Sports are definitely something that I have very slowly become a fan of over the years. For a very long time the only game I was ever a fan of was baseball, with my favorite team being the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I’m not sure exactly why they’re my team of choice but it could be that they’re the parent team to my local Triple A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees. I am far from what one would call a big fan and some who know me are usually very surprised that I even have a slight interest in any sports team. I even have a super-secret superhero character I made up back in the day that goes by the name Anti-Sports Guy, so obviously I’m the last person who should like sports films.
From Blue Chips to Celtic Pride, Any Given Sunday to Necessary Roughness, The Mighty Ducks to Miracle, The Rookie to Major League, sports films are a dime a dozen. I have definitely seen my fair share and for the most part I normally enjoy them. But it takes a great one to come along and really knock one out of the park in my book. Last winter a little movie called The Wrestler showed up and gave Mickey Rourke the comeback special he needed. I personally thought his comeback was due to his even better performance in Sin City but I guess The Wrestler managed to make a lot of people forget he was even in that film as the unstoppable hulking Marv.
The writer of The Wrestler, Robert D. Siegel, has now run two-for-two in the arena of sports films. The world of wrestling probably seemed like an easy enough target for garnering some empathy for its participants but when it comes to the world of football and its fans there’s usually more room for mockery than there is for character development. Luckily, Siegel has given us much more to chew on here than a bunch of people sitting in a parking lot eating hot dogs, drinking beer, and spewing profanity. There is sitting around in a parking lot, in more than one way, but The Fan is not about some lunkhead who likes to show off his ego with a painted face.
Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt, aka your favorite rat Remy from Pixar’s Ratatouille) lives life day to day, sitting in his booth as a parking garage attendant and listening to sports talk radio. He writes "talk back" speeches on scratch paper so he can call as “Paul from Staten Island” at 1 a.m. in spite of waking his mother, who needs her sleep, in the next room. He travels to Giants Stadium with his best friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) in tow, not to be in the stadium for the game but sitting in lawn chairs in the parking lot watching on a TV powered off his mom’s car’s battery.