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    ‘Joy of Sox’ explores the science, spirituality of Red Sox fandom

    In behind-the-scenes shots from the making of “The Joy of Sox,” Eric Leskowitz interviews former player Kevin Millar (left) on the field at Fenway Park, and Rick Leskowitz sets up equipment to measure the crowd’s energy during a game.
    Doreen Leskowitz (left); 2 Cousins Productions
    In behind-the-scenes shots from the making of “The Joy of Sox,” Eric Leskowitz interviews former player Kevin Millar (left) on the field at Fenway Park.

    If you want next season’s Red Sox to improve, you might want to consider your metaphysical role in the game.

    That’s right, Sox fans. Your hopes and prayers for the boys of summer translate into something real, even measurable, according to psychiatrist Eric Leskowitz, who lives in Needham. And they can affect whether or not the home team delivers.

    Chris Magdalenski

    After seven years, his documentary film “The Joy of Sox: Weird Science and the Power of Intention,” co­produced with Hopkinton filmmaker Karen Webb, is ready for prime time.


    It premieres on WGBH-TV (Channel 2) Thursday at 8 p.m.

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    Weaving together interviews with players, fans, and scientists, as well as the results of laboratory experiments, “The Joy of Sox” seeks to show that the fans — in all their painted, praying glory — really do contribute to the outcome of the game.

    “I absolutely believe that there’s something to what the film asserts,” said Weston resident Rob Crawford, who is the (elected) vice president of Red Sox Nation, the team’s fan club, and helped write the film’s theme song. “I don’t know exactly what it is, but having been a baseball player and baseball fan, I think players and fans all feel in their gut that their superstitions make a difference,” he said.

    Ron Bachman, who as director of programming for WGBH-TV acquired the film, said he is an “agnostic” on the weird science discussed in the film. But he likes the Red Sox connection, and thought the quest to quantify something so ethereal made for good television.

    “I think there’s an interesting story there,” he said.


    Leskowitz has been studying energy medicine for about 20 years. He is director of the Integrative Medicine Project at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

    At Spaulding, he oversees the use of alternative therapies, such as meditation and guided imagery, to help people with pain management.

    Standing at the intersection of science and spirituality, Leskowitz acknowledges that there is quite a bit of the unknown in what he studies. What is that palpable energy at Fenway Park? His best guess is that fans influence each other through magnetic fields.

    Regardless of what “it” is, Leskowitz sought to show that these thoughts and feelings can be detected, giving them new legitimacy and opening a window on how our inner world affects the outer world.

    “Mostly it’s about the group and especially the crowd, and how fans can use their energy most effectively,” he said. “It’s better to cheer for your home team than boo the opponents, because you’re actually creating an energy field that envelops everybody when you’re in a positive emotion.”


    One experiment shown in the film tests how positive thoughts from one group of people can affect another person through heart rate. Leskowitz also uses a program to try to demonstrate that Fenway fan energy is something physical that can affect not only people but even computers.

    The film got its start in 2005, after Leskowitz wrote an op-ed piece on the topic for the Globe. A cousin, filmmaker Joel Leskowitz, read the piece and called Fenway asking for permission to film there before he had even asked Eric. Joel Leskowitz, who directed and coproduced the film, now lives on the West Coast.

    It took seven years partly because of the need to raise money and negotiate with Major League Baseball over licensing rights. The endeavor has cost about $95,000, with $35,000 of that going to the league for 4 minutes and 45 seconds of archival footage, according to the filmmakers.

    So, you know when a game is going downhill and the audience starts to file out of the ballpark, but then, almost magically, the game turns around?

    Credit that to the concentration of Fenway Faithful who stay behind, said Marianne Hennigan, a Hopkinton resident who appears in the film.

    “You have lots of those diehard fans,” she said. “You’ll often see a game turn around. The naysayers . . . they’ve gone home now. Now you’ve got a hopeful, optimistic, we-can-do-this” crowd.

    Coproducer Webb, who describes herself as a fourth-generation Red Sox fan, said the next step is to get the film distributed in other PBS markets and entering it into film festivals. A DVD is also planned.

    The film seeks to tell fans how to harness all that positive Sox fever in a way that will help the team, she said. And as far as this season goes, all is not lost, said Webb.

    “When everything looks kind of bleak, after all the beer and all the fried chicken and the major deal trading players away, we’re left with a spark of hope,” she said. “In April, everything springs eternal. We can all have a fresh start.”

    Crawford went even further, saying the Sox could still win the World Series this year.

    That’s right, he said it. This time last year, the St. Louis Cardinals seemed a long shot for the playoffs, he pointed out, but they rallied and eventually won the World Series.

    “I’m not being optimistic, I’m being realistic,” said Crawford. “History shows, it’s not over until it’s over.”

    Lisa Kocian can be reached at lkocian@globe.com.
    Follow her on Twitter @Globe­LisaKocian.