That's why it was such a thrill to discover a tiny, buried treasure that sent my mind reeling into a football frenzy despite the calendar. In the last sentence of the seventh paragraph of a recent story in the New York Times, I learned that the screenwriters of the well-received new movie "Fever Pitch," when pondering which team best captures the heart of its sometimes-obsessive fans, originally considered the Green Bay Packers.
Obviously, the idea never came to fruition. But under the circumstances, the mere thought of it is reward enough.
"Fever Pitch" is based on a memoir by Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors. One reason I looked forward to seeing the movie is that another adaptation of a Hornby book, "About a Boy" ranks among my favorite movies.
While "About a Boy" stays true to Hornby's setting in his London neighborhood, the producers of the new "Fever Pitch" (it was first made into a barely-seen British film in 1997) wanted to Americanize it completely. That meant doing away with the object of Hornby's sporting obsession, London's Arsenal soccer team. A wise decision, in my opinion. A movie about an American obsessed with pro soccer would fall into the "quaint" category, and would fail to get the target audience of millions of U.S. fans jumping out of their theater seats saying "Yes! That's me!"
I would have loved to eavesdrop as screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel brainstormed about which teams truly inspire devotion in their fans. The pair already has a great sports movie to their credit with "A League of Their Own," demonstrating their ability to expose the depth of emotion sports can elicit. It warms my heart to think of them setting a movie in Green Bay. They could tell the world the story of how Packer fans are a breed apart from followers of teams that inspire a lot less heart. Like, say, the Minnesota Vikings.
That Mandel and Ganz eventually turned to baseball, admittedly America's pastime, and chose to commemorate the long-suffering fans of the Boston Red Sox, is the producer's victory and my loss. Of course Boston finally reversed its curse last October and the "Fever Pitch" writers happily rewrote their previously-realistic ending. Stars Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore even made it onto the field for the Red Sox's real post-game celebration.
I'm left to wonder "what if," which isn't a bad way to spend a football-free spring afternoon. I am free to imagine an accurate, stirring tribute to the most loyal fans of my beloved hometown without worrying that Hollywood would get it all wrong. Since it's all folly anyway, I can cast it myself, writing in a cameo for Brett Favre and trusting that his acting has improved since "Something About Mary." I can dream about the movie receiving an Oscar for best adaptation, with Hornby himself joining the screenwriters on stage to thank the fine people of Green Bay, Wisconsin for their genuineness and heart.
So why not the Packers?
The answer was tucked away toward the end of the story.
"We thought about the Green Bay Packers ...." Ganz said in a telephone interview with the Times. "But we didn't want to have to see a cheesehead."
Ouch. I guess football fanfare in mid-May wasn't meant to be, afterall.
Editor's note: Laura Veras Marran was born and raised in Green Bay, Wis., and is a longtime sportswriter from Kenosha, Wis. Her column will appear each Thursday on PackerReport.com.