The competition for Dumb Sports Fan of the Year has been won, if that's the word, by the bozo in a White Sox cap who nearly cost Mark Buehrle his perfect game Thursday on the South Side of Chicago.
Imagine this scenario - except you don't have to because TV replays and still photos captured the ignominious moment perfectly (pun intended).
The pitcher for your team has retired 24 straight batters, leaving him just three away from so-called baseball immortality. Gabe Kapler leads off the ninth inning for the Rays and blasts a pitch toward the center-field seats. Defensive replacement DeWayne Wise races back and leaps in a desperate bid to save the day.
So what does our guy do? He reaches over the railing and comes with a foot or so of making the catch, thereby nearly turning Kapler's swat into a home run.
Literally, not a Wise move.
Fortunately, Dopey misses by about a foot as Wise grabs the ball first, juggles it, snatches it again with his bare hand and holds it aloft as he hits the ground. On the mound, Buehrle sighs in relief and possibly makes a mental note to buy Wise the biggest steak dinner possible.
Me, I might have dashed toward the outfield seats, laid hands on the fan and beaten him severely about the head and shoulders.
After that, I would have had him arrested for attempting to interfere with history, at least in a horsehide sense. Or maybe arranged for a mental examination.
Jeffrey Maier and Steve Bartman, move over. There's a new entry in baseball's pantheon of pathetic people.
Maier was the 12-year-old at Yankee Stadium who deflected a ball hit deep to right field while Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco was set to make a catch in the 1996 American League Championship Series. The play was ruled a home run, and the Yankees eventually won the game and the series.
Bartman earned notoriety when he went for a foul ball at Wrigley Field in the 2003 National League Championship Series, thus preventing Cubs outfielder Moises Alou from catching it at a time when his club was five outs from the World Series. The Cubs then lost the lead, the game and the series to the Marlins.
What is it about those Chicago fans? No wonder the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908 and the White Sox went 88 years before doing so in 2005.
I get that it's natural for folks at a ballgame to try to catch a ball hit into or near the stands, even at the risk of life and limb. What I don't understand is why, particularly if it hurts your own team.
Some foolhardy paying customers fail to flinch when screaming foul drives head toward their noggins. Others scramble and wrestle for balls with no regard for their safety or that of others nearby.
Heck, you can buy an official major league ball for less than $20 online or at a sporting goods store, much less than a trip to the emergency room costs. I guess the idea is to prove you, too, can be an athlete, but who cares?
Buehrle's wife, Jamie, told the Chicago Tribune she was trying not to throw up because of nerves in the ninth inning. If the lunkhead in the seats had actually caught the ball, she might have unloaded in plain sight of the TV cameras and 28,036 eyewitnesses.
Sorry, make that 28,035 eyewitnesses. Presumably, the feeble-minded fan would have been waving the ball in triumph and waiting for high-fives that never came.
In other ways, too, some spectators indicate all too clearly that they don't give a rodent's rump about the game they paid to watch. How often have you seen an overindulging "fan" slop suds all over himself before sales are cut off? How about onlookers who leave after the eighth inning of a tie game? Or those who ignore the proceedings and brainlessly do "the wave"?
I always thought you went to a game to watch the game, particularly considering the prices of tickets, parking and concessions nowadays.
Of course, Buehrle himself might have been lacking smarts when, after receiving a 30-second congratulatory call from President Obama, he said, "What, that's all [the time] he's got for me?"
Guess what, Mark, the president of the United States had a few other things on his mind. Unlike the dimwitted fan in center field who obviously had nothing at all on his mind.