10/03/2008 12:40 PM ET
'Joy of Sox' probes the intangibles
New film studies effects of positive energy on games
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
The 2004 Boston Red Sox were down, three games to none, to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series -- a deficit no Major League Baseball team had ever overcome in a seven-game set.
But in the ninth inning of Game 4 at Fenway Park, with the Sox down a run, Dave Roberts stole a base, Bill Mueller knocked him in to tie it, and David Ortiz's 12th-inning home run sent Fenway Park into a frenzy and gave the Sox and their Nation of fans new life that eventually culminated with the club's first World Series championship in 86 years.
This we all know.
But did something extra-special happen that night?
Did something outside the realm of bats and gloves and balls and baselines and outfield grass and pine tar and eye black somehow arrange for these astounding, never-witnessed events to transpire?
That's what the makers of the film "The Joy of Sox: 'Weird Science' and the Power of Intention" are finding out, and the results are nothing short of shocking, heartwarming, and illuminating.
"The Joy of Sox," which is set to hit theaters by early November, is a documentary that asks if the power of positive thoughts and prayers from Red Sox fans have actually, scientifically played some role in bringing the team two World Series rings in the last four years.
According to the film's Web site, thejoyofsoxmovie.com, the movie "touches all the bases from Western science to Eastern metaphysics as it explores the physics of the home-field advantage, the power of Red Sox fandom's positive intentions, and the phenomenon of 'conditioned spaces,' a term which describes the healing powers of Lourdes, but just as fitting for Fenway Park -- a modern sacred space."
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Joel Leskowitz, who produced the film with his cousin, Rick Leskowitz, M.D., and Karen Webb, "The Joy of Sox" follows up on Rick Leskowitz's findings as a board-certified psychiatrist with the Pain Management Program at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where he began investigating if alternative medicine had any links to Red Sox Nation.
"We measured crowd energy during a live baseball game and correlated the events of the game with readings on a computer that was not measuring volume or sound or vibration," Rick said.
"It's a setup used at Princeton for the last 30 years to study mind-machine interactions. And I know it sounds totally woo-woo, but Princeton's a highly respected place, and those studies were done by the head of the engineering department."
Rick explained that if you have an unmonitored computer program that simulates flipping a coin 1,000 times per second, you'll usually get heads and tails about half the time.
"But if people are paying attention to computer, it skews to a significant degree away from 50-50," he said. "I'm not sure why, but something invisible is connecting to it."
And when the same program applies to a watched Sox game, the results are staggering.
"The times with the biggest skew away from randomness seemed to be during key moments in the ballgame, like (David) Ortiz hitting or the crowd doing the wave. And during a two-hour block, the biggest skew was when fans sang 'Sweet Caroline.' It's hard to wrap your head around, but data's data."
There's plenty of data in "The Joy of Sox," but there's also plenty of conversations with real, live human beings. They all seem to agree that Leskowitz might be onto something, too.
Hours and hours of interviews with doctors from the fields of alternative medicine, holistic medicine, directors of research, professors from some of the leading institutions in the country, not to mention Red Sox players past and present -- including Johnny Pesky, Jerry Remy, Mike Timlin, Gabe Kapler, Kevin Millar and Bill "Spaceman" Lee -- reveal theories about winning baseball that are unique and innovative.
"Anything that can make a difference of a few points in their batting averages or ERA, that's something a player will try," Joel Leskowitz says. "They're not all meditating together, but they have seen films like 'The Secret,' and they know about intangible things like team chemistry and the power of positive thinking.
"We're looking for a balance. There's the science and the data, there's what we get out of talking to the players about their experiences, and then there's the fans. And they talk about their passion that's pretty out there. Fan is a shortened version of fanatic, and we definitely had some fanatics."
That group includes the filmmakers, who are now trying to get the film complete in time for another Red Sox ticker-tape parade.
"Right now we have 15 hours of footage," Webb said, "and we have to condense it into 80 minutes and polish it from there. And I'm also a Red Sox season-ticket holder, so I live and die by the schedule."
Donations to "The Joy of Sox" project are tax-deductible through the film's fiscal sponsor, Documentary Education Resources, or at TheJoyOfSoxMovie.com.
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.