HBO // 2004 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 25th, 2005
Has there ever been a group of sports fans in the history of the world that has suffered as much as Red Sox nation? People have been born, lived full lives, and died without ever seeing the team win a championship, enduring only stunning defeats. Before 2004, misery was a Red Sox fan's constant company, and Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino explores the surreal history of baseball's most heart-breaking franchise and the people that languished for so long.
This one-hour HBO special blends interviews, archival baseball footage, and historical documents into a concise history of 86 years of futility. Celebrities and locals alike let fly their memories of missed opportunities, freak occurrences, boneheaded gaffes, and what it's like to feel crushing disappointment and unbridled vitriol at the same time. The thread holding the documentary together is the much-publicized "Curse of the Bambino," which posits that when the Red Sox sold the legendary Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, a mystical spell set in, delivering unmatched success to the Yankees franchise and unmatched failure to the Red Sox.
All the lowlights are hit upon: Bucky Dent's improbable homer, the infamous 1986 World Series, Aaron Boone, even the team's infamous feet-dragging on racial integration in the Majors (the Red Sox were the last team to have a black player on the roster). Celebrities such as Michael Chiklis (The Shield), comedian Steven Wright, Mike O'Malley, and Denis Leary chime in with very amusing remarks and anecdotes, while regular folks from all parts of New England share their stories of woe.
Thankfully, the story ends happily, with an in-depth look at the 2004 championship and the final purging of Babe Ruth's specter.
I'm a relatively recent New England transplant. I moved to New Hampshire in 1999 and didn't get swept up by Red Sox fever until several years back. I will in no way claim to be a hard-core, long-suffering fan. I suppose you can say I'm a casual fan, although, as I increasingly discover, there is no such thing in Red Sox nation. If you are true fan, you live and breathe and belch the Red Sox. You sign some ethereal agreement that promises you will take every loss personally, you will make multiple sojourns to your Mecca (Fenway), you will find your way into the middle of a beer-drenched throng in a Boston sports bar, and, most important, you will loathe the New York Yankees with every molecule of your being.
Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino is an excellent documentary. It is made for Red Sox fans or people interested in what it's like to live the life of a Red Sox fan. There is a good amount of team history present, but it serves mostly as a foundation to ground the most entertaining aspect of the program: the persistent struggle of Red Sox nation to cope with unparalleled, soul-crushing disappointment.
The best stuff here is the interviews. You will not get a more complete picture of a Red Sox fan, short of moving to the North End and spending every night in a sports bar. The filmmakers ingeniously wove together the musings of regular folks and famous faces. It's great because no matter where they are in life, they all share the common denominator of being devoted Red Sox fans. They have all felt destroyed at some point in their life -- and, most recently, elated. Forget Marx -- the pain that the Red Sox bring is the great equalizer.
The program is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The picture quality is actually very good; the old footage of the Babe and other clips from past games are crisp. Bill Buckner's legendary snafu has never looked clearer on the TV. Sadly, there are no special features, which is perplexing. You'd think that at the very least there would be extra interview footage. And a commentary track would have been perfect. Warner Brothers dropped the ball on this. (Ba-dum-dum!)
Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino is a superb encapsulation of the misery and eventual triumph of Red Sox nation. It's a documentary that is both funny and actually quite moving. No Yankees fans need apply (you will not be treated warmly), but this is a disc that belongs in the library of every Red Sox fan.
Not guilty. Now can we take Bill Buckner's name off the Boston Mafia's hit list?
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated