If you’re a rabid baseball fan like myself, and especially if you happen to live in Boston, you probably haven’t been able to turn on the television or pick up a magazine this week without seeing Jimmy Fallon’s wannabe-Sandler grin or Drew Barrymore’s appallingly oblivious kewpie expression gawping up at you, pleading for your undivided attention like an infant squirming around in its own waste. If I hear Barrymore ignorantly rambling about the “emotional backpack of pain” that Red Sox fans carried for 86 years one more time, or another explication of the way that the Sox Championship forced the Farrelly brothers to make last minute changes to the script, I’m going to release my very own backpack of hurl. If there was one bad thing to come out of the Red Sox finally winning it all, it was this miserably executed ode to fandom, more appropriate for the sub-mediocrity of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays than for one of the most storied franchises in the history of baseball. A mish-mash of genres, Fever Pitch is a failure on all levels; as a sports movie, it’s empty and uninspired; as a romance, it’s insipid and hokey; and as a comedy, it’s about as funny as having one’s gentlemen get in the way of a 97 mph Randy Johnson fastball.
My biggest problem with Fever Pitch, however, is not that it’s another shitty romantic comedy; after all, Hollywood finds excuses to churn out two or three of those a month. No. My biggest beef with Fever Pitch is the tangential association it has with Nick Hornby’s 1992 novel of the same name, about Hornby’s obsession with Arsenal, a British soccer team. My problem is not that the Farrelly brothers decided to change the sport from soccer to baseball — after all, Hornby’s sense of sports-driven obsession is universal, and can be just as easily applied to baseball as any other sport - it’s that they didn’t even attempt to capture the spirit of the book. I, for one, don’t know a damn thing about English football, but I understood what Hornby meant when he wrote, “Entertainment as pain was in idea entirely new to me, and it seemed to be something I’d been waiting for,” or the following passage, which strikes me as the perfect illustration of true allegiance to a sports team:
I had discovered … that loyalty, at least in football terms, was not a moral choice like bravery or kindness; it was more like a wart or a hump, something you were stuck with. Marriages are nowhere near as rigid — you wont’ catch any Arsenal fans slipping off to Tottenham for a bit of extra-marital slap and tickle, and though divorce is a possibility (you can just stop going if things get too bad), getting hitched again is out of the question.
For any ardent sports fan, Hornby’s message is familiar; and it is the complete lack of this sentiment in Fever Pitch that pisses me off so much.
Indeed, the essence of Hornby’s mania is something I have longed to see on the big screen since the film was announced a few years ago; but it took only one Fever Pitch commercial to dash all my hopes, because as soon as I saw Drew Barrymore, I knew the Farrellys had all but abandoned their source material. You see, Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch had no romantic lead; in fact, there were no women at all in the novel. It’s a nonfiction account of one man’s relationship with a sports team, and it had nothing in the world to do with Drew fucking Barrymore. In fact, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel — the inspired writing team behind such classics as Forget Paris and Edtv — didn’t lift a single goddamn line from the the brilliant memoir upon which they supposedly based their film. Instead of making a movie about real Red Sox fandom, they decided to bring Ione Skye (the cheese to Adam Horovitz’s macaroni) in to talk to Barrymore about relationships and fitness routines; these assholes infuriatingly attempted to epitomize one’s love for a baseball team by having Jimmy Fallon (who is from Long Island, for Christ’s Sake) sniff his Fenway Park tickets. Sniff! This is not passion for baseball, folks — it is inanity.
Oh, and for those actual Red Sox fans that plan on attending a screening of Fever Pitch in an effort to relive the magic of your 2004 season, forget about it. The filmmakers give short shrift to one of the greatest stories in the history of baseball, opting instead to discuss Barrymore’s obsession with her job or show Fallon getting his scrotum shaved. In fact, the entire playoff run is encapsulated in about 32 seconds of highlights, interspersed obnoxiously with huge FOX Sports logos, and completely eclipsed by an unbelievably ridiculous finale, an ending that no more captures the spirit of baseball zeal than does J. Lo’s The Wedding Planner.
Indeed, Fever Pitch demonstrates an alternate meaning to Hornby’s “entertainment as pain”; I can imagine few things more agonizing than spending two hours watching Drew and Jimmy play kissyface in and around Fenway Park. Fever Pitch is not just a disgrace to Red Sox fans, it’s a disgrace to sports films … hell, it’s a goddamn disgrace to humanity. The entire production feels less like a tribute to the Red Sox than an overblown, hackneyed exploitation of the team the Farrelly brothers purport to adore. It’s contemptible. Mind-destroyingly, spirit-suckingly, soul-annihilatingly contemptible. If there were any justice in this world, the Farrellys would be forced to suffer a retributive torture of their own devise; perhaps Bobby could get his testicles eternally caught in a zipper, or Peter could suffer a form of multiple personality disorder that results in perpetually violent self-abuse.
That, I would pay $10 to see.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
Fever Pitch / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()