Fanning the flames

Red Sox devotees share their quirks as camera rolls for a film project

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Lisa Kocian
Globe Staff / August 10, 2008

The ex-con who started a fantasy league in prison. The guy who can roll his painted belly to make the Red Sox logo, well, dance. The former nurse from Hopkinton who invokes quantum physics when talk turns to rooting for the home team.

Is there any better material out there than the Red Sox fanatic?

Three filmmakers, including a Needham psychiatrist, think not.

After stalling out for most of 2007 and the early part of this year, "The Joy of Sox: 'Weird Science' and the Power of Intention," a documentary film examining science, spirituality, and the Red Sox, is now moving forward again.

In Hopkinton on Aug. 2, they held the final "casting call" - a chance for fans to immortalize their own stories in the documentary.

"You do notice when you're watching an important game, people are praying with such intensity that you don't usually see in a synagogue or a church," said 77-year-old Wayland resident Sandy Rosenzweig during his in terview to be considered for the film. "It gets you involved in something greater than yourself."

Some of the fan stories were quirky, some funny, and some touching.

In the 2004 playoff series against the Yankees, when the Sox were down 3-0, Rebecca Hancock of Concord, N.H., went to the cemetery where her daughter and niece are buried. The two girls died in a car accident in 2003.

"I prayed really hard for just one win and I got eight," said Hancock. "Angels are much more powerful than baseball ghosts."

The documentary will explore the power of prayer and the question of whether the good wishes of 30,000 fans might actually impact the fortunes of the home team. It will also ask whether there is a spirituality in being a diehard fan, or a science to team chemistry.

And it will delve into the power of positive thinking and new research on "interpersonal brainwave interactions," which seeks to show how invisible energies connect people to each other and help them perform better. Included will be data from actual experiments, as well as interviews with MDs and PhDs who work in the fields of alternative medicine and holistic healing.

The documentary project was launched in 2005, after 57-year-old Needham resident Rick Leskowitz, a psychiatrist, wrote an op-ed piece in the Globe (under his formal name, Eric Leskowitz). His filmmaker cousin Joel Leskowitz, 53, read it and liked the idea so much he called Fenway Park's front office to get permission to film even before consulting Rick. Not that he needed to. The two cousins quickly realized they had matching passions for the project.

The film was on hold for most of last year and the early part of this year. Joel Leskowitz had moved to Germany temporarily, and the project needed a licensing agreement with Major League Baseball, which is now in place. This spring, after Hopkinton resident Karen Webb was hired as an additional producer, the project started moving again.

The agreement in place, Webb said, calls for paying MLB $500 per minute for any trademarked footage - archival shots from Fenway, and the like - in order to screen the documentary at film festivals. Webb said a 75-minute film would have about 25 minutes of such footage, which means a fee of $12,500.

If the film is picked up by the likes of NESN or ESPN, which is what Webb hopes for, the fee would go up, she said.

A major impediment now is funding. The two cousins have spent about $20,000, but an ideal budget would be more like $200,000, Rick Leskowitz said.

"We know there are wealthy Red Sox fans out there who are into quirky stuff," he said, speaking of the search for patrons. "We just haven't identified them yet."

The cousins are collecting data and conducting experiments to lend a scientific approach to their theories. And they also hope their work on the power of the mind will provide inspiration for people in their everyday lives.

For the film, Rick Leskowitz made himself the guinea pig for an experiment performed by HeartMath, a California company that provides coaching and products aimed at stress management.

He was given a blindfold and earplugs. A group of people sat near him and focused on regulating their heart rhythms. As they did so, Leskowitz's heart rate also became regular, he said, which is supposed to help bring forth positive emotions. In other words, the experiment suggested that emotional energy is contagious.

"We think the heart has a very large electromagnetic field around it," he said. "Our theory is that the fans get into this state of high appreciation and create some kind of energy field that impacts the players."

Rick Leskowitz uses meditation and hypnosis to help patients manage pain as part of his day job as director of the Integrative Medicine Project at Boston's Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. His work helped him see parallels between the way patients respond to various alternative therapies and the way fans influence the games at Fenway.

His cousin Joel, who was relocating last week from Germany to Oregon, is working on a rough cut of the film now to show to potential donors and, the cousins hope, to enter at film festivals. They have about 40 hours of film, which he will distill down to about two and a half, said Joel Leskowitz.

He said most of his filmmaking is in the corporate world, but he also does some television work and has filmed pieces on transcendental meditation.

Both men said there's something a little magical about the way the documentary is coming together. It seems the exact intersection of what the cousins, lifelong baseball fans, do for a living.

"It was a perfect little -I don't know what you call it - Kismet or something," said Joel Leskowitz.

During the recent casting call, fans hoping to appear in the documentary talked about the superstitious rituals they perform in hopes of causing a big win, the parallels they find with religion and spirituality when rooting for the home team, and - occasionally with great emotion - their love of the game.

Several blamed themselves for particularly heartbreaking losses. Ray Ouimette, 34, of Cranston, R.I., is convinced that the painful loss to the Yankees during the 2003 playoffs can be attributed to his slip of the lip.

"Lord, let the Red Sox win. Please, please, please," said Ouimette, demonstrating for the camera the go-to prayer he chants during tight games. "I go into another state of mind, like the game's not even happening," he said.

In 2003, he related, he was sitting in his lucky seat at his cousin's house to watch the game. Pedro Martinez was on the mound for the Sox, and things were looking good, but it was the playoffs, so he had to pray. "Please let the Yankees win," he said to himself over and over.

Oops. The game turned around for the Yankees and the rest is baseball history.

"Be careful what you pray for," he warned. "I couldn't look myself in the mirror for about a month."

Fans who want to support the film can make tax-deductible donations online via the Watertown- based Documentary Educational Resources. For more information on the film, go to

Lisa Kocian can be reached at 508-820-4231 or at lkocian@

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