Sunday, April 24, 2005

Fever Pitch

I finally made it out to see the movie, Fever Pitch. For those who live outside of Red Sox Nation, the film is a romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon. Directed by New England's own (They grew up in Rhode Island), the Farrelly Brothers, (There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber) the film manages to capture the spirit of fanatacism and dare I say, insanity that inhabits New England every summer, courtesy of the Red Sox.

Fallon plays an obsessive Red Sox follower who inherits season tickets from his deceased Uncle Carl, who began taking the youngster to games when he was seven years old. Fallon's character, Ben Wrightman, is being raised by a single mother, and the uncle, a died-in-the-wool Red Sox fan initiates young Wrightman to the dysfunction that is Red Sox Nation, at an early and formative age. The youngster is hooked and joins the countless thousands of others who hang on every pitch over the six or seven months it takes before the Red Sox rollercoaster ride comes to its regular September screaching halt.

While I'm not a huge fan of the romantic comedy genre, I thought the Farrellys did a credible job of capturing the long-suffering nature of Red Sox fans. Anyone who has ever spent any time rooting for the Sox, knows perfectly well how prior to last season, they were prone to rip your heart out in their own unique way.

A couple of things struck me in the film. When the young Wrightman walks into Fenway Park for his first game and is in awe by the experience of the sights, sounds and smells of the ancient ballpark, it reminded me of my first trip to Fenway when I was nine. At the time, the grass seemed greener than I ever imagined and the smells of the park were something I've never forgotten.

The group of hard-core fans who inhabit the box seats where Wrightman's tickets are, just behind the Sox dugout are all very Boston working-class. Wrightman, an inner-city teacher at a local Boston High School is not who you're likely to find in the seats he and his other blue-collar mates inhabited during the film. At one time, this was who attended Sox games at Fenway. However, like all professional sports, these same fans are steadily being priced out of these seats, as well as the sport altogether. I honestly can't imagine this assortment of working stiffs sitting in these seats today. Possibly the bleachers, but not the primest of Fenway's spectator real estate.

Obviously, the Farrelly's were over-the-top in some areas. When Barrymore's character, Lindsey Meeks breaks up with Wrightman, the heartsick school teacher decides to sell his box seats to a yuppie asshole. When Meeks finds out, she comes to Fenway in the 8th inning of game four of the ALCS game against the Yankees. Meeks manages to jump on the field in center and eludes security while running across the playing surface to the third base box seats in order to foil Wrightman's bid to sell his tickets.

I recommend seeing it, particularly if you've ever invested more than a passing interest in the Sox. I often wonder what will happen to The Nation with the Sox now occupying the uncharacteristic role of champions, rather than loveable losers? Will it change what it means to be a Sox fan?

When the movie ended, I stayed in the darkened theater to watch the credits roll in order to hear my friend Jose Ayerve's contribution to the movie. Ayerve co-wrote "Moonshot Manny" with Joe Pernice (Pernice Brothers) and the song is the third song that plays during the credits. Ayerve can be heard singing in Spanish, "iPega Luna Manny".


Listmaker said...

Despite myself, I kind of want to see this. But Jimmy Fallon really rubs me the wrong way. Still, your review might convince me to give it a chance.

Does being a Red Sox fan feel any different this year thus far or no?

Mondale said...

I can't imagine the movie will get me in the way the book or the UK movie* did but it will still be worth a look.
* I have friends who boycotted the UK version because of the nature of the final scene (their team losing to Arsenal who then clinched the championship) I only hope this version inspires similar sentiments amongst Yankee fans!

Jim said...

All of my history w/ the Sox involves longing and never attaining. Having now attained that which one has longed for, what do we now seek? A repeat?

I didn't go "ga-ga" over the WS win like much of RS Nation did. Part of it has been the cooling of my ardour for most of professional sports (although I'm more interested in the Pats than any time in the past 20 years because of the "throwback" character of Belicheck and Boyz).

Having said that, I have been watching my share of games thus far and will continue to religiously check the box scores as I have since I was a kid.

The "idiot" stuff and the perpetual marketing of the team are starting to get under my skin, however.

weasel said...

Fallon is a NY born Yankees fan who now claims to "love" the Red Sox after having the privilege of running on the field when they won the WS so he could shoot a scene for a friggin' movie! I find I have to treat sports in an inverse manner to the way I treat everything else: the less I think about the politics, personalities, mechanics and basic facts of the game the more I like it.
That said, I'll still go and watch it. Nick Hornby seems to have found the formula for tranasatlantic adaptation, hasn't he?

Jim said...

I'm with Weasel's take on baseball and viewing it from an "inverse" perspective.

All these references from "across the pond" are leaving me in the dust?

UK movie and Arsenal? Fill me in?

Are you saying "Fever Pitch" was based on a movie about an English team? I'd love to see that movie.

BTW, are any of you fans of Mike Leigh's movies? My wife and I just watched "Vera Drake", a very depressing movie, yet worth the trouble, as all of Leigh's movies are, at least the one's I've seen.

weasel said...

"Fever Pitch' is based on a movie about Arsenal FC (starring Colin Firth) which is itself adapted from the book of the same name by "ooh why are men crap at human relationships and do so much better with sports/music/technology" author Nick Hornby (also the author of the moved-from London-to-Chicago-for-the-movie-version-and-none-the-worse-for-it "High Fidelity".
Mike Leigh is one of those national treasures that I enjoy yet sadly neglect at the same time.

weasel said...

I also have to add that I'm a fan of the knowing way Jerry and Joe promote the film during Red Sox games on NESN: "Many Red Sox players have starring roles".

Listmaker said...

I agree -- David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were AMAZING in Vera Drake.