Loyalty not an act for this Red Sox fan

Email|Print| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / November 27, 2007

Homeboy Matt Damon, who narrates the 2007 World Series DVD that had its premiere last night at the Wang Center, is proud of his bona fides as a Red Sox fan, one who showed up on David Letterman's show last summer wearing a Sox jersey to diss the Yankees his entire interview. But even the Oscar-winning screenwriter and accomplished actor was impressed by the story related to him by his old roommate at Harvard, Sean Kelly, one of the emergency room doctors from Beth Israel on duty at Fenway Park during the season.

"There was this 85-year-old guy in the bleachers who had driven down from Maine or New Hampshire with his two daughters," Damon said by phone yesterday from his home in Miami, where he'd returned after spending the Thanksgiving holiday here with family. "Anyway, the guy didn't feel well, and after some of the medics and nurses looked at him, it went up the chain to Sean. They realize the guy has had a heart attack, and Sean says, 'We've got to get you out of here.' "

The man had come to the park with a small oxygen tank but still refused to leave.

"The guy says, 'Big Papi is up, and I'm not leaving,' " Damon said. "He said, 'I drove all the way to see Big Papi, and I'm not leaving during his at-bat.' Well, the guy passes out. Sean's got the guy under the bleachers, with the paddles, doing the whole thing - 'Clear!' They save the guy, and he's still healthy. But is that guy a Red Sox fan or what?"

Damon didn't go to quite such dramatic lengths to track the Sox in their postseason run to the title this season. It actually was a little bit easier than in 2004. That October, he said, he was in Europe filming "Syriana."

"There were a number of nights I sat up all night watching games," he said. "The games started at 2. When we beat the Yankees in Game 7, I was in Geneva watching on literally an inch-and-a-half computer screen from 2 to 7 in the morning. Then I went to work."

But there was no way he was sticking around in Switzerland for the Series.

"[George] Clooney was the producer," Damon said. "I'd never missed a rehearsal or anything, but I called him and said, 'I'm sorry, but I can't be here. You're going to have to make plans to shoot some other stuff.'

"He said, 'I already have.'

"I just managed to get back. I watched the games from my living room. I got home during the first game, and when we won, I knew I couldn't leave that spot. I watched by myself."

He was in Japan when the Sox fell behind the Indians, three games to one, in this year's ALCS. Did he believe the Sox were toast?

"No, I didn't," said the man whose title character in the soon-to-be-released DVD "The Bourne Ultimatum" has been known to escape worse predicaments. "[Josh] Beckett was going in the fifth game, and then we were going back to Boston. And so many guys on that team were on the team that came back against the Yankees, and then Beckett and [Mike] Lowell were on the Florida team that won [in 2003].

"So I wasn't worried. I was really relaxed, which was weird for a lifelong Red Sox fan. It was as if some kind of psychic weight had been lifted in '04."

He wound up watching this World Series from a hotel room in Los Angeles, again by himself.

"My wife and daughter were in the other room, but nobody wants to be around me when the Red Sox are in the World Series," he said with a laugh.

Winning three years ago, he said, didn't make the experience any less intense this go-round.

"After an 86-year drought, when you've walked all the way through the desert for your first drink of water, maybe nothing ever tastes quite that good," he said, "but that didn't make this season any less sweet. It's impossible not to love this team."

But winning two titles in the span of four seasons does make this things a tad more confusing for his nephews, the son of his brother Kyle. Uncle Matt has taken them to Sox games where they've sat in owner John Henry's seats next to the Sox dugout ("My dad said to me, 'That's brutal.' They think this is what it's like to go to a Sox game") and they assume that being a Sox fan means you win in the end.

That's not the only source of bewilderment.

"My brother told me my nephews think Mike Lowell is George Clooney," Damon said.

Damon didn't get to see a game this season in Fenway, and it's been a while since he's taken some hacks on the field. He's reached the Wall a couple of times, he said, but admits that his skills on the diamond are diminishing much faster than, say, Manny Ramírez's. "It happened a long time ago," he said, "but I just realized it this year."

But if someone were to cast a movie about this team, whom would he play? The man recently chosen as the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine opted to go small.

"I guess [Dustin] Pedroia," he said. "What I love about him is how he gives everything he's got, on every play, every swing."

Before Henry stepped in to buy the club, Damon and his acting buddy Ben Affleck had a chance to buy a piece of the team. They passed.

"There hasn't been a day where I haven't regretted it," he said. "But look, I'd rather not be an owner and watch them win two World Series as a fan, than be an owner and not have reversed the curse."

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