As many already know, Fever Pitch is not just a crap movie about baseball starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. A few of you may have seen an earlier movie with Colin Firth which was a decent movie (but seemed like softcore porn if you went by the cover of the video). But for any football fan, but especially a fan of Liverpool or Arsenal, Nick Hornby’s book (on which these are both based) captures the quintessence of the joys and heartbreaks of the Beautiful Game and is well worth a read whether or not you’ve seen and/or liked the movie(s).
Unlike his other (fabulous) books, Fever Pitch is not a work of fiction. Rather, its a diary of one of the most gutwrentching years in football history, the 1998-1999 Division 1 season. In case you don’t remember, Liverpool had run away with records and the league the previous year. Despite a stunning loss to Wimbledon in the FA Cup final (Dave Beasant performing miracles in goal), the Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge trifecta seemed to have become overnight legends for the kop. King Kenny was a manager in the middle of a love affair with Anfield, and the ghosts of Heysel were slowly quietening down. Arsenal meanwhile were in the ascendancy. Their fabled defense was taking shape, and “boring, boring Arsenal” were starting to compete again for the title of top team in England. And then there was Hillsborough. Every great achievement by either team that season will always be overshadowed by the memory of April 15th, 1989. In probably the greatest season of domestic football in the last 25 years, the lingering image of anyone who watched football that year will be of the FA Cup semi final.
But the football is only part of the story. The bigger theme is about one man’s total obsession with all things Arsenal, and its effect on his life, work and loves. Hornby captures the emotion and poignancy of both the football and the greater story with the tremendous skill of one of today’s best novellists. Don’t read this book if you’re the kind of man who is afraid to cry. If you’re a true football fan, this is as introspective a look at yourself you can get (given that you’re probably not a world class wordsmith).
What more can I say? This is one of my all time top 10 books. If you’re a Liverpool fan, like me, it hurts at times. But its well worth it. Read this.