Nick Hornby - Fever Pitch
The World Cup is on and my TV is broken and, let’s be honest here, even if it was working I probably wouldn’t give a shit. Twitter goes down every time a striker even looks goalward, and I’m irritated by everyone talking about vuvuzelas, never mind having to listen to them.
But let if not be said that I am oblivious to the public consciousness. I started reading Fever Pitch yesterday because the football reminded me that I had it in the first place, and two days later (albeit ones that involved greater than average train travel) I’m done. Fucking loved it. Largely because I was under the impression that it was overly-sentimental garbage-fiction thanks to the casting of Colin Firth in the film version - I breathed a genuine sigh of relief when Hornby’s introduction explained it was a memoir - but also because he made me consider aspects of football that had never previously crossed my mind. The inevitability of the Hillsborough disaster, the gang violence, the fact that being a football fan is actually pretty miserable for 95% of the time.
Fever Pitch was published in 1992 (I was 9) so not only have I never heard of any of the players (bar a few odd mentions of Gazza and Lineker, and people like Stanley Matthews from The Olden Days), but there’s no mention of the Premiership, of the New Year transfer window, of Sky Sports or of Van Persie, who I know is good because he got me some serious points in Fantasy Football at the start of last season. Hornby’s assessments of the post-Hillsborough safety measures that were being enforced, or the way fans were treated after TV schedules started to play a part, or the statistical truths behind a club’s reputation for violence were of their time, and also pretty universal. It’d be nice if he updated it one day, to talk about the encroachment of big business and the overseas buy-outs, and the fact that the rising ticket prices which paid for safer grounds now also sign the best players in the world to UK clubs. It’d be nice to hear what he has to say on the social anomaly that, in however many hundreds of professional footballers playing today, apparently not one of them is gay.
Something else I liked about Fever Pitch, is the brief mention he gives to the depression that blighted his 20s; the feeling that Arsenal must have been to blame because he had no other explanation for being so directionless and miserable. Being 9 years old at the time of publication, I can’t vouch for what the weekend broadsheets were talking about, but it seems that the fears and failures (and fear of failure) that 20-somethings experience are recognised now in a way that they possibly weren’t when Hornby was struggling to think of something to do with his life. There’s a nice, if depressing, part of the book where he talks about how someone can have talent and purpose their whole lives, and yet still get absolutely nowhere simply because that’s the the way it goes.
Fever Pitch is brilliant, and I will be having some stern words with myself about why it has taken me so long to read it (Answer: Colin Firth), but I’m still not so bothered that the telly’s broken because, as usual, England are going to crash out of the World Cup in the quarter finals. On penalties.
Nick Hornby - Fever Pitch
Publication date: 2000
Published by: Penguin
Price then: £7.99
Price now: About £2 (I bought a whole load of stuff for £20)
Bought from: The dude under the flyover on Oxford Road in Manchester