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“It’s such a metaphor for striving,” says Mr. Quick. “No matter what happens, there’s always that next game. There’s always that next season.”

The plot of “Big Fan” might suggest a more cynical view of football, but Mr. Siegel, too, is a lifelong sports fan. Growing up on Long Island, he became a devoted listener to the New York-area sports radio station WFAN. In the film, Mr. Oswalt’s character is a regular caller, dialing in like a performer with a nightly show.

“The callers seemed like these incredibly vivid, almost movie characters,” say Mr. Siegel. “You’ve got these ordinary working Joes taking on the machismo and testosterone of their heroes and doing it anonymously through the radio where it’s very safe. It’s kind of a form of fantasy play acting.”

As he treated a sport usually not taken seriously (professional wrestling) in “The Wrestler,” Mr. Siegel feels the often-disrespected sports fan is fertile, relatively unexplored territory.

“What [fans] are passionate about might seem silly to the outside observer,” says Mr. Siegel. “Certainly you could make the case that that’s very sad and pathetic, but I don’t. I admire their passion, and I identify with it.

“Sports fans are outsiders who feel like insiders,” he adds, “which is an interesting thing to explore.”