Can fans affect whether the Red Sox win or lose? Leskowitz, a psychiatrist who directs the Integrative Medicine Project at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, believes so. In the documentary “The Joy of Sox: Weird Science and the Power of Intention,” premiering on WGBH Sept. 6 at 8 p.m., Leskowitz sets out to gauge the strength of “Sox fan energy” and talks to players who say Fenway fans have more control of games than they realize.
Q. How did you prove the existence of “Sox fan energy?”
A. The idea is to try and measure whatever it is that connects people. In the lab experiment, I was the guinea pig. I was hooked up to a computer that measured my heart rate. It was measuring my baseline — what they call coherence. When you’re in the emotion of appreciation, enjoyment, happiness, things like that, it’s a very specific heart rhythm. I was actually blindfolded and had earphones on. The team of four people came in behind me and sat down. On signal, they just started feeling appreciative and remembering good things. It changed their heart rhythm, but the weird thing was it also changed mine. I didn’t think it was going to work, but the graph goes off the charts. The idea was if the four of them could get me into that coherent state, what would happen if 35,000 people at Fenway were in that state? Could they get David Ortiz into the coherent state?
Q. Did you do experiments at Fenway?
A. We did experiments based on research from Princeton. They have a computer you can carry anywhere, and it detects how much of this special quality there is in a place. We did the measurements at Fenway Park in the off-season and during a game. During a game there were fluctuations exactly when the crowd was the most excited.
Q. Is fan energy why the Sox won the 2004 World Series?
A. That was a big part of it. They had team chemistry that was very unusual. They were really quirky guys and the fans loved them because they weren’t just cookie-cutter players. Everybody had some endearing quality that helped people feel really passionate about them.
Q. What about the Curse of the Bambino? Did that affect performances?
A. I really think so. I don’t believe that there is a Curse of the Bambino, but people believed it enough that it was one of the factors. Beliefs make a big difference in how you function.
Q. What do players think of this?
A. They all know that fan energy is real. Gabe Kapler, who used to be on the team, said it was the ultimate amphetamine. David Ortiz said that he feels it in his heart. Watching the Olympics, it was the same thing. You had a lot of athletes saying that they “rode on the wave of the energy of the fans.” Great Britain did really well medal-wise — far more than they usually win — and I’m sure having 80,000 people cheering for you in the stadium or whatever venue it was makes a big difference.
Q. So this energy translates to other sports and not just the Red Sox?
A. That’s part of what the movie does is generalize it to other sports. Even the Yankees. That same energy — political rallies, religious ceremonies, anything that connects you to a bigger group of people — it activates something that’s not just your imagination.
‘What would happen if 35,000 people at Fenway were in that [positive energy] state? Could they get David Ortiz into the coherent state?’
Q. What’s the key to ensuring the Sox win?
A. I hate to say it, but I think it’s more than just fan energy this time around. They’ve had a lot of physical injuries. There’s also a team chemistry thing going on since last year. We won’t know the true story until everyone retires and writes their memoirs.
Q. So it’s not enough for fans to think positively and say, “All right, let’s win!”
A. Yeah, I wish it was that easy.
Interview has been condensed and edited. Contact Stephanie Steinberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Steph_Steinberg.