Genre: Sports Documentary
Directed By: Casey Affleck
Release Date: April 12, Year 8
Theater Count: 2375 Theaters
Budget: $7.5 million
Running Time: 105 Minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Brief Strong Language
Narrated By: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Featuring Interviews with: Bill Burr, Johnny Damon, Rachel Dratch, Theo Epstein, Chris Evans, Terry Francona, Nomar Garciaparra, John W. Henry, John Kerry, John Krasinski, Pedro Martinez, Conan O'Brien, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Mitt Romney, Bud Selig, Joe Torre, Tim Wakefield, Mark Wahlberg, among others
Premise: In 2004, a dysfunctional, party-hard, loose cannon coterie of baseball players called the Boston Red Sox ended one of the longest championship droughts in sports history, and revitalized one of America's original cities.
Chapter 1: Aaron Bleepin' Boone!
This initial segment of the documentary chronicles the close of the 2003 Boston Red Sox season, which culminated in a bitter seven game series against their hated rival the New York Yankees. The series is hard-fought and full of emotion and anger, including a dramatic benches-clearing brawl during which star Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez flings septuagenarian Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground with strong force. The final game of the series goes into extra innings, where Aaron Boone hits a walk-off home-run that wins the series for the Yankees and sends them to the World Series. The Red Sox sulk in their clubhouse and fans across New England are dejected and heartbroken, at yet another instance of the Curse of the Bambino. Boone's home run enters the lexicon of New England Sports talk as one of the most infamous occurrences in Red Sox history.
Chapter 2: 86 Years
This segment of the documentary first goes back in time to 1918, shortly after the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. The team at that time featured an extremely valuable player by the name of Babe Ruth, who split his time between hitting and pitching. The owner of the Sox, Harry Frazee, liked to finance Broadway productions and viewed his ownership of the team as a way to put money in his pocket for other business ventures. Wanting money to finance his latest play, in 1919, Frazee trades Ruth to the New York Yankees for the sum of $125,000.00. Frazee gets his play on the stage, and the Yankees get a player who becomes the most famous baseball player who ever lived.
Following the trade, the Red Sox endure a calvacade of bad luck, misfortune, and playoff heartbreak, reaching the World Series 4 times over the next 86 years, and losing all four in dramatic fashion, among other dramatic losses that crush their championship hopes. By comparison, the Yankees in the same time period reach the World Series about 40 times, and win 26 of them. The documentary revisits some of the iconic moments of this period: Enos Slaughter's "Mad Dash", Carlton Fisk waving the home run fair, Bucky Bleepin' Dent's home run, Bill Buckner's legs. The documentary also spends a little time discussing the changing nature of the city of Boston, such as the violent uproar in 1974 for the desegregation busing program, housing crises, and the everlasting Big Dig.
By 2003, the sports fanbase for Boston was exhausted, to the point of assuming that any Red Sox season would ultimately end in heartbreak.
Chapter 3: The Boy Wonder
Following the close of the 2002 baseball season, the Red Sox take a big chance by installing as the team's General Manager 29-year old Theo Epstein, the youngest General Manager in history at that point in time. Epstein brings a new way of thinking to baseball, being one of the pioneers of analytics, building off of the dynamics and theories of the "Moneyball" Oakland Athletics. Going into the 2004 season, Epstein makes a few substantial changes to the roster, including trading for outspoken and aggressive starting pitcher Curt Schilling. There's some friction and discussion in the front office, and between the owner, coach, and Epstein, as there's differences in opinion about how to strategize the team for the season, but eventually things get smoothed out.
In Boston as a whole, just following the World Series, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal in the state, spurring celebrations in much of the city, which in general is left-leaning. The decision is stayed until spring 2004 to allow the state legislature time to do a legislative solution.
Chapter 4: The Idiots
The collection of players forming the Boston Red Sox for the season are quite the array of characters, ranging from the flamboyant and prima donna Pedro Martinez, to the eccentric, uncontrollable, oddball slugger Manny Ramirez, to the affable and gregarious David Ortiz, and the disheveled, bearded, party man Johnny Damon. This loose-playing, partying, eclectic bunch of individuals, many of which kinda did things to their own tune, or kinda ended up a bit clueless or goofy, end up being called The Idiots by the Boston sports media, and the name catches on nationwide as the Red Sox start the season doing well, but into May and beyond they start hitting big trouble with injuries, numerous miscues on the field, and other problems. Tensions also grow between players, and between players and coaches, most especially with the star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. By mid-summer, the Red Sox are eight games behind the Yankees in the standings, and instances like a brawl between Sox catcher Jason Varitek and Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez only serve as fuel for the media fire covering The Idiots as a trainwreck of a team.
Meanwhile in Boston, the state legislature takes no action to either implement or overturn the state supreme court, so on May 17, 2004 the first same-sex marriage licenses are issued in the city, with hundreds of weddings occurring in the initial days, and national media giving the event their full attention. There's some tensions as many opponents of same-sex marriage converge on Boston to protest in front of the State Legislature, but the overwhelming response in the city is positive.
Chapter 5: The Shake-Up
With the Red Sox mired in struggle, Epstein makes one of the most dramatic player transactions in team history when at the trade deadline he trades Garciaparra, one of the faces of the team, to the Chicago Cubs. Epstein gets crucified by both the media and by fans for trading Garciaparra away, but he stands by it as necessary to shake up the nature of the team. The removal of Garciaparra from the team removes much of the toxic atmosphere from the team's clubhouse, and the players received in the trade, while not stars, provide valuable assistance in key spots, and the Red Sox turn things around, winning 22 of their last 25 games to qualify for the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs, the Red Sox battle it out with the Anaheim Angels but win it in three games, to advance to the League Championship Series against their nemesis, the New York Yankees.
During this time, Boston hosts the Democratic National Convention, where Massachusetts senator John Kerry is nominated as the Democratic candidate for President.
Chapter 6: Of Socks and Sox
In a mirror of 2003, the series between the Yankees and the Red Sox goes to seven games, with the Yankees winning the first 3 games of the series, making each subsequent game a must-win for the Red Sox, or they get eliminated from the playoffs. Games 4 through 6 are nailbiters, with Games 4 and 5 each going into extra innings. Game 6 goes to the Red Sox in what is known as the Bloody Sock Game, as their pitcher Curt Schilling had to have an ankle sutured, and the sutures ripped during the game, bleeding through his sock. The dramatic, pain-filled performance by Schilling sends a jolt through teams and fans alike, so when Game 7 comes, the Red Sox absolutely destroy the Yankees, and advance to the World Series against the venerable St. Louis Cardinals, who had the best record in baseball in 2004.
It turns out to not be close, as in an anticlimax the Red Sox sweep the Cardinals in 4 games, bringing the World Series trophy back to Boston for the first time in 86 years. The entire city of Boston goes on a joyous bender unlike almost anything seen in the city for decades, and for a brief moment, the city is truly united in success and celebration. The documentary shows a bit of the victory parade, and provides some additional context, such as the Farrelly Brothers romantic comedy Fever Pitch being filmed during the World Series and the ending being changed mid-production as the Red Sox win the whole thing, with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore attending the winning game in-character.
Boston success does not carry over to John Kerry, as he loses the 2004 presidential election to incumbent George W. Bush, with the election results hinging on a narrow win by Bush in Ohio.
The documentary closes out with some discussion of the aftermath for the Sox and many of the key players, noting things such as Pedro Martinez's election to the Hall of Fame, Manny Ramirez's multiple steroid test results and sudden retirement, Curt Schilling's devolving into a MAGA troll. As a closing note, it's mentioned that Theo Epstein some years later left the Sox to take over the Chicago Cubs, and eventually led them to break their own 108-year curse in 2016.