Who Was That Cubs' Fan? Chitown Media Mostly Mum
Postseason series still score big for Fox
By Allison Romano and John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/19/2003 8:00:00 PM
Of course, plenty of Chicago Cubs fans wanted to know the identity of "the fan" who deflected a foul ball in Game 6 against the Florida Marlins, but local and national television outlets held back the information until the man came forward himself.
Last week, Chicago TV stations WGN-TV (Tribune), WBBM-TV (CBS) and WMAQ-TV (NBC) all elected not reveal the man's name or address. WFLD-TV, the Fox station carrying the games, and ABC's WLS-TV, would identify him only by his first name.
At first, Fox, which broadcast the Oct. 14 game, and ESPN were mum, too. Then, last Wednesday, 26-year-old Steve Bartman, issued a statement apologizing and saying he was heartbroken. After that, the networks felt free to use his name, which Fox did during the deciding Game 7 and ESPN revealed on SportsCenter that night.
The Cubs went on to lose that game—and ultimately the best-of-seven-game series—to the Florida Marlins, and the fan, who didn't even get the ball, had to be escorted out of the ballpark by security after being pelted with debris and threatened by angry fans, according to reports.
That angry reaction spurred debate in newsrooms over identifying Bartman, who lives in suburban Chicago and has gone into hiding. He was first outed on Web site thesmokinggun.com, which published his name, and the Chicago Sun-Times Web site, which also named his hometown and place of business.
According to a source at WGN-TV, which is co-owned with the Chicago Cubs, the station's news department decided during a meeting the day after the game that it would not "out" the Cubs "fan" who seemingly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when he deflected a foul ball from the waiting glove of Cubs left fielder Moises Alou.
Same goes for CBS's WBBM-TV, according to a station spokeswoman, who cited the man's safety and said that, while there was no rule of thumb, there seemed no benefit to identifying him.
The assignment desk at WMAQ-TV confirmed that the station would not air the name or address. A member of WFLD-TV's news department explained its policy this way: "We're saying, 'We know who he is, but we're not going to tell you because we don't want to you to whale on him.'"
Meanwhile, Fox executives continue to toast their good fortunes this postseason. Both the Cubs/Marlins series and the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox matchup went the distance to seven games and pulled in stellar ratings.
Through last Thursday – with just the deciding Yankees/Red Sox Game 7 left—Fox said LCS ratings were up 55% over last year and, overall, postseason marks have soared 45%.
Game 7 of the National League Championship Series nabbed a 16.9 rating and 23 share, according to Nielsen Media Research, making it the highest-rated League Championship game in 10 years. The game attracted a mammoth 26.4 million viewers, the biggest audience for an LCS game in 12 years.
Also on Oct. 15, the afternoon American League Championship Series Game 6 between the Yankees and Red Sox snared a 9.4 rating/21 share and averaged 13.9 million viewers. Fox said the afternoon game delivered a bigger rating than NBC, CBS and ABC delivered in prime.
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