a wheeze.
One can’t blame the players for taking every last shilling that’s offered – who wouldn’t? – but the experience of being gouged for the privilege of supporting a team has left fans feeling a bit thin-lipped for a while now.
So hats off then to the Chicago Cubs, winners of last season’s World Series after a hiatus of several thousand years.
In 2003, despairing of ever getting close to winning the thing, they were on a post-season tear until a fan called Steve Bartman leant over to try to catch a ball that one of the Cubs fielders could have caught.
As the New York Times so beautifully put it, this “initiated a cascading series of events that knocked his famously frustrated team right out of the post-season.”
Cubs fans, some of whom could reasonably be described as being a little on the gritty side, turned on Bartman, who had to be “escorted from his seat by security personnel,” and “found himself one of the most reviled fans in baseball history.”
He was never able to go back.
Until this season. Curse laid to rest with the World Series win, the Cubs “organisation” imaginatively decided to award Steve Bartman a World Series ring.
While the rest of the world has always been a little bemused by the American practice of awarding commemorative jewellery on the occasion of big sporting victories, especially when the bling often appears to be mid-period House of Liberace, but nonetheless, this is the sort of kindness, generosity and warming of the heart rarely extended by a “franchise” to its customer base, and long may it continue.
Bartman, who has kept the kind of low profile that the CIA could use as a case study in their training programme, released a very elegant statement that included this comment: “We can all learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating.” Hear, hear.
Many Cubs fans felt the gesture was possibly even a little overdue. The New York Times quoted Chicago author Scott Simon, who said “Cubs fans have been waiting for a moment like this. Just to put their arms around the guy one way or another and say: ‘It could have been any of us; it just happened to be you. And we’re sorry for what happened to you.'”
Premier League muckety-mucks: take note.