Thursday, October 28, 2004

Feels Like Trespassing

I had planned to leave this space alone today, not wanting it to be blemished with idle chatter from non-Sox writers, but there is a little something worth mentioning. To file under "too coincidental to be coincidence," the Independent Film Channel was airing the film Fever Pitch last night during the Red Sox' professional-carpentry-grade hammering of the final nail in the Cardinals' collective coffin. For the unfamiliar, Fever Pitch is the 1997 movie version of the 1992 Nick Hornby novel/autobiography about his lifelong chronic obsession with a hard-luck English League football club. The book was fantastic, and the movie was solid, though both flew mostly under the radar with Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) and lead actor Colin Firth (Brit-chick flicks galore) reaching the mainstream after subsequent efforts. The parallels between the maniacally fervent, loyal at all costs, tunnel-visioned, misunderstood, xenophobic, oppression-heralding fan bases of the Arsenal Gunners (as Hornby painted it) and the Boston Red Sox are obvious. Someone in Hollywood picked up on it, and next year they're releasing a remake of the story as told from a Sox fan's perspective. And last night, somehow, the Boston Red Sox went ahead and finished the story for the moviemakers to perfect the symmetry of the original novel. Brilliant.

Flipping back and forth enabled a side-by-side comparison of the two works. Firth's curmudgeonly Paul is the Arsenal equivalent of a slew of Sox supporters I have known in my lifetime. Of course, he's the extreme case. Those who haven't known folks like him would think him an artistic exaggeration, the hyperbole that cinema creates; those to whom Paul represents the spitting image of some (formerly) embattled Bostonite they have known realize it's less of a caricature than others might think. But if you think Hornby and his character suffered for the 18 painful years of near misses, 86 years of misery has created infinitely more wretched frustration for their American counterparts. And this scenario offers two possibilities: (1) the 2005 American adaptation of Fever Pitch, the one where the Red Sox knock off the Cardinals in 4 (methinks some greedy producer was hoping it'd go 7 for added drama) to finally end the pain, becomes the single most purchased and cherished piece of Hollywood-produced celluloid in the New England area forever more; or (2) the 2005 American adaptation of Fever Pitch, the one starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, the one directed by the Farrelly Brothers, despite its best intentions simply cannot properly convey the sea of emotion and heart-warming relief that the real event set loose, and it's a mess. The Farrellys are legendary among my circle of moviegoers, but not for real-world drama. If Jim Carrey can turn that corner, and he has, perhaps they can, too. But the danger is there to come across as cheapening this moment with such an endeavor.

I heard that they're now re-writing the ending from fiction to fact, and as of last night the 1989 Arsenal finish (while it boasted a more down-to-the-wire conclusion, even if it didn't have the longevity of history nor the earlier drama of the ALCS) now mirrors the 2004 Red Sox finish completely. And while I was against this adaptation initially, both because it'd invariably involve a fictional fairytale ending and because those adaptations so often suck, after last night I'm all for it. That Fallon and Barrymore were spotted mashing on the infield in the postgame celebration made little sense to anyone who hadn't just seen the eerily identical conclusion of Fever Pitch on IFC during a 7th-inning commercial, where Paul and his now-enlightened-after it-happened girlfriend spot each other among the mob of festive fans and make out in a display of emotion he'd seemed incapable of for 18 years. Normally I'd be down on it all, from the cinematic cashing in to the invasion of pure, heartfelt glee by two actors pretending to feel it to the blatant PDA. Last night, though, it made perfect sense and fit right in. With these idiots, anything goes, anyway.

One thing to note amid the parallel: at the end of Fever Pitch, the protagonist recognizes, even as he's dancing ecstatically in the streets, that nothing will be the same between his team and him ever again. The bond that glued so many fans together was that long, brutal, joyless road they had all trudged together, and that this unique journey separated them from any other fans anywhere. Now that the trip is complete, the celebration can begin, and in a way, it will go on forever. The problem is that next spring 25 guys will suit up and take the field in the exact same manner that the players have for the past 86 years, as if nothing had happened. Today that's a non-issue and the furthest thing from the Red Sox fans' minds. But for this team, these fans, and yes, this blog -- nothing will ever, ever be the same again. For better and for worse. The chronicling of how this alters the Sox Fan Universe is an interesting direction for Rob to go; unfortunately, for fans of teams like the New York Mets, the future's a bit bleaker. To see these people revel like this is something I've waited to see for a long time -- torturing them all the way, of course. But to reflect that (a) my team is relatively devoid of the talent, wisdom, heart, and unity that propelled Boston to victory, and (b) no matter what, I will never get to experience this firsthand arrival at the lifelong mecca is somewhat disheartening. Not that anyone will feel sorry for us today -- at least no moreso than the wee bit crummy I always feel when they show the aftermath of the '86 Series and Wade Boggs crying in the dugout.

From the taller half of the MLC team, I formally use this space to congratulate Rob Russell on the realization of a dream and wish him well in his new blog, "Looking Down from Cloud 9." It was a long time coming, to employ the use of understatement. Enjoy.

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