“Flu Game” by Fall Out Boy
“Flu Game” is yet another song from “So Much (for) Stardust” in which the addressee reads like a romantic interest, though such is never specified, and the relationship between this person and the vocalist is presented as a troubled one from the former’s perspective.
Most simply interpreted, in this case Patrick Stump comes off as being a victim of unreciprocated love. Or in any event, the first verse implies that he is thoroughly smitten by the addressee, and the second verse indicates that he ‘grinds’ accordingly in the name of pleasing her.
This is the person whom he has envisioned settling down and facing the world with. But as inferred, Stump has instead been abandoned by her.
You may be wondering to yourself what any of that would have to do with the title, which isn’t even mentioned in the lyrics. Rather, in the chorus we witness the singer asserting that he has exerted “all this effort to make it look effortless”.
It has been pointed out that what he’s referring to is what is commonly known in sports circles as “the Flu Game” – or more officially the 1997 NBA Finals, Game 5, which proved to be one of the most-iconic moments in sports’ history. So now, some of you have an idea where this all is going.
The “Flu Game”
The NBA Finals is a best-of-seven series, meaning whichever team wins four games first is taking home the trophy. Going into Game 5 in 1997, by that point the Chicago Bulls had won two games and the Utah Jazz the other two, thus making the series even. So this fifth game was pivotal, as whoever emerged victorious would gain a clear advantage and likely go on to take the series.
But unfortunately for the Bulls, just prior to Game 5 their alpha dog, the great Michael Jordan, suddenly fell sick. What was being reported at the time was that he unexpectedly came down with a serious case of flu.
Since then, what has been more accurately revealed is that he likely fell ill due to being mildly poisoned by a group of Jazz fans, but that’s a story for another day.
So what ultimately transpired is that despite being visibly shaken, His Airness went on to score nearly 40 points, leading his team to a narrow victory, and the Bulls subsequently proceeded to take the entire series.
Game 5 wasn’t such that Jordan was wobbling around per se. To the contrary, he put on quite a show. However, during resting periods you could see that something wasn’t right, and after the game he was literally carried off the floor by his teammate, Scottie Pippen.
So that whole episode became part of Jordan lore, how even while in a physically-weakened state he was there for his team when they needed him the most. Or as Patrick Stump puts it in the chorus, “all this effort to make it look effortless”.
“I’ve got all this love I’ve got to keep to myself
All this effort to make it look effortless”
So the singer might be referencing the Jordan flu game to rather point to the sacrifices he has made in his relationship with the addressee. He doesn’t come off as the type to complain or brag about what he’s doing for her.
Patrick’s disposition is more along the lines of it being his duty to go all-out, just as Jordan didn’t make any excuses in the 1997 Finals. But alas, the conclusively sentiment of the song basically revolves around him feeling unappreciated or dejected by his sweetheart nonetheless.
The Team Behind “Flu Game”
Besides Patrick Stump, his bandmates – Andy Hurley, Pete Wentz and Joe Trohman – also contributed to the writing of “Flu Game”.
Neal Avron, a musician who has proven to be a constant presence throughout Fall Out Boy’s existence, produced the track. And it was record labels DCD2 and Fueled by Ramen who put out “So Much (for) Stardust”, the album this piece was derived from, on 24 March 2023.