Today marks the 7th anniversary of an infamous event in Chicago sports history as a baseball team completely collapsed after a fan interfered with a foul ball during game 6 of the National League championship series.
What most people don't realize that that incident also changed events in the National Football League as well. Let me explain:
First of all, I must state that since December 25, 1971 (Larry Csonka's 25th birthday) I have been a fan of the Miami Dolphins. As I am writing this, I am sitting 10 feet from the plaque of the 1972 team which by finishing 17-0 is the only team to go a full season without losing or tying a game.
I could talk about the Miami Dolphins references in my life ranging from the keychain hanging from my car's rearview mirror to a button on my computer that plays their theme song created in 1972 (which the Houston Oilers parodied for themselves in 1977) to passwords based on a game played 25 years ago (a topic for a post 5 weeks from today) but I will use my first visit to Don Shula's restaurant/bar to define my fandom where I noticed two footballs designed to show scores of playoff games having the wrong score and needing three months of emails to get it fixed.
Unlike most playoff series, I did care who won when the Cubs played the Florida Marlins for the NL title in 2003. I wanted the Cubs to win not because I am a Cubs fan. I root for then 156 games per year but in playoffs I usually root for the better team and Florida won 90 games to the Cubs 89.
I wanted the Marlins to lose. Why? They played on the same field as the Miami Dolphins and once baseball season ends, the grounds crew can tear up the infield and replace it with grass. I did not want the football game played with dirt covering part of the field since it could create injuries and or bad footing.
Because Florida won, they could not place new sod over the infield and on October 19 the 4-2 New England Patriots faced the 4-1 Miami Dolphins. The Patriots were reeling having lost two straight games.
New England and Miami were tied at 13 late in the 4th quarter. Miami was driving and had a 35 yard field goal to win the game on the last play of regulation. The Dolphins' kicker, Orlindo Mare, at the time the second most accurate kicker in NFL history had the dirt in the infield give when his left foot planted and the kick ended up low and blocked.
In overtime, the Dolphins had the ball first and had another 35 yard field goal attempt to win the game. Having been a kicker I could tell Mare tried to compensate for the dirt on the attempt and the kick ended up wide right as the footing this time was solid. On the next play, New England caught the Dolphins flat footed and completed a 65 yard touchdown pass to win the game.
The Patriots won their next 22 games after that including Super Bown XXXVIII. In an off season interview, Patriots' linebacker Teddy Bruschi stated that had they lost that game, they probably would have not won the Super Bowl that year.
So it can be stated that Steve Bartman was the real 2003 NFL MVP.