Fever Pitch

| April 10, 2005

Travellers, when visiting foreign cities, are often warned about contracting exotic diseases overseas. Before visiting African countries, it is wise to get a malaria vaccination. Those headed to Hong Kong or Toronto are cautioned about SARS. And the perils of going to Mexico and drinking the water are well documented. But there’s one city which is known for a particular affliction, and while many people go there every year, no one is warned about contracting its unique infection.
That city is Boston, and the disease is Red Sox fever.
This peculiar virus has actually been documented on the big screen in the past; both Ocean’s 12 and Anger Management feature scenes which suppose an awareness of the malady on the audiences’ behalf. But never before has an entire movie been dedicated to the effects of this virus. Not until now.
Because Fever Pitch, the latest movie from the New England native Farrelly Brothers, shows you what it really is to be a member of Red Sox Nation. “This team’ll break your heart,” warns Uncle Carl in the beginning…
I’m a native Californian who came to Boston five years ago. I was a hockey fan when I moved here. Now I own no less than 10 Red Sox T-shirts, 2 hats (plus a “Yankees Hater hat”), and an official replica jersey. I was at Game 2 of the American League playoffs at Yankees Stadium, the famous “Who’s your daddy” game where New York fans would not stop chanting that refrain as long as Pedro Martinez kept pitching. I watched Game 7 in 2003. I may not have been born to it, but I know a but about rooting for the Red Sox.
The Farrelly Brothers, too, are members of Red Sox Nation. They have had their hearts ripped out, stomped on with baseball cleats and beaten with bats, and reinserted before opening day over and over. They get it. They’re fans. They’re people like us. I don’t think this movie would have been at all believable in anyone else’s hands. The Farrellys include their pals, local people, people they grew up with…all of whom are Red Sox fans. They also include some of the real-life fans from And Still We Believe in this movie, just to show us they get it. They know.
The plot is simple: Ben (Jimmy Fallon) meets Lindsay (Drew Barrymore) during the off season. He seems normal enough…but once his season tickets are delivered, everything changes. Because he’s a Red Sox fan. He goes to spring training in Ft. Myers, Florida. He has a replica of the Green Monster painted on his living room wall. He makes his best friends dance for Yankees tickets. And because they’re also members of Red Sox Nation, they actually do it.
Of course, our hero has to decide if the love he has for a baseball team is greater than the love he has for her…and therein lies the tale.
I, of course, saw this film at a theatre across the street from Boston Common. And that makes a difference. Because this crowd laughed when the local TV or radio announcers came on, went, “Ohh!” when they showed the Prudential building with its windows lit up to say, “GO SOX,” and clapped when David Ortiz hit that home run. Because they were there. We all were.
Because this movie captures last years’ Red Sox season. It captures what it is to live in Boston, where the summers scorch you and the winters are worse. Where how a baseball team did last night is more important than what the President said. It’s a love letter to the team and the city they inhabit.
You may recall that, a few years ago, I reviewed About a Boy, another Hornby novel turned film, and my major complaint was that the movie version left out one of the book’s major plot points. Fever Pitch, also, is nothing like its source material…but in this case, it’s okay. Because, if anything, the actual ending is far, far better than any fiction that could possibly be imagined.
And not only because it really happened.

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