Fever Pitch – Book & Movie Review

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby starring Colin Firth

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

I’m a Gooner through and through; a die-hard if you will.  So it should come as no surprise that I’ll talk the ear off of anyone fool-hardy enough to start listening to me when the book Fever Pitch comes up in conversation.  Thing is, this book represents a lot more than just the Arsenal and what it means to be an Arsenal supporter.  You don’t have to take just me at my word; there is a long-time BASer, Mike Varrin, who eventually became a BAS Referee and mainstay in the supporters section at BMO, who grew up supporting Liverpool but will gladly admit that this book resonates almost as deeply with his Merseyside supporting redness as it does with my canon loving Goonery.  (I’ve never bothered to find out if it has the same effect on Spurs fans because, really, who cares what they think about anything anyway?)

Like his other novels, Hornby tells the tale of a love-addled, angst-ridden young man – but unlike his other novels, he tells the young man’s story from childhood to eventual, proper, adult maturity, using Arsenal matches and results as the significant sign-posts of important life-changing or affecting events.

In short, it’s genius.  

It did give me the sense, the vibe, that perhaps some of this was autobiographical, just disguised as fiction – but I don’t know Hornby well enough (or at all) to wager whether or not this is or is not an accurate feeling.  I’ve never bothered to do the digging either, because I find it comforting to think that others go through this too and it’s not just me and a made-up “Paul” from Mr. Hornby’s fantastic imagination whose lives (moods? perspectives?) are so precariously dictated by the results of the club we love.

I do not believe that any other book provides a collection of maxims as succinct and as clear, of the die-hard football supporter as Fever Pitch does.  In more than one instance, the protagonist’s matter-of-fact statements are more revealing than he intends.  To an even greater extent, the exchanges he has with his girlfriend and co-worker Sarah, provide even greater insight into the awkwardness of the single-minded football supporter.

Sarah:  What are you thinking about?
Paul:     …uh, stuff…
Sarah:  What stuff?
Paul:     I was thinking about D.H. Lawrence actually.
Sarah:  Yeah?  What about him?
Paul:     About his books…
Sarah:  What about his books?
Paul:     …just… …which one’s the longest.
Sarah:  And?
Paul:     …I couldn’t remember.
Sarah:  Well which one did you think it could be?
Paul:     That’s just it, I couldn’t decide.
Sarah:  Between what and what?
Paul:     …well… …Lady Chatterly’s Lover…
Sarah:  And…?
Paul:     …and um,… …I wasn’t thinking about D.H. Lawrence at all.  I was thinking about Arsenal.
Sarah:  Why did you lie?
Paul:     Well I’ve got to vary the answers haven’t I?  I can’t say  ARSENAL every time.

I’ll admit that instead of combing through the book, I just popped the DVD into my computer and skipped ahead to the scene; so please excuse me for my laziness… …but in my defense, it does segue nicely into a review of the movie version of Fever Pitch, starring Colin Firth.  The Colin Firth who won an Oscar, or was nominated for one (it’s not a league title so does anyone really pay attention?), for that King’s Speech movie, but really, the crowning glory of his career is and always will be, his portrayal of Paul Ashworth.

It’s an older film, released in 1996 – but the sort of older film that stands the test of time.  If you’re not going to bother with reading the book, and it’s a mistake not to, at least don’t cheat yourself out of the pleasure of watching this movie.  More importantly, if you’re a football fanatic living with or spending a lot of time with someone who just doesn’t get it then do both of you a favour, pop a pot of popping corn, dim the lights, cuddle up and let them see what it’s all about.  (Personally, my then girlfriend/now wife, really got a clearer picture of what this sport and my club mean to me, after we finally watched it together.)

   

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