Here we go with another baseball movie, this time Fever Pitch (2005). Remember when Jimmy Fallon (who plays Ben Wrightman here) was an actual actor instead of a late night talk show host? This is my favorite of his films. It has a bit of nostalgia for me as well. It takes me back to the heady days of my first year in graduate school when I was studying for a Master’s degree in Florida Studies (yes, there is such a thing and I have one). My first Fall at the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg in my pursuit of this goal saw my beloved Chicago Cubs on the doorstep of ending a long absence from the World Series. Given my love for that team, you can understand me sitting in class and frequently checking my phone for scores. My professor always noticed this action, but he tolerated it because he is a Boston Red Sox and both of our sides were fighting their way through the playoffs. While it turned out to not be the year for either of us, his Red Sox won the World Series the next year, concluding their own long spell without a championship and inspiring the film we will be looking at today.
That is my connection to Fever Pitch, but the film begins with Ben’s story of how he became a lifelong Red Sox fanatic. His Uncle Carl (Lenny Clarke) took him to his first game at Fenway Park (their home field) and from their Ben fell in love with the sport and the team. It stuck with him into adulthood, and if anything deepened, to the point where his entire apartment is bedecked in Red Sox memorabilia from floor to ceiling, and he seems to order his entire life around his schedule. It is into this near obsessive milieu that Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) enters. Their relationship is sparked when Ben brings a few of his students from the school where he teaches math to the engineering firm where Lindsey works. They also meet when Ben’s Red Sox fanaticism is in its winter dormancy. When the season begins, she realizes that his affections are divided between her and the Red Sox. While she goes along with it at first, even attending a number of games with him at the season seats he inherited from his uncle, it soon becomes a hindrance. They increasingly find that the team is coming between them, though he is much slower to realize the danger. When she offers to take him with her on a business trip to Paris, his first instinct is to glance at the Red Sox schedule and decline because they are in town during the time of the proposed excursion. Before a rift could completely separate them, they begin to make changes to their lives they hope will satisfy the other. Interestingly, Ben is the first to make a move, deciding to sell his season tickets and forego future summers sacrificed to his favorite team. At the same time, when on the cusp of a major promotion at work, Lindsey leaves it behind to prevent Ben from going through with the transaction. She makes her way into Fenway where the deals is going down and arrives just in time to tear up the contract. And they live happily ever after, particularly as the Red Sox win the World Series.
What both Ben and Lindsey come to realize in Fever Pitch is that their lives together are more important than their other pursuits, be them baseball teams or careers. This is at the heart of Catholic vocational teaching. A man and woman come together in matrimony not simply because they share interests, but because they have a love for each other that mirrors the sacrificial feelings that Jesus has for all of us. Yet one might think of such a deed as burdensome. After all, who really wants to abate their passion for a sports club or derail their progress with their company? Yet Jesus also reminds us in the Gospels that for those who follow after Him, the burden is easy and light. While this idea may seem countercultural today, this thinking guides the men and women who enter the priesthood and religious life. What made Ben and Lindsey’s offering to one another “easy and light” is that they actually did not have to give up their team or career. Instead, they continue to pursue their outside interests, but with a greater appreciation of what they mean to the other. In turn, they fall more deeply in love and know that marriage is next. I call that a good result.
Of course, the relationship between Ben and Lindsey in Fever Pitch does not follow the course prescribed by the Church. They engage in premarital sex, though because this movie is rated PG-13 there are no nude scenes or passionate love-making. That is really the only objectionable thing about the film. Otherwise, it is fun, particularly if you are a baseball aficionado like myself, unless you are a Yankees fan, I suppose.