The producers of "Fever Pitch" aren't subtle about their timing: they finished filming just as the 2004 season came to its stunning conclusion, with the film's star -- the Red Sox -- winning their first World Series since 1918. The film premiered during the opening week of the 2005 season, just as the Red Sox were receiving their World Series rings. And the DVD version just came out last week, as one of the greatest Septembers of all time was peaking.
Yet again, the fate of the Red Sox is tightly intertwined with that of the Yankees. This weekend's final three-game Yankees-Red Sox series at Fenway will decide the AL East champion (or may lead to a one-game playoff). The series may also decide who makes the playoffs as the wild card team, with the possibility that either the Red Sox or Yankees could get sideswiped by the Indians.
Time to look closely at "Fever Pitch," directed by avid Red Sox fans Bobby and Peter Farrelly. It doesn't get more real than this weekend at Fenway. Does the movie get it real? You decide.
In Reel Life: At the start of the film, the narrator talks about "86 years of banging our head against the big green wall."
In Real Life: A dramatic phrase, but an inaccurate one. Fenway's original left-field wall was 25 feet high. The 37-feet-high left-field wall became part of the park in 1934. But for 13 years, it was covered with billboards. In 1947, it was painted green.
In Reel Life: Ben (Jimmy Fallon) is an avid Red Sox fan.
In Real Life: "Ben" is actually "Nick," as in Nick Hornby, who wrote "Fever Pitch," a memoir about his love affair with Arsenal, a London soccer team. The movie takes the title and the idea of an extremely obsessed fan from the book, but little else, as the book has no real plot. And Arsenal isn't the British equivalent of the Red Sox. Arsenal tends to be either terrible (most of the time) or excellent (rarely). The Red Sox, of course, are a different story.
Screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel had the freedom to adapt the book to feature any sport an American could be obsessed about -- including soccer, which was dismissed almost immediately. For a while, they considered making Ben a Packers fan. They ruled that out, too. "We didn't want to have to see a cheesehead," Mandel told the New York Times. Ben as Cubs fan was also considered, Ganz told the Times, "but we decided that Cubs fans looked too happy. They didn't seem to suffer enough."
In Reel Life: Ben's entire life revolves around the Red Sox.
In Real Life: In interviews, Jimmy Fallon has said he's a Yankees fan. But he told the New York Daily News, "I'm not that crazy a sports fan that I know all the rules about when to root for the Mets or the Yankees."
Here's the rule, Jimmy: Yankees fans don't root for the Mets. Ever. And vice versa. There's no "when" involved.
In Reel Life: In a TV segment from spring training, Peter Gammons refers to "Red Sox Nation."
In Real Life: Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe is often credited with coining the phrase "Red Sox Nation," which we traced back to 1990 in a database search. In that piece, Shaughnessy wrote that manager Joe Morgan "is doing his best to keep a lid on the hardball hysteria that stalks Red Sox Nation."