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Fever Pitch

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Well, if Marcus Berkmann's book is the "Fever Pitch of cricket", what about the "Fever Pitch of football", er...Fever Pitch?

 

Along with a lot of other people, I was lured into reading this allegedly seminal book a decade ago. While it is very well-written and entertaining, and from the heart, the reaction at the time to the book was perhaps more interesting than the book itself. Middle-class man of letters likes football shock! The chattering classes couldn't believe it. Coming out just a couple of years after the 1990 World Cup had persuaded a lot of people that eating prosciutto and liking football aren't mutually exclusive, the timing was perfect.

 

I've been a middle-class football lover for well over 30 years now, and like a lot of others felt slight resentment at the bandwagon effect that propelled Fever Pitch. So I was slightly disappointed when I read it because it had been over-hyped, and what seemed a special story to many of its readers appeared to be an everyday tale of a football supporter to me.

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I agree with your general sentiment, BPMF, but feel that perhaps Fever Pitch is a better book than you give it credit for. What really annoys me, in fact makes me fume even now, is that he became an Arsenal fan in the first place. The man is from Maidenhead, for Christ's sake! By rights, he should be a Reading fan. I seem to remember he's very patronising about the mighty Royals (or the mighty Biscuitmen as they were then).

 

Two quirky facts about Fever Pitch and film. How many other non-fiction books have been fictionalised in films? And how many times has a British film been remade only a few years later as an American film? I believe there's to be a US version of Fever Pitch coming out in 2005. I can only say that I hope it's better than the British version, which featured one of the most charmless performances ever by a leading lady (Ruth Gemmell I believe her name was).

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The Fever Pitch film has one of my favourite lines of dialogue - when the main character is so utterly frustrated and lost for words, only a double-profanity will do - "F*****g... f*** off," if I remember rightly. I know that feeling!

 

I've read (I think) all of Hornby's books, but somehow they always leave me feeling unsatisfied. Difficult to explain why, but I think it's because I never get to like his characters. Possibly that's why I enjoyed Fever Pitch and 31 Songs rather more as they were non-fiction. Without 31 Songs, I would never have got to like Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road." So thanks for that, Nick.

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I'd agree with the 'unsatisfactory' sentiment: '31 Songs' seems to be almost totally without raison d'etre other than that it likely fulfills Hornby's contractual obligations.

 

The fact that 'Fever Pitch' deals with an Arsenal fan's memoirs makes matters even worse, obviously...

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Who else could write a book called 31 Songs, about 31 songs, and sell that many copies? Would have loved to have seen the proposal for that. I imagine it was about 5 words long ("these are sum songs I wike, by Nick, aged 44"). I think a lot of people saw that book and wondered what, precisely, made what Hornby was doing so much more special than the hundreds of record reviews it's possible to read at any point, for less money, in newspapers and magazines.

 

Still - at least I didn't waste any money on it. Unlike my spoken word copy of How To Be Good, which is now residing somewhere on the central reservation of the M11.

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I agree with your general sentiment, BPMF, but feel that perhaps Fever Pitch is a better book than you give it credit for. What really annoys me, in fact makes me fume even now, is that he became an Arsenal fan in the first place. The man is from Maidenhead, for Christ's sake! By rights, he should be a Reading fan. I seem to remember he's very patronising about the mighty Royals (or the mighty Biscuitmen as they were then).

 

Two quirky facts about Fever Pitch and film. How many other non-fiction books have been fictionalised in films? And how many times has a British film been remade only a few years later as an American film? I believe there's to be a US version of Fever Pitch coming out in 2005. I can only say that I hope it's better than the British version, which featured one of the most charmless performances ever by a leading lady (Ruth Gemmell I believe her name was).

 

 

I'm a little confused as to how the American film about BASEBALL will have anything to do with the book and therefore why it should carry the same name? It must be a publicity thing, Hornby is a big name therefore the film will sell.

 

I agree that Ruth Gemmell is horid in Fever Pitch but I still enjoyed the film. I also agree about the Reading thing, if he came from Southampton I would feel exactly the same.

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As a Maidenhead United fan can i say how annoyed I am that Bill presumes anyone from there should support anyone other than their home town team...... :-)

 

I must admit to enjoying Fever Pitch but suspect that anyone reading it now may not find it so appealing. It was of it's time - and football has changed massively since it was written. The context is now wrong and Sky, the Premier League and marketing men have destroyed the game as it was when Hornby wrote the book.

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As a Maidenhead United fan can i say how annoyed I am that Bill presumes anyone from there should support anyone other than their home town team......

 

Bill? Do you mean Mad Dog & Glory? It's well known that Bill doesn't have opinions, but that MD&G has them all for him.

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to be fair to Hornby he helped kick start a genre that had little credibility when compared to other sports...for decades football writing had been derided when compared to the 'literature' amassed by cricket and rugby in particular...

 

probably a load of public school snobbery involved but Hornby got the anorak obsession with football right...measuring extreme moments in your life(birth death marriage etc) in terms of a particular football result and the effect a single result can have were all taken for granted by football fans but had rarely been articulated as well as Hornby did...

 

and the fact it was The Arse....well before the swashbuckling era of Wenger & Henry Hornby grew up on Don Howe Terry Neill & George Graham when anything more than 1-0 was considered an affront to the principles of football...

 

there are areas of easy criticism....his non-attendance at THAT 1989 game at Anfield after investing so much time emotion and money in hoping The Arse would become champions of England...likewise missing the 1993 FA Cup replay after Arsenal & Sheff W had bored the nation to death in two consecutive cup finals for some showbiz book ceremony....but even worse this is a man who has no time for Malcolm 'Supermac' Macdonald...

 

just remember though as you look at the football section of your local bookstore and see wall to wall hoolie & David Beckham books that there are now alternatives...

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Interesting point about measuring out extreme moments in your life by key football games. I do this (although often the other way round and as much with music as football).

 

A football example: I know my eldest daughter was born in 1984, and I know that it around the time of her first birthday that Reading set a league record for the longest-held 100% record (they won their first 13 league games). Therefore I can state with certainty that they did so in the 1985/86 season. I also recall having my arm in plaster at the away game at Newport (the 11th win), so I know that I had rotovated the garden (causing an injury in the process) in September 1985.

 

The only way I can be certain of either date is by the association with my daughter's first birthday.

 

With music, I must admit, I tend to use records to identify the dates that things happened in my life. In other words, I can remember an incident, but not when it happened, but if I can recall what records I was listening to at the time, I will probably be able to pin the year down.

 

I used to believe everyone could do this, but conversations in recent years have indicated that I may be slightly strange in this respect - at least Nick Horby thinks otherwise!

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