Shore's Blog: Why putting the TNA Championship on Sting reminds of Starrcade 1997 and the Steve Bartman incident
By Chris Shore
Saturday, March 6, 1:00 PM CT
As many of you know, and as many of you like to tease me about, I am a Chicago Cubs fan. After 25 years of suffering along with the "Loveable Losers," you begin to develop a sixth sense when it comes to losing. Many times I have sat watching a game, knowing we were done long before anyone else. No time was this more true than during the infamous "Steve Bartman game."
Most of you know the story. In 2003, the Cubs were playing the Florida Marlins in the National League Championship series and were five outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time in almost 60 year, and had a legitimate chance of winning the World Series for the first time since 1908. Up 3-0 in the top of the 8th, Luis Castillo hit a foul bowl down the third base line that outfielder Moises Alou had a chance—albeit a small one—of catching.
Instead, long time Cubs fan Steve Bartman attempted to catch the ball, as almost any fan would, preventing Alou from making the play. Alou flipped out and the Cubs fell apart. They ended up losing that game and the series to the Marlins, who did go on to win the World Series. And Steve Bartman will forever live in infamy with the Billy goat and black cat of Cubs history.
I watched that game in a bar with my wife and about 50 fair-weather Cubs fans. As the teams got ready for the next pitch, all the fair-weather fans—and my wife—kept saying, "It's one ball, big deal. He probably wouldn’t have caught it anyway. Shake it off Alou. The Cubs still have this."
But I knew. The air had been sucked out of the room for me. I turned to my wife and said, "It's over." She told me to quit being such a whiny bitch and watch. As the inning continued to fall apart, I would just look at her. When we left that night, she said, "There's still game seven tomorrow." I gave her a half-hearted smile that she read perfectly. This time she hung her head and did not argue.
I had only ever felt that prevailing sense of doom one other time in my life. And while it did not have anything to do with the Cubs, the feeling was nevertheless as intense. It was also as accurate. I have prayed that I would never feel that again. But I did this week. And ironically, it almost matched the only other time I had felt it.
December 1997 was a very exciting time to be a wrestling fan. WCW had been destroying the WWF for weeks in the ratings. The WWF had started to right their ship and were back on an upward swing. But they had made a potentially fatal mistake with the Bret Hart incident. And WCW, having shown unbelievable restraint, was about to pay off a year long feud that was the hottest angle ever shown on professional wrestling TV up to that point.
The nWo had taken over WCW. They had turned Hulk Hogan heel. They had split the roster, assimilated one part and destroyed the rest. And only one man was left standing who could stop them. After months of questions and odd run-ins, and not a single word spoken, Sting was coming to Starrcade to save WCW, and the World Championship, from Hulk Hogan and the nWo.
Hogan made his entrance first that night. If you haven't seen Sting's entrance, you really should. The crowd in Washington that night was jacked to the roof, as was the party of 14 people at my house. We had come to see the pay off, and what I said would be the final nail in the coffin for the WWF.
We all know what happed though. In what may go down as the worst ending in wrestling history, Nick Patrick didn’t fast count Hogan's pin on Sting. So when Bret Hart prevented the time keeper from ringing the bell for a fast count, knocked Patrick out, restarted the match and served as the official when Hogan submitted, the whole story fell apart.
As the 14 of us sat there trying to figure out what happened, I turned to my then girlfriend (wife) and said, "That's it. They just handed it to WWF." She rolled her eyes at me, and told me to stop being a whiny bitch. Three months later, WWF achieved their first ratings victory in over a year, and went on to crush WCW for the remainder of its pitiful existence. (You would think she would have remembered this in 2003, but I digress.)
You can imagine my sense of deja-vu this Thursday when a very similar video played on TNA's video wall on Impact. And then the same man appeared, just like he had all those years ago. Of course this time it was a little different. Sting earned a clean and decisive victory. Only it arrived a little over 13 years too late to have correct effect.
Instead, I was left with the same feeling I had in 1997 and again in 2003. In television, they call it "jumping the shark" after a Happy Days episode in which the Fonz, quite literally, jumped over a shark while water skiing. I call it Cubs knowledge. Whatever its real name, it is the feeling of dread you get when you realize the wheels have officially come off, and the game is over. Only this time, there are no fans or ref mistakes to blame.
Questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @the_shore_slant.
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