It’s hard to find anything joyful about the Red Sox these days. They’re all but eliminated from playoff contention, and their most beloved player has just been sidelined with a second episode of heart arrhythmia. Things have been better.
But Eric Leskowitz, staff psychiatrist at Harvard’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and co-creator of the forthcoming documentary film The Joy of Sox, a look at the science behind the metaphysical and religious experiences of Fenway fandom, says we should keep the faith, think happy thoughts, and cheer long and loud when the team returns to the friendly Fens on Thursday.
Apparently, invisible interactions between fans and players work in subtle but profound ways. And science proves it. The Sox may suck, but they’ve got some of the most passionate die-hards of the game in the stands. Maybe — just maybe — they could help turn things around.
“Invisible forces matter,” says Leskowitz. “There’s a lot of research from physics, electromagnetism, and holistic medicine that invisible forces, or what they call light energy, is a really important ingredient in human performance.”
This isn’t just a bunch of New Age hooey. While the idea that certain states of consciousness can affect physical reality has “been around in religious traditions for thousands of years, now that we have electronic devices and computers and software, we can analyze just about everything.”
We can measure “the magnetic fields around someone to prove that you don’t end at your skin; your thoughts and your emotions influence what’s happening in the space around you.” And the heart “is the organ of the body that has the most electrical activity.… When your heart is beating in what they call a coherent rhythm, it actually sets up an influence on your brain and makes you function better. It also spreads out to affect the person next to you.”
So while it might be a stretch to say that Pudge Fisk actually willed that ball fair in the ’75 World Series, it’s hardly an exaggeration to say that the loosey-goosey good vibes on the 2004 squad helped them win the trophy in the face of daunting adversity.
“Players like Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon, personality-wise and emotion-wise, they just kept everybody laughing and everybody happy, so stress didn’t build up and they got on some incredible rolls.”
The bad news? According to Leskowitz, this year’s team “just doesn’t seem to have it. I don’t wanna rule these guys out, but it’s getting tougher and tougher.” It’s not so much that they are bad guys, or weak-willed. But they’ve been decimated by injuries, and the fact that they’re playing badly only compounds it, further dampening the team’s psychic energy. This might be why Big Papi, so used to carrying the Sox with his big bat, and such a clubhouse cut-up, was trying to do double duty, on-field and off.
“Ortiz is a really interesting example. He’s probably the happiest player on the team. Always laughing and upbeat. I think that helps to generate this kind of energy,” says Leskowitz. The converse, of course, is that “when you feel like you have to do it all yourself, that gets you out of the flow. I think the pressure was getting to him. David Ortiz’s heart is the most important organ on the team.”