The first time I watched my favorite movie, Fever Pitch, was shortly after it came out on DVD in 2005, when I was seated comfortably with my older brother on my parent’s bed. People often scoff when I tell them that this is my favorite movie; ultimately, it is an incredibly conventional romcom, rife with negative gender stereotypes perpetuated by overly pretty people. I’m not blind to that. The reason I love Fever Pitch so ardently though is because of the film’s unmanufacturable movie magic that it didn’t even know it would end up capturing.
When the script was written, when the actors and producers and directors signed on, none of them knew that 2004 would be the year that the Red Sox would reverse the curse.
But it was! The last 10 minutes of that movie show us the Red Sox making it to the playoffs and then going all the way to the top, finally winning their first World Series since 1918. Those last 10 minutes—from Drew Barrymore running across the outfield at Fenway Park (and grabbing Johnny Damon’s ass) to when the credits roll over Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon making out on the field in St. Louis— are so sensationally heartwarming that no matter how many times I watch them, they never fail to restore my faith in baseball.
Equal parts real and fiction, Fever Pitch accidentally ended with the genuine glee and relief of Red Sox fans everywhere. And I am one of those fans, despite the fact that boys have always told me that I am not really a fan because I can never name more than five players.
These boys, in third grade and in high school and sometimes even now, don’t understand that baseball is about more than the players and their stats. It’s about what the sport can do for us, the way it can make us feel, the people it can connect us to.
I’m a Red Sox fan because my dad is one. He’s a Red Sox fan because his dad is one. The team I root for has been passed down to me through the generations.
I once went to a game at Fenway Park with my dad and my brothers the night before my first day of fifth grade. I don’t remember who won, but I do remember the feeling of excitement and happiness I gained from being at that game, cheering on our team, eating Fenway Franks, and singing “Sweet Caroline.”
It was all I could talk about that first week of school until one of my male friends lamented how unfair it was that he was the real fan and yet I was the one who had gotten to go to the game. I had forgotten that I wasn’t a real fan. That I couldn’t possibly enjoy watching a game because I was unable to recite Big Papi’s batting average. This classmate’s complaint wrecked me; I felt like a fraud, like I didn’t deserve the wonderful night I had had.
My older brother is actually a Yankees fan—we’re from Connecticut, a state divided in terms of sports teams. So instead of following my father, he became a Yankees fan because of an old weathered hat that a neighbor two years his senior gave him when he was a kid. He admired this neighbor, wanted to be like him, so, with the gift of a hat, my brother quickly latched onto the Yankees.
My brother wore that hat every day until he lost it at age 13. On that day, he cried and cried and cried at the loss of this symbol of friendship with our neighbor. He cried and cried and cried until my dad, a Red Sox fan, reminded him that though he had lost the hat, he had not, and would not, lose the Yankees.
A month ago, I watched the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. I watched on the edge of my seat, not only because it was a great baseball game, but because I desperately needed them to win. I’m not a Cubs fan, but I have friends who needed them to win and an uncle who grew up in Chicago, whom I have watched nurse a broken heart every October for my whole life.
Ben from Fever Pitch almost gave up on his Red Sox, almost sold his tickets because he was in love with Lindsey and was sick of being let down by his team. He had lost faith in his faith, believing his love for the Red Sox didn’t matter, that being one of God’s most pathetic creatures—a Red Sox fan—had become too pathetic.
But he was so wrong; his love did matter. The passion of a fan, both the kind who can name every player and the kind who just loves the feeling of sitting on the couch with their dad on a school night watching a game, is what holds the Red Sox together. Without Ben’s love, there would be no magic, and without that, what’s the point? The masses uniting to celebrate victory together, to mourn losses together—that’s what makes a team. When Ben’s faith was tested, as faith so often is, he wavered, but ultimately the love of a woman brought him back, and the faith of his previous 23 years was rewarded. The unwavering faith of my father was rewarded in 2004, and my faith in the importance of loving something, anything, bloomed when I watched Fever Pitch for the first time in 2005.
That’s what baseball is about for me. It’s about the devotion that Ben gave to the Red Sox his entire life, not only because of the players and their batting averages, but because of the people he shared the experience with, his “summer family,” as he calls the amalgamation of characters that held season tickets in the seats surrounding his own.
The boys who have always made me feel like I don’t deserve to root for the Red Sox, they have this love too. I know they do. They’re just a little too caught up in the strike-outs of a relief pitcher or the RBIs of their team’s best slugger to consider the moment they realized they were a fan.
This past October, I desperately needed the Cubs to win because they had been down for too long, because the spirits of people I love depended on their victory. Their win meant the difference between utter devastation with which they were all too familiar and giddy elation that they had not known in their lifetimes. The Cubs winning the world series rewarded the faith of many, some of whom are lifelong fans and some of whom just liked the happy ending that this victory offered. A victory so long-awaited becomes a story to restore faith in not just the Chicago Cubs, but in humanity, in the grand power of the triumph of the human spirit: Just suffer and love long enough—say 108 years—and something good will come your way.