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Monday, June 25, 2007

Chronicles of the Spaceman

Joel has been making great strides in hammering out a deal with Major League Baseball that will cover licensing and the rights to use MLB’s images and logos in our work. It will be pricey (would you believe $12,000 per minute for video clips), and we feel like David vs. Goliath in these negotiations, but Joel has already knocked them down to $2,500/min. The higher fees would give us broadcast rights, rather than just simple DVD sales rights – network stuff might have to wait until we’re bought out by PBS or ESPN! But at least this preliminary OK from MLB enabled us to to back to the Sox with our concrete proposals for final interviews, and the Sox have been unfailingly supportive in helping us pull things together.

We even got an unexpected boost when a producer from Chronicle, our local ABC affiliate’s weekly news magazine, called about doing a segment on “Joy of Sox”, as part of an upcoming show on Red Sox Nation. Although their visit was cobbled together at the last-minute (which I gather is how the world of TV production operates), we put some nice segments together. Part of that involved getting action shots of me working as a psychiatrist, to establish a bit of credibility for me. That section would never have come together without the help of Diane, a very gracious patient who allowed the first 10 minutes of our session to unfold despite a pretty obtrusive camera woman stationed a mere 2 feet to her right. I was teaching Diane a mind/body relaxation technique to help deal with upsetting memories from an automobile accident (the technique also helps deal with the trauma of pennant race collapses, should the need arise), so the session wasn’t as emotion-laden and self-revealing as if she had been talking about a horrible trauma (reality TV it wasn’t).

And then the Sox obliged by letting me interview the Spaceman at Fenway. Background: over a year ago, Joel had tracked down the upstate Vermont address and phone number of 70’s Sox pitcher Bill Lee. Lee was a countercultural iconoclast who drove management crazy with his antiwar activism and unabashed marijuana use (hence the “Spaceman” nickname, and the title of his upcoming autobiography – “High and Outside”). After all these years, he still has a devoted cult following in Boston because of his shrewd insights into the game. We had stayed in casual contact about his interest in the film, and he told us that he’d be in Boston this week and was willing to meet with us. So we set out to film a noon interview at Fenway with our crew of 3 (myself, videographer George DeLuca, and my son David the gofer – who we referred to by the revised cinematic term of Best Boy Ever). The afternoon started with a good omen – as David and I drove into the parking lot, the attendent asked me if I was that guy he’d seen on TV. “Not yet”, I felt like saying.

I needed all my psychiatric interviewing skills to keep Mr. Lee on topic, since he’s got ideas about everything, and has the energy level of a force of nature. Directing the interview was like sailing a dinghy in a gale (I’m just guessing - I’m not a sailor). Amidst references to Patty Hearst and Richard Nixon, Pinky Higgins and institutional racism, Gurdjieff and Paramahansa Yogananda, we also found out that Bill Lee – star pitcher for the 1975 World Series Sox – doesn’t even believe in team cohesion and Red Sox Nation. In fact, he shot down just about all of our pet theories.

He thinks that teams get a better emotional spark from occasional arguments and fights between members than from any group meditations (and apparently he had some doozies with Carlton Fisk). He thinks Red Sox Nation members ought to find something real to invest their passion in, not something superficial like a baseball team. And Fenway Park isn’t a sacred shrine, it’s just an old landfill on a swamp. Not the viewpoint I was expecting, but there’s plenty of room for dissent under the big tent of “Joy of Sox”.

We also had one near-miss. We had brought the RNG unit and laptop to do an on-camera demonstration, and the game later that night would have been an ideal one to monitor for emotional intensity. The loudest boos of the year greeted notorious (steroid-using) superstar Barry Bonds when he made his Fenway debut that evening, and the longest ovation of the year poured down upon Dave Roberts, marking his first return to Fenway since that key steal of second base in their miraculous ’04 comeback against the Yankees. But the only way to pull it off would have involved entrusting a few thousand dollars worth of equipment overnight to a Red Sox summer intern (I had to leave by 2pm, and the game didn’t start til 7) – no way Jose´!


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The Joy of Sox: Weird Science and the Power of Intention is produced by 2 Cousins Productions and Pinch Hit Productions. © 2006 The Joy of Sox Movie LLC. For more information, contact info@thejoyofsoxmovie.com.

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