Terrible karma at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. The beer was thrown, instead of being consumed. This episode will not capture the public imagination in the manner of the billy goat curse, because this episode is not 64 years old. But only more ill fortune can come from it. From the standpoint of bad karma, the guy who threw the beer is no nearer hero status than Steve Bartman.
Let us restate the particulars of this case. It is the fifth inning Wednesday night, a great night near a Great Lake, until the baseball game starts. The Cubs are being clobbered by the Phillies, 12-2. With the bases loaded and one out, Cubs third baseman Jake Fox hits a deep fly ball and Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino retreats to the warning track in left-center.
Just as Victorino makes the catch, he is hit with beer thrown by a fan. This is not a few drops from the bottom of the cup. This is a torrent of beer. This is a full beer, which makes this sorry incident even sorrier. The beer can be sipped or it can be chugged. But it cannot be thrown.
Had Victorino dropped the ball, fan interference would have been called and Fox would have been ruled out. But Victorino is a fine defensive player, and here you must credit him with truly superior concentration. The play was officially ruled a sacrifice fly. But in real-life terms, what was sacrificed was common sense, basic human decency and a perfectly good beer.
Postgame, Victorino wisely stayed above the fray by refusing to comment on the incident. He has not pressed formal charges against the beer-thrower. This may not be a case of legal remedies. This may simply be a case of beer.
Somebody had to apologize on behalf of the Cubs, and manager Lou Piniella stepped up.
"That shouldn't happen," Piniella said. "It's not good sportsmanship and it's not good behavior. We apologize to Victorino and the Phillies for that."
I have seen people smash beer bottles, and then, holding the jagged remains of the bottles by the necks, go after each other. They turned a couple of beer bottles into deadly weapons. But it must be said that, even while these combatants were apparently trying to kill each other with the broken beer bottles, they waited until the bottles were empty before smashing them. Even in the midst of mayhem and violence, this basic law of civilization was still observed. The beer was not wasted.
The guy who threw the beer at Victorino should be doing a lifetime of community service, but he won't and that's the problem. Somebody will have to pay for this.
If the 2009 Cubs do not reach the postseason, there will be some people who will explain this unhappy event as the result of injuries; to Aramis Ramirez or Carlos Zambrano or Ted Lilly or nagging aches and pains with other players or all of the above.
Others will point to players whose production was well under reasonable expectations. Milton Bradley did nothing in the first half. Alfonso Soriano did not produce like an impact player must. Geovany Soto could not put together anything resembling a suitable encore to his splendid rookie season.
All of these reasons and more are valid explanations. But if the Cubs do not reach the postseason, there will be those who will point to the night of Aug. 12 when the unthinkable occurred at Wrigley Field.
Some will argue that the act of throwing the beer arose from the act of drinking the beer in the first place. Yes, it is distinctly possible that the perpetrator was not completely in the grip of sobriety.
But we shouldn't put the cart before the Clydesdale. No good will come of throwing the beer at the center fielder. No good would come of throwing beer at any of the other eight players, either. But if you could hit, for instance, the second baseman with the beer, your arm would be in Roberto Clemente territory.
You cannot expect to throw the beer and then just skip merrily forward, unencumbered for the rest of life. There will be some sort of consequences -- emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, or the 101st year without winning a World Series.