A video captures just one moment in time. When we see a viral clip on Twitter, we don’t know what happened before, or what came after. And it turns out that the Chicago Cubs fan who appeared to steal a foul ball from a child at Wrigley Field on Sunday isn’t actually the cartoonishly evil villain social media made him out to be.
How he became a villain
Here’s how the saga began: Cubs first base coach Will Venable tossed a ball to an adorable kid sitting in the first row at Wrigley Field. The kid couldn’t catch it, and it dropped to the ground. A man sitting in the row behind him then scrambled to reach down and grab it, which he did. He triumphantly showed it to his female companion, and a viral video was born.
Social media’s swift reaction
If you felt anger or rage after watching that video, it’s understandable. It looks like that guy stole a ball from a child, since Venable clearly tossed the ball to the kid. (The Cubs gave the kid a ball signed by Javy Báez to make up for the ball he lost.) MLB’s Cut4 tweeted the first video of this now infamous Cubs fan, and Twitter users were not shy in sharing their opinions of him.
When going to a baseball game, DON'T be this guy. pic.twitter.com/pAeiRN6Q2X
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 22, 2018
Pretty low to take a ball from a KID. It was meant for the kid and he would have told stories to all his friend. The guy and whatever he gave it to. . . . HOW can anyone be happy with themselves for doing that.
— Lostways27 (@Lostways27) July 22, 2018
— Kilnandez (@Kilnandez) July 23, 2018
Don’t be that guy, his spouse, or any of the other surrounding on-lookers who witness the whole thing and do nothing
— Amer Hussain (@amer_ahussain) July 23, 2018
— Billy Donovan (@BillyDonovan) July 22, 2018
— Muuka (@Badlands75) July 22, 2018
I'm glad this little guy got a ball signed by Javier Baez. I can't believe that man stole the ball that should have been this boy's and then gave it to his wife/girlfriend. No class! Thanks, Javy! You're all class!
— Brette O'Connell (@4n6rules) July 22, 2018
— Brandi Smith (@BrandiKHOU) July 23, 2018
CNN’s Jake Tapper, in some since-deleted tweets, got in on the action, too:
The video caught fire and went viral, and the media noticed. Stories about this dream-crushing villain appeared everywhere, including on Yahoo Sports. It seemed like the 12-second clip showed a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. But the beginning of the story started before the clip did, and the story continued after the video ended. That context cast the clip in a whole new light.
The real story
Of course, it only looks like that guy stole a ball from a kid. The video didn’t tell the whole story. Radio host David Kaplan got the details straight from the Cubs.
I spoke with people from the Cubs. The man who grabbed the ball on the widely seen video had actually already helped the little boy get a ball earlier. The young man has a game used ball and a Javy Baez ball. All is well. Guy is A-OK so let it go people.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) July 23, 2018
And there’s even more proof. Reddit user btbrian actually found tweets from people sitting near the scene of the “crime,” and they told the same story: the guy had helped that kid and other kids get baseballs earlier in the game. This is from the gentleman in the solid blue shirt sitting next to the supposed baseball-stealer.
He had already helped that kid get a ball. He gave two more away to kids also. He was a great guy. TV got this all wrong.
— Chuck Mycoff (@cmycoff2) July 22, 2018
The ball he “stole” even went to another kid!
I was sitting next to this guy. That ball was between my feet. The kid already had a ball the same guy helped him get. He handed it to his wife. She took a picture of it and they gave it to the kid next to them. This guy was great. This story is BAD.
— Chuck Mycoff (@cmycoff2) July 23, 2018
Lest you think this is just a Cubs fans defending another Cubs fan, here’s another eyewitness account from the guy in red sitting next to the kid. He’s in red because he’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan, the natural enemy of Cubs fans.
I was sitting next to the little boy and in front of the Cubs fan getting called every name in the book. Here's what they forgot to mention…
1. The boy already got a ball two innings before this.
2. The guy was able to snag at least 2 other balls & gave them to other kids https://t.co/Z13cxIKzVs
— Jeff Rose, CFP® (@jjeffrose) July 23, 2018
— Jeff Rose, CFP® (@jjeffrose) July 23, 2018
Now that the whole story is out, people are reassessing their opinion of the baseball-stealer-turned-baseball-gifter. He’s not actually Scar from “The Lion King” mixed with Jafar from “Aladdin,” he’s a guy who helped kids get baseballs during the game. But because the contextless video went viral on social media, he may want to print out some of the updated stories that prove he’s not a baseball-stealer and have them on him at all times. Just in case he starts getting yelled at by angry people on the streets of Wrigleyville.
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