The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, May 02, 2005

So I saw "Fever Pitch" Finally...

I saw “Fever Pitch” the other day and it hit me in a way that most comedies don’t - or at least in a way that they’re not intended to.

Part of me is hesitant to post any my take on the film here because if I do it any justice I’ll probably have to reveal more about myself than I’m comfortable doing. Because of that, I'll probably short change the review and the impact the movie made on me.

But at the same time I’ll admit that I haven’t quite figured this whole thing out. Sometimes when I post something that I think is really good – or at least that I’ve put some thought into – there’s absolutely zero readership or reaction. Then at other times, when I just whip something together off the top of my head – it gets read, and read a lot. Sometimes a college course even incorporates it into their curriculum, or it generates a following of its own that generates emails for me that still trickle in a year later. So maybe this is one of those little pieces that will sit on the Internet anonymously. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t – but I’ll feel better for getting it out of my head and out somewhere.

I’ve read a number of reviews of “Fever Pitch” by other folks who blog about baseball. Many of them said that they felt like they really related to Jimmy Fallon’s character in the movie. In some ways I did, but in other ways I didn’t. Most of all, despite the fact that I have two blogs dedicated to baseball, I’m not nearly as obsessed with the game – or one team (not even the two or three teams I follow the closest combined) – as the movie’s character.

There were many obvious times in the movie when Jimmy put his relationship with Drew Barrymore in jeopardy for reasons that I can’t come close to relating to (no, I don’t remember their characters names and I’m not looking them up, so deal with it). The actions that he sometimes took, the things that he said, and the decisions that he made were just laughably pathetic. They were so plain for me to see that I know I couldn’t make those same sorts of mistakes

Well, I’d like to think that, but really I can’t. I’ve made those same types of mistakes – or worse. Repeatedly. Unfortunately, unlike the character in the movie, I’m never able to see those mistakes until the situation is irreversible and it’s far too late.

One of the initial scenes in movie showed Jimmy going to Fenway Park for the first time with his uncle. That scene was almost like a flashback for me, as I remember doing almost the same exact thing when I was about the same age, but with my father at Old Comiskey park. The tunnel we came up was at about the same place relative to home as what’s shown in the movie. I was overwhelmed by the size of the field and the green of the grass (even though I’m red/green color blind). To this day, although it was at least twenty years ago, I can vividly remember that scene. I don’t remember who the Sox played that day or where we sat, but I remember first walking up that ramp and first seeing the field live in person. I’d followed the Sox on television and in the newspaper by then, but I’d never seen them live. I suppose that first glimpse inside Comiskey Park is where the my fascination with baseball, the White Sox, and old Comiskey Park began.

Another scene that struck me was when Drew Barrymore asked Jimmy if baseball had ever loved him back. Like Jimmy said, obviously I’d have to say that no, of course it never has. But while baseball doesn’t ever love you back, unlike “real life” or relationships with people, baseball doesn’t walk away or leave you either - at least not permanently. When the game goes away in late October, you know that pitchers and catchers will report in February and that Opening Day will be in April. There’s never a case of someone leaving for a pack of cigarettes or an evening run and never coming back (neither of those specific things ever happened to me).

At least there’s not supposed to be. I suppose it happens in baseball sometimes – like when the Expos are taken from Montreal, or a strike cancels the World Series, or when the White Sox move across the street to a new park and continue to call the new place Comiskey Park. So sometimes the game does more to you than merely passively failing to love you back. The game can even reach out and hurt you – or at least take away something that you thought was a given. People do get attached and people do take these things as if they were family or “real.” I suppose it’s why I vowed way back when to never attend a Sox game at the “new” Comiskey Park and why I empathize with the fans in Montreal who are still sad about losing the Expos. Sure, there may not be a lot of them, but they’re hurt by the whole thing just as much as true Yankee or Dodgers fans would be/were if/when the same thing happened to them.

But for the most part, the game doesn’t love you back. But it’s always there. The players may change, but the nickname and uniforms remain recognizable. The outcome might not always be what you want (a pennant or a World Series), but there are limits on the downside too. You can only finish in last place. There is no divorce or loss of visitation with your kids (neither of which applies to me).

Well, this hasn’t come together at all like I thought/hoped it would when it was just rolling around in my head. To summarize, “Fever Pitch” is a very interesting movie and parts of it are laugh out loud funny. Some of the visuals leave something to be desired, particularly when you can tell what’s a live baseball shot and what was inserted from film. My point in writing this was that in a lot of ways I related to this movie, but not in the ways I thought I would.


  • At 8:25 PM, May 03, 2005, Anonymous Jan M. said…

    Hi Mike,

    Loved your comments about the movie, especially relating it to your 1st visit to Comisky with your dad. I hope he reads it.
    I've not seen the movie but will keep you in mind when I do.

  • At 3:07 PM, June 02, 2005, Anonymous Nina said…

    Hi me a sucker...your posting on "Fever Pitch" brought tears to my eyes.....I've lived in Miami all my life, so we did not have MLB until 1993...but being Daddy's little girl, going to spring training games with him and sitting with him in the dug-out during his own games was what I can relate to. I am now an adult and still treasure going to the Marlin games with my father.


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