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September 12, 2011 | by  | in Arts Books | [ssba]

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

The best football book ever written’ proclaims the cover.

Initially I was sceptical, especially given the quote on the cover was unattributed, which gives rise to the real possibility that it had been proclaimed by some drab middle-aged Englishmen whose idea of excitement, in the absence of having any paint to watch dry, is to watch old replays of Geoffrey Boycott at Lords scoring ten runs in two sessions. Happily, though, it is an essential read for any sporting fan, even for soccer hating Origin diehards.

Fever Pitch outlines author Nick Hornby’s lifetime of football obsession supporting Arsenal, the team everyone loves to hate. A common misconception among many New Zealanders is associating hardcore football fandom with hooliganism, a misconception possibly created by films like Green Street Hooligans. Rather Hornby’s 1994 work provides the reader with a cynically witty insight into the heart of a true football fan. He writes of a game which at first served only the purpose of providing him with a surrogate father, an ideal replacement for his emotionally distant original. However, by the ‘80s football had become so profoundly important to him that Arsenal’s poor performances in the league resulted in a spell of depression so severe that he was referred to a psychiatrist, only for such chemical imbalances to quickly subside when Arsenal wins the league in ’89. Another compliment for Hornby must undoubtedly be his coverage of a diverse range of footballing issues, and especially those arising from the game’s relationship with modernity. The Heysel and Hillsborough disasters, racist cultures, football broadcasting politics, and violence on the underground are all on the agenda.

The book also highlights some wider sporting themes (hence why every sports fan should read this). Why is it that sporting fanatics choose to invest their lives following teams who inflict such emotional harm on them? Hornby’s answer is that there is no choice. Like the needle addict, choices may have been made long ago—something to fill in the time on a long Saturday perhaps. But now there are no choices, only brainwaves ordering the captured body to soldier along in the pouring rain to watch Arsenal play out nil-all draws against Wimbledon. No longer is chasing the high about fun, a view well summarised by former Stoke City coach Alan Durban (who Hornby quotes) who famously proclaimed ‘if you want entertainment go and watch clowns’. All in all, Fever Pitch is, despite its somewhat depressing and pessimistic tone, undoubtedly an excellent read.


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  1. Electrum Greenstone says:

    ” […] Arsenal’s poor performances in the league resulted in a spell of depression […] “

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