Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fever Pitch: Your Guide to Football Fanaticism

Despite my bursts of enthusiasm for cricket when the IPL rolls around every spring and enthusiastic support for Andy Murray during the Wimbledon final, I cannot pretend to be a sports fanatic. I am a fair-weather supporter, quick to switch teams, and more likely to watch a match just because I discovered it was on TV than because I actually sought it out. Nonetheless, Nick Hornby's memoir about being a football fanatic (that's English football, not American) is a fantastically funny read that speaks to whatever obsessions you might have, be they sports-related or otherwise.

Fever Pitch is a chronological collection of essays set around the various matches that Hornby witnessed in his decades-long support for Arsenal, a completely frustrating team that he cannot help but love. His obsession began in his teens after his father took him to an Arsenal game, and after that there was no turning back. Hornby's memory for random trivia about every single match is astonishing and his descriptions of each match make you feel like you're there in the stands, dejectedly watching Arsenal lose another game or cheering them onto an unimaginable victory.

I don't know anything about football, but that's unnecessary to enjoy this book. It is really a story about how a man lets football define every turning point in his life, to the point where he remembers memorable life occasions only through their associations with what match was being played that day. As he discusses football, Hornby lets you deep into his psyche and the various life moments that turned him into the writer he is today. His novels have always presented humorous, heartwarming portraits of characters with a collection of quirks and obsessions, and after reading Fever Pitch, I can finally understand how Hornby came up with these characters who are driven by obsessions as fundamental to their being as football is to him.

The essays that make up Fever Pitch are always presented in the context of football but broach a variety of subjects, including racism, divorce, romance, depression, teaching, economics, etc. Hornby fully acknowledges the irrationality of his various thoughts and actions when it comes to Arsenal and is fully apologetic for the toll this has taken on his relationships. He is ashamed of various elements of his chosen sport and denounces the racial epithets, hooliganism, and unsavory characters who make up a minority but cause the majority of ill-will towards other football fans. However, at the same time, he has no desire to stop, and judging from this book, he's still a halfway decent human who has managed to find people who tolerate his foibles.

Fever Pitch was published in 1992 and became an instant classic. Twenty years later, I have no doubt that you can probably still find Hornby chanting in his season-ticket seats at Highbury, not daring to hope that Arsenal might win another Championship. 

No comments:

Post a Comment