It’s been almost a dozen years since that infamous October night at Wrigley Field. It seemed to be the perfect night in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. The Cubs were stepping-up to the doorstep of the World Series … and you could feel the momentum building with each passing pitch.
And then it happened.
Fans did what fans do. They reached for a ball going foul … that was reaching for them. Cubs’ outfielder, Moises Alou, was reaching for it too. The only one to actually catch anything was Steve Bartman. And ESPN captured, quite well, what Steve caught and all that would follow, in their 2012 documentary of the event … Catching Hell.
The documentary is well played. While it’s hard to fully understand or exactly explain what happened in the remainder of the top of that 8th inning, it’s also hard to deny that the moment had a significant impact. By the time 3 outs were up, the Marlins had turned a 0-3 deficit into an 8-3 lead.
Fans had only done what fans do. In fact, fans had done what fans are told to do with foul balls … keep your eye on the ball.
Again, while totally understandable, Moises Alou’s passionate reaction to his perception of fan interference seemed to send a shock wave through Wrigley destabilizing the euphoric countdown to a Cubbie’s World Series.
No question … it was a defining moment!
The ESPN documentary footage captures the sad turn of events resulting in Steve Bartman being pulled from Wrigley, basically in disguise, for his own life’s safety. It would be their play-by-play analysis of this specific footage that most caught my attention. The entire event seemed to take-on implications of biblical proportions. So, I suppose, it seems fitting ESPN would derive a plausible explanation of comparison to the historic religious practices of scapegoating. The casting of sins onto the “scapegoat” … or the frustration of a century-long World Series drought onto Steve Bartman … seemed at-play in the detailed footage of Bartman’s escorted exit.
While dramatic and heart-breaking, in a number of ways, the facts of the actual foul were not near as relevant or impactful as the reaction to follow.
And it’s a lesson anyone in a leadership position can draw upon. In fact, without a depth to draw upon, leaders will look outward for explanations rather than inward for insight and direction. In looking-outward they are susceptible to finding and likely embracing two things …
Scapegoats and sacred cows.
The scapegoats on which we cast-on … or the sacred cows to which we hold-on … can fuel reaction that’s often unproductive and frequently destructive. Yet, anyone in a leadership position (or at a baseball game) can fall into the trap of reaction. It’s the modus operandi of followers in leadership positions and a trap any leader can fall into. Scapegoats and sacred cows drag us into a reaction.
Core values invite us into a response.
In some ways, it’s our core values that respond for us. The depth of a leader can be found in the troth of their defined values. In the absence of this troth, we find ourselves eating from the troughs of goats and cows.
The value of core values is always at work, but especially in defining moments. In fact, it’s the everyday rhythm of our core values that make the “defining moments” less defining. It’s the leader’s troth of values that define their response in any moment rather than letting any one moment become defining of them.
It sure helps when the troth is full before everything goes foul.