Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 31, 2005)
After 86 years, the Boston Red Sox finally won another World Series championship in 2004, and they did it in a remarkable fashion. Down three games to none in the American League Championship Series with the New York Yankees, the Sox staged an historic comeback. No baseball team had ever bounced back from a 3-0 deficit, but the Sox won four straight against the Yanks and then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
As I mentioned when I reviewed The Curse of the Bambino, I loathe the Red Sox. I hate that team more than any other in sports. Whether pro or college, the Red Sox are firmly my most despised squad.
I suppose the mature thing would be for me to tip my hat to the Sox for their amazing victory in 2004. Screw that. I hate the Sox more than ever now, so screw them and screw everyone connected with them. Screw their little red hats, screw their Green Monster, screw their Citgo sign, screw their chowder. Screw them, screw them, and screw them some more.
Not that I’m not bitter or anything.
Over the 86 years between World Series championships, the Sox found new and creative ways to disappoint their fans, and a documentary called Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino examines the factors connected to their failures – as well as their eventual success. Along with narration from Liev Schreiber, we find some archival footage and interviews. The roster of participants includes only New England natives. We hear from an exceedingly long list of sports reporters, ordinary folk and celebrities; the original review details all those involved.
Reverse follows the history of the Sox in a somewhat elliptical way. It tells us of the team’s early success, as they won five of first 15 World Series. We then hear of Babe Ruth’s stint with the team and his popularity as well as how owner Harry Frazee sold him to the Yankees after the 1920 season because he needed money for his New York theater. We watch the immediate impact this had on the Sox and find out a little more about Frazee, as the show debunks some myths.
From there Reverse looks at the immense hatred of the Yankees possessed by most New Englanders and we watch some examples of Sox collapses. We examine their failure in 1978 and the infamous one-game playoff with the Yanks that inspired the legend of Bucky “Bleeping” Dent. Some general notes about other failures appear and then we hear about the legend of the curse. We get pro and con comments about how the selling of Ruth caused a curse as well as attempts to erase it. The program also gives us a view of the Sox’s greatest failure, the collapse in the 1986 World Series before it takes on their biggest success in 2004.
Reverse offers a fitfully entertaining program filled with highs and lows. Unusually, some of its strengths also are weaknesses. The fan interviews fall into that category. Reverse relies too heavily on these, and they occasionally dilute the impact of the material. We see game footage of significant events, but the program interrupts these for comments, and that often makes them less effective. For example, it’s good to see the Bucky Dent home run, but the show mars the presentation with too many fan remarks.
On the other hand, when the interviews work well, they add a lot to the show. The best example comes from the examination of the 1986 Series. Before 2004, the Sox made the World Series three times in my lifetime. I was an infant in 1967, so obviously I have no memory of it. I was eight for the 1975 Series, so I maintain some recollections of it, but not strong ones.
1986, on the other hand, took place in my late teens, and I have a very vivid memory of watching it in my college apartment. My hatred of the Sox was well in place by then; I never liked the Mets either, but I’d root for Satan himself over the Red Sox. I recall the ecstasy I felt when the Sox made that most improbable of collapses.
Reverse doesn’t show matters from my Sox-hating side of the coin, but its interviews with Sox boosters aptly reignited my memories. I felt like I was back in that apartment watching it take place in front of me. The interviews seemed very vivid and allowed us to get a “you are there” feel, at least from the Sox fan point of view.
The 1986 elements are definitely the best parts of Reverse. On the negative side, the show doesn’t delve into the team’s history as much as I’d like, and it seems like a scattershot examination. The construction seems awkward, as it flits from era to era without much logic, and it doesn’t follow a logical path. I’d have liked more information about other eras instead of just 1978, 1986 and 2004.
Despite its title, Reverse doesn’t spend a ton of time with the 2004 team. The program’s opening acknowledges that squad’s victory, and the final 20 minutes of the show examine the playoffs. Otherwise the show stays with Boston’s frustrations up until that point.
Why is that? Because Reverse is just a reworking of the original Curse of the Bambino documentary I cited earlier. The opening comments about 2004 are new, as are those final 20 minutes. Those include new interviews with folks like Dennis Leary and Steven Wright who also appeared in the first show. In addition, Reverse features new narration from Liev Schreiber. Ben Affleck did that task for the original program, but I guess he wasn’t available to update the show. This new material was necessary not just to discuss the 2004 elements; the writers also had to change parts of the information related in the meat of the program due to the end of the “curse”.
That makes Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino a weird product. It cuts out about 40 percent of the original program, which means that historical events are either shortened or lost altogether. For example, there’s no longer a discussion of the racist practices of the earlier Sox owners. Many parts remain intact, but the “curse” elements become rushed and lose some impact.
On the other hand, it presents too little information about 2004 to act as a solid summary of the team’s triumph. We zoom through the playoffs and don’t get a great feel for things, especially since we see nothing of the ALCS until Game 4.
This leaves Reverse as a bastard program. I don’t know if anyone cares about the curse anymore, but even if they do, it presents an inferior look at that history when compared with the original show. It also fails to give us a satisfying examination of the 2004 team. Yeah, it’s kind of fun to follow up with Leary and the others who come back from the prior show, but those elements aren’t enough to make it a satisfying piece.