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Sox On Screen: Fever Pitch

Some movies are made to comfort you and do nothing more and that’s okay.

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Welcome to Sox on Screen, a weekly blog I’ll be writing during the offseason that reviews a movie or TV Show that features or alludes to the Red Sox or their players. To kick things off, I watched one of the very best from the niche genre of Boston-sports-themed-romantic comedies: Fever Pitch.

I love vintage clothing. Something like 60% of the clothes I buy for myself comes from Goodwill. In fact, I typically find that my most beloved clothing items are the overstretched and slightly stained but always comfortable hoodies and t-shirts I can dig out of the bottom of a bin.

I like vintage clothing primarily because it is cheap but it is also cozy, unrefined and loose. It is by nature unfashionable and out of date, but nostalgia is still powerful enough to make me enjoy the clothes that people willingly threw away. I feel comfortable not having to keep up with what is new.

I did a similar thing choosing to watch Fever Pitch for the first edition of this offseason series.

Let’s get this out of the way first — I enjoyed it thoroughly. The premise of “big game interrupts normal life” is pretty familiar. Something you want to watch interferes with something you want to do or someone you want to spend time with and hijinx ensues to make it all work. Fever Pitch takes this feeling to its highest degree and (spoiler) ends in a resounding victory for the sports fan who ends up not having to sacrifice his world for the woman he loves.

It’s not fine cinema, but it’s fine, a comforting classic. It gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling because the conflict is low-stakes and easily resolved. This movie will not challenge you intellectually but who cares? It’s a cheesy romantic comedy that capitalizes on the itch that sports scratch.

I had never seen Fever Pitch before last night, at the ripe age of 22. It hit theatres when I was four years old and by the time I was old enough to realize this was something I could be interested in, it felt like a work of art I didn’t have the right to appreciate. Fever Pitch was another era’s movie and I had to find my own contemporary thing to enjoy.

But the reality is that movies like this or Celtic Pride, ones that celebrate obsession with a team, do not really exist anymore. Recently I’ve noticed that when sport and film combine, it is usually one of two things — a vanity project for athletes trying to expand their fame or a documentary about some event or period told through the eyes of a certain athlete or team. You don’t see yourself in those impersonal films.

Fever Pitch is not either of those things. Instead, it tells the story of what obsession does to “one of God’s most pathetic creatures: a Red Sox fan.” That’s what I found most comfortable about Fever Pitch. I am Bobby Farrelly, someone whose obsessive fandom has come between real life too often, and the conclusion of the story told me that my loved ones will allow my obsession with my teams to occupy an oversized portion of my life. I’m not sure that’s how it will always work in real life but it was nice to pretend that’s how it would.

The poetic monologues Farrelly uses throughout the film are long and heavy-handed at points but also illustrate the lack of agency sports fans feel they have. “I can’t quit on this team, because they haven’t quit on me” is the sentiment of a bygone, much more gritty era of Red Sox fandom that has been overtaken by the corporate persona of a fanbase that is spoiled, quite frankly, by a lot of winning.

For better or worse, it is easier to turn off and tune out a team that you don’t enjoy watching now, and that makes you less inclined to give an underachiever the reward of your time, money, and attention. Farrelly doesn’t see it this way, though. He cannot abandon a Red Sox game because they are an accessory to what he really loves — community, familiarity and shared emotions.

The Red Sox’s history of crushing losses, which is detailed thoroughly during one scene, doesn’t end up factoring into anyone’s commitment to the team. Every year the new season arrives with new hope, even if the result is predictable for Ben and his group of friends that share season tickets. The nostalgia gets repackaged as something new — old, familiar and new to you.

This oversized second-hand sweatshirt of a movie isn’t perfect but it’s what I wanted. I was not looking for the finer things in life so wasn’t disappointed when Fever Pitch wasn’t.