More ‘Beyond Bartman’: An Interview with BN’er Chris Neitzel on His ’104 Reasons’ Book

beyond bartmanIn case you missed it a few weeks ago, we BN’ers are lucky to have one of our own as a published author. Chris Neitzel – better known to you as Oswego Chris – recently wrote and published ‘Beyond Bartman, Curses, and Goats: 104 Reasons It’s Been 104 Years.’ The book is a 293-page history lesson, diving into why the Bartman/curse/goat/whatever explanations for the Chicago Cubs’ more-than-a-century of championship-less baseball are bullcrap. In meticulous detail, Chris goes through 104 individual reasons why the Cubs haven’t won it all since 1908. It’s a great read, both fun and informative – and you can read more about it here.

Chris was good enough to lend me a few minutes for an interview about the book, which I think will be of some interest to you folks.

Brett: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Chris. I suck at interviewing, so I’m just going to dive in head first: Talk a little bit about what the book is and what it isn’t, and what you think it provides Cubs fans.

Chris: The book is meant for fans to take a logical, rational, look at the team’s history and why the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. There are silly excuses every time the Cubs’ don’t win; and people think there are external forces at work. Many Boston fans actually believed in “The Curse of the Bambino”… two World Series later and it’s not talked about. The Red Sox, Phillies and White Sox all went 75+ years between World Series wins and the Indians are going on year 65, but the Cubs’ streak stands out. It’s not easy to win a World Series, and yes, the Cubs have been bad for most of 104 years …. but it has nothing to do with Steve Bartman, curses or goats.

Brett: Ok, I’m totally with all of that. But I have to ask – what are your thoughts about the “Bartman Game” – were you there? Were you watching? What did you think then, and what do you think now?

Chris: Just watching at home – and I can honestly say that I was one of those people who never for one minute blamed Steve Bartman, or thought that the play had any bearing on the outcome. I did refuse to watch the highlights of it over and over again. The only thought that I have differently is if Moises Alou wouldn’t have made such a spectacle of it, no one probably hears about the poor guy. I really wish the Cubs would reach out to the him (Bartman) … maybe they have. I think most fans now realize he was not responsible.

Brett: I think you’re right that, by now, most rational folks wouldn’t call him “responsible.” It does feel like there’s still residual bad feelings, though. Like you, I just feel bad for the guy, and kind of hate that he’s become the story of that season. So, how and when did you get the idea for the book?

Chris: I teach, and yes, I am off during much of the summer. One night in June of last year, I was doing a little research on some of the 2003 pitch counts that Mark Prior and Kerry Wood endured … and I planned on writing about it on Bleacher Nation the next morning. As morning came, and I found myself mentally preparing my message board entry as I was drifting in and out of sleep (this may sound silly), the title just came to me: ‘Beyond Bartman, Curses and Goats: 104 Reasons Why It’s Been 104 Years.’ I felt it was a truly unique idea, and I knew I had to give it a shot.

Brett: It certainly was. I remember when you first told me about the idea and it instantly resonated. Simple, useful, thoughtful … the best kind of idea. Talk a little bit about the actual process of writing the book – I think very few people realize just how involved the process is, and I’m sure they would enjoy a peak behind the curtain.

Chris: I really wish I would have logged the hours that I spent writing and revising. Not for sympathy purposes … but for my own confidence as a writer. One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell, and in his extraordinary book, ‘Outliers,’ he demonstrates that success is not luck, and in most cases, skilled people endure around 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. People like the Beatles, Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan, and even Bill Gates (please don’t think I am comparing myself to any of these people) are all deemed to be geniuses, yet they all worked and practiced incredibly hard at their crafts. As the summer wound down, I could actually sense myself getting better at writing. I know it wasn’t 10,000 hours, but I could feel myself improving. In fact I cringe now at some of the early drafts I sent to you, Brett. One more thing I have to mention regarding the process: my beautiful wife Krista, my life partner since high school, is an English teacher and in fact a much better writer than I am. Her editing was essential to me finishing this project.

Brett: How does she feel now about the process? Working with a spouse on something so personal … I can imagine the challenges.

Chris: Well like most people in our society, if we had time to just sit down together and work on the book it would have been a lot less challenging. But with a daughter involved in high school activities, a daughter that is a competitive dancer, and a son playing travel hockey, I am really surprised we pulled it off. We did actually go out to dinner the other night by ourselves, and started talking about future writing projects if this book is a success.

Brett: Nice. I’m sure even just going out to dinner was a treat. How has the book been received?

Chris: So far so good. Most people seem to really enjoy it (not sure if they would tell me differently), but it was very cool getting the first review on Amazon from a total stranger who loved it. As far as publishing goes, the book is in its infancy, and I am hoping/waiting for a professional review. Dave Kaplan of WGN/CSN requested a copy, and I hope he gets around to reading it sometime – the man is the busiest guy in Chicago sports so it may take him a while to get to it – but obviously I would love to hear what a Cubs’ expert like Kap has to say.

Brett: Any favorite parts of the book?

Chris: Probably the last chapter (Blunders: Historical, Philosophical and Just Plain Stupid). I found myself starting out with a premise (i.e. the Cubs historically don’t draw enough walks) and the research would just always be so strong and conclusive. It was great … I would text my brother and say “listen to this,”and the Cubs’ ineptitude in certain areas always amazed. I also really liked working on the chapter regarding poor drafting, because I think drafts are one of the coolest things in all sports.

Brett: So, what you’re saying is, you loved chronicling the worst aspects of the Cubs’ existence?

Chris: This made me laugh, so if you want to do the cliched (laughs) thing here … (Brett: Ha. I decided to just leave your script in here.) Not so much that I loved chronicling them as that they gave me ample material to work with. Most of us Cubs fans say things like “they never have lefties” or “they never have an ace” or “they always change managers.” But to find such correlative and convincing data was rewarding. When I did the reasons dealing with the Cubs’ lack of Gold Glove catchers and center fielders, I had no idea that so many World Series champions had Gold Glovers or previous winners in these positions. I just started with the old premise of a team being “strong up the middle,” and then BOOM … the data really backed up my reasons.

Brett: So, you’ve got this one in the bag. Where do you go from here?

Chris: Well, assuming the Cubs do not win this year (insert your own giggle), I have already contacted the publisher about including Reason 105 come the Fall (I am looking at you, Hayden Simpson, and the horrible draft of 2010!). I want to keep the book relevant and as up-to-date as possible, and also keep it as a potential stocking stuffer for the 2013 Holiday Season! Actually, I am itching to start writing again, and I have a few baseball/Cubs ideas I want to do this Summer … I just haven’t tied it all together yet. I plan on writing something a bit lighter – more comedy if I can. Then, if this becomes a habit (and at least a little profitable), I have a grand Chicago Bears idea ready to work on this Winter and in the Spring of 2014 … assuming the Bears don’t win the Super Bowl this year. Once again, insert your own giggle.

Thanks to Chris for taking the time to chat, and you are reminded that you can pick up Chris’ book on Amazon.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

37 responses to “More ‘Beyond Bartman’: An Interview with BN’er Chris Neitzel on His ’104 Reasons’ Book”

  1. calicubsfan007

    Grats Chris.

  2. baldtaxguy

    I am halfway through the book, very fun read. Loved the near misses 1910-45, all new material for me. Well written. I’ll probably finish it on the next rainout.

  3. MichiganGoat

    It really has been a great read so far and with school ending next week Ill have one week to finish it before I start teaching Summer School so look forward to a review by a goat.

  4. calicubsfan007

    Can I get it off amazon?

    1. MichiganGoat

      Yes both in print & Kindle format… I think the link is up there at the end if the article

  5. mudge

    That’s a great interview, thanks both yas.

  6. mudge

    Can you get it sold in any souvenir shops at Wrigley?

  7. Dave

    I’m really looking forward to reading this. Don’t know if this has been mentioned, but I’ll mention it for any other iSlaves, the book is available on the iBook store.

  8. Whiteflag

    Great book so far…I’m loving the terrible drafting section.

  9. cub123

    Just ordered mine looking forward to reading it.

  10. Oswego Chris

    Thanks so much for the continued kind words…it is because of all of you that make BN a special place that inspired me to write this book…

    Please tell a Cub friend…

    And any reviews greatly appreciated…

    And how about that 16-3 collective drubbing the Sox have taken so far…

    And please God allow the Hawks to beat the Wings…because I am sure God watches hockey…

    1. Internet Random

      God watches professional baseball and college basketball… and sometimes hockey, when the Hawks are doing well… and lacrosse when there’s nothing else on… and God thinks skateboarding is pretty entertaining, too, though he’s not sure why kids these days want to ride those dainty little popsicle-stick decks. God doesn’t get the fascination with football and is still waiting for that fad to blow over.

  11. @cubsfantroy

    I will have to get the book. I forgot about it until just now. I am going to go to Amazon and order it now. Can’t wait to read it.

  12. #1lahairfan

    Hawks win! Hell yes!

    1. Die hard

      Yea!-look for spillover to Cubs and Sox –often contagious

      1. caryatid62

        False.

        1. Internet Random

          Black bear.

  13. LEO R.

    Don’t know if any one mentioned this here but TCR is reporting Junior Lake is playing in extended spring training in Arizona. He was 1 for 3 today with 2 walks in five innings of play.

  14. Bea Arthur's husband.

    Great interview and the books seems even better. Huge kudos for blaming Alou S I have. I call it the “Alou game” not the Bartman game.

    Anyway, to answer the question raised, the Cubs under the previous regime most certainly have reached out to Steve. My source for this is, and I’m not letting anything slip here, was Steve’s lawyer. He didn’t reveal details but said the team had done so. I had tried to contact Steve for a charity project. He was kind enough to consider my proposal but ultimately declined. His “camp” has always maintained they would only do something for charity and probably JDRF given the santo connection.

    I hope that vague information helps.

    Is the Curse of the Goat responsible for this rash of elbow injuries? I blame Dusty. Even for this year’s.

    Excuse me now, I have a book to buy.

  15. Oswego Chris

    Thanks so much…

    Great stuff about Mr. BARTMAN…

    Hope u are over Bea’s passing…

    1. Bea Arthur's husband.

      Thanks. Hilarious last line.

  16. Mr. Gonzo

    This book is an incredible and unique history lesson in Cubs baseball, diving into stats and analysis that will make you think differently about the Cubs and baseball in general. Even better, it is also an easy and enjoyable read.

    It is hard to say which chapter is my favorite, but the near misses, drafting failures, and the historical blunders were fascinating. This is a must-read for any Cubs fan, and should be required reading for any regular BNer. I will no doubt read it a second time this summer, and possibly every year until the trophy is lifted in the North Side. Keep on writing Oswego Chris!

    1. Oswego Chris

      Thank you so much for all of your kind words after the interview was posted yesterday, I appreciate it immensely…

      Now please continue obsessing about line-ups, the bullpen, etc….

      But as an old-timer just let me say that we should all just bask in the glory of a collective 23 to 6 drubbing of the Sox…although a team picture with the Cup did seem kind of silly…

      Oh, and I think I am now living on the planet Kamino…for those not versed in Star Wars, it’s the rain planet from Episode Crap Attack of The Clones….

      1. MichiganGoat

        You stinking cloners

        1. Oswego Chris

          Ah Goat, I can count on you to get that…

          They should have cloned a real actor other than Hayden (worst thespian ever) Christenson…he was awful…

          The Kamino scene was kind of cool…except when Jango spoke to young Boba “Boba, hoy fu tra tra she”

          1. MichiganGoat

            Oh Chris we could have many many beers over my frustration of those movies – the force as a symbiotic parasite destroyed all my childhood dreams and beliefs that I too could master the force.

  17. There Was Nothing Wrong with the Kyuji Fujikawa Signing and Other Bullets | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    [...] In case you missed my interview yesterday with author Chris Neitzel, check it out. [...]

  18. CUB5

    Grats Chris – sounds like a great read! I will definitely pass it on to other Cubs fans and check it out. I hope you don’t have to write a 106/107 section. ;)

  19. mudge

    Chris,
    You should be able to get interviews on SCORE & ESPN1000, they have hours to fill every day. Send copies to producers/hosts. Phone interviews.

  20. mudge

    Not to mention WGN. Send copies to Cubs broadcasters too.

  21. Dougy D

    I am about 40-50 pages in, so far so good. Easy reading.

  22. sycamoron

    I had only enough time to read the preface before I left for work today. Boy, it looks like this is going to be a fun ride. Two things that stand out to me, first, you have Billy Williams autograph and I never knew that! Growing up, he was my favorite player. Where have you been hiding it all these years? Secondly, the year 1977 when you discovered the Cubs was also the year my family moved to the neighborhood and we met the first time, I believe at the bus stop by your house. I look forward diving into the book; you have already jarred many memories.

  23. Javier Baez’s Plate Discipline Might Be Improving and Other Bullets | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    [...] I couldn’t help but notice that BN’er Oswego Chris’s book on the Cubs’ frustrating championship-less streak is on sale on Amazon (you can get the paperback for just $11.99, and the Kindle version for $5.99), and I thought you’d like to know. You can read an interview that I did with Chris last week here. [...]

  24. Savvy Fashions

    No need to order it from Amazon if you live anywhere near the Oswego, Illinois area.
    Our store is selling the book for Chris!!!
    We are having a book signing on Saturday, July 13th from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.
    Come join in the fun and meet Chris and have your book signed!!!!

    Savvy Fashions and More
    1238 Douglas Rd. (mason Square Mall)
    Oswego,Il. 60543

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    [...] Reach out to Chris on Twitter here, and he’ll get you set up. For more on the awesome book, you can check out this interview I did with Chris. (Short version: The book is a 293-page history lesson, diving into why the [...]

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    […] Chris – who wrote a fantastic history of the Chicago Cubs in ‘Beyond Bartman, Curses and Goats: 104 Reasons Why […]

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    […] again, kudos to Chris for doing something incredible. You can read more about his efforts here. Tweet googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1366682148103-0'); […]

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