Top Photo Credit: Ben17_34
“Fever Pitch” by Nick Hornby is, on a basic level, an autobiography and memoir of his life-long obsession with Arsenal, the English Premier League club. Now, I am not a fan of English Football (I am also an American, so from here on out I will be calling it soccer). It’s not that I dislike it, I’ve just never really had the chance to follow it the way I have with, say, the Green Bay Packers, for whom fandom sits like a latent virus in the blood of anyone born in Wisconsin.
Because I knew next to nothing about English soccer, the minutiae that Hornby indulges in sometimes lost me, but overall he uses a light touch. Hornby isn’t recounting plays from forgotten games 20 years ago because he thinks the reader particularly cares. He’s doing it to question why he himself cares so much.
In this way, the book is an analysis of the meaning of sports. Hornby, as he readily admits, is more than just a fan of Arsenal. Cripplingly obsessive might be closer to the mark. He questions this a bit, but doesn’t seem too bothered by it. He looks at what this obsession means to him and what he has gained from it.
Hornby identifies with the ups and downs of Arsenal and this gives a certain structure to his life. As he points out, soccer, like great art, has a way of symbolizing whatever you need it to. There’s a universal quality to following a favored sports team for years and years, and any fan will recognize parts of himself here.
You can find previous editions of The Read in our archive. For more on literature, art, food, wine, and a real perspective on the news these things seem to make, follow our Arts & Culture Correspondent Ben on Twitter.