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Life's A Pitch
May 18, 2001 10:01 AM 9851 Views

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“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” remarked Jane Austen once (as do Waterstone’s bags). Personally I can’t fathom football. 22 men running after a ball for 90 minutes. Even more confusing than the appeal of football is the appeal of watching it. It costs time, self-esteem and a lot of money. Or at least that was my opinion until I read Nick Hornby’s debut Fever Pitch. Chronicling his love-hate relationship with Arsenal, the book was published to great acclaim in 1992.


In it, Hornby highlights individual football matches, from 1969 to 1992, offering a rare glimpse into the mind of a football fanatic. One of the things I enjoyed most was that Hornby is the first to criticise football and football obsessives like himself. In doing so Hornby also reveals the glory of football when everything goes right, from beating an old rival to winning the league. As a critic from the Independent on Sunday put it “His triumph is that, without glossing over its large-scale stupidities and discomforts, he makes the terrace life seem not just plausible but sometimes near-heroic in its single-minded vehemence, its heart-shaking highs and lows.” Within the area of football he offers his opinion on football-related violence, racism in football, season ticket prices and tragedies like Hillsborough, as well as opening up debates about the behaviour of clubs towards fans. He is much more successful than any politician can ever be because he has been there and knows just what he’s talking about. He has anecdotes for every football situation that he effortlessly weaves into the book, not for comic or dramatic effect but simply because he loves the game and wants to share with people.


Through his stories he involves the reader, even 9 years later when football has progressed so much. Football isn’t all he covers. Along the way he talks about his fears about relationships and his career, both contributing to his depression. This is a subject he talks freely and impassively about, not in a Frank McCourt way, though always keeping the focus on football. His vulnerable side is exposed for everyone to see and from this it’s easy to see why he’s the founder of contemporary male fiction (or lad-lit if you insist).


So what have I learnt from reading the book? I've also considered just how far football seems to have strayed from its roots and how little the clubs seem to care for the fans. Well, I definitely think football fans don't deserve the poor opinion so many hold of them. After reading 'Fever Pitch' I consider fans like Nick Hornby heroes and I can even see a little why they want to devote everything to following their team. One thing I still don't know, just what is the offside rule?


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