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“Great” Moments in Sports Cinema: Fever Pitch (2005)

Fever Pitch (20th Century Fox)

I think all Red Sox fans can remember every single moment of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. Mariano Rivera comes in with a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the 9th and the Yankees up 3-0 in the series. All hope seemed lost with the greatest closer in MLB history getting ready to shut the door on Boston’s World Series dreams. Kevin Millar drew the leadoff walk and midseason acquisition, Dave Roberts, pinch runs and steals 2nd base in what is one of this city’s most iconic sports moments. Roberts scores on the Bill Mueller single and Boston eventually won the game and the series.

Now, do you remember during that inning when Drew Barrymore jumped off the centerfield wall and ran across the field while assaulting security officers along the way?

Have you ever seen “Deliverance”? Four friends decide to canoe down a river in Georgia and the end up meeting up with a band of local, inbred, banjo-playing, gun-toting lunatics who want nothing more than to make sure the “city boys” don’t stick around. This leads to the four friends running from danger and praying to make it out alive.

Why is this relevant to a movie about an obsessed Red Sox fan trying to make a relationship work with his girlfriend? Excellent question. After you watch “Deliverance” (great movie), you get a permanent impression of the south. Without even taking a trip down south, you already have a preconceived notion of who the people are and what they act like. After seeing the film, nobody would ever dare go rafting in Georgia ever again or else the locals will sodomize and kill you.

Now, for people and baseball fans outside of Massachusetts, “Fever Pitch” was their window into Red Sox nation and oh man did they screw it up.

The Long and Short of It

The Farrelly Brothers have been known for such comedy hits as “Dumb and Dumber”, “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary”. The Farrellys are Rhode Island natives so putting them in the directing chair for a film based around the Red Sox seemed like a natural fit.

The film is loosely based on the book “Fever Pitch” by Nick Hornby, which chronicles his following of the Arsenal Football Club of the English Premier League. In relation to the 2005 film, we have our main character Ben Wrightman played by SNL alum Jimmy Fallon. Fallon’s biggest claim to fame on SNL was his recurring character who was an obsessed Red Sox fan and walking Boston stereotype. File footage seen here:

Instead of just making a direct SNL movie (like we needed another “Night at the Roxbury”), the Farrelly’s pretty much just took the SNL character and toned it down. What we have left is a retahded Red Sox fan with an apartment full of Sox memorabilia.

The film starts with Ben at 7-years-old being taken to his first Sox game by his Uncle (played by Boston comic Lenny Clarke). It’s here where we get to see a CGI attempt at the old Fenway minus the Monster seats and complete with 1980’s players such as Dennis Eckersley and Jim Rice. Eckersley and Rice are their 50-yr-old selves, but are playing themselves in their 20’s. Having someone play themselves, but only 25 years younger, doesn’t fool the audience. We skip ahead to present day where Ben is a schoolteacher and has inherited his late Uncle’s season tickets.

On a class trip he is chaperoning, Ben meets his love interest Lindsey played by Drew Barrymore. They date and fall in love over the course of a few months, but Lindsey is ok with Ben’s obsession with the Red Sox. This of course happens during the offseason, then when the 2004 season starts, Ben’s true rabid obsession comes out. Lindsey soon grows tired of Ben’s immaturity and the relationship nearly falls apart.

Things change one night when Ben misses his first Sox game ever in order to attend a party with Lindsey. Seeing this as an act of true commitment and dedication to her, Lindsey and Ben are better than ever. It doesn’t stay that way for too long when Ben’s friend calls him that night and tells him that the Sox have completed a miracle come-from-behind win against the Yankees by scoring 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to win the game. Upon hearing this, Ben is mad as all hell and after a huge argument, he and Lindsey break up.

After a period of depression, Ben realizes he misses Lindsey and attempts to show how much he loves her by selling his season tickets. Lindsey gets wind of this and races to Fenway during game 4 of the ALCS to find Ben. After purchasing scalped tickets, she enters the park and spots Ben sitting behind the Sox dugout. The only problem is that she is in centerfield. So, she runs onto the field and outruns security to meet Ben at his seat where she doesn’t let him sell his tickets and they lovingly embrace. After a brief montage with Dropkick Murphys’ “Tessie” blaring in the background, we see the Sox beat New York and then St. Louis to win the World Series. The End.

My Two Cents

In addition to making Boston sports fans look like obsessive douches, the film has so many inaccuracies that it makes your head spin, but I want to point out my two favorites.

  • That 7-run comeback game against the Yankees never happened. If we’re supposed to try and portray the 2004 season in its natural state against the backdrop of a love story, can we at least not b.s. the fans. Fearing that I may have missed this epic game, I exhausted all resources to find out that I had been fooled by the Farrelly Brothers. Jerks.
  • The big climactic scene at game 4 of the 2004 ALCS should have been a thing of beauty. What Sox fan doesn’t recall every agonizing moment of that game? So when we got to see it on the big screen, we are supposed to swallow this big pill. I know this is a movie and we are supposed to check our brain at the door and just enjoy a good time, but come on. We’re supposed to pretend that Drew Barrymore lept off the centerfield wall, hid behind Johnny Damon, assaulted a security officer, ran all the way across the field and then had a full conversation with her boyfriend while security sat idly by instead of taking her ass to baseball jail? Give me a break.

So referring back to “Deliverance”, we can assume that anyone who has never been to Boston has now made some hefty assumptions about the city and its fans. Hell, even I think that 98% of Red Sox Nation is running around screaming “NO-MAH!!!!” at the top of their lungs. This city has an incredibly rich sports history with very classy and intelligent fans. In less than two hours, Hollywood dragged us down to the lowest common denominator. We’re being treated like we live in Vancouver or something.

The film, in addition to labeling Red Sox fans as idiots (I swear Kevin Millar had a hand in the script), also takes several liberties with the 2004 season from who the Sox played on what day to making up games, to changing the events of the ALCS. The Farrelly Brothers seem to think that this is an accurate representation of the long tradition of the team and its fans and I hope to see their take on the Bruins Stanley Cup Championship of the 2010-’11 season complete with Zooey Deschanel leaping from her seat to stop Aaron Rome from blindsiding Nathan Horton in Game 3.

Or they can just give us all collective kick in the nuts to save us $10 and 90 minutes.

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