Fever Pitch Quotes

I’ve just finished reading Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby.

It is an autobiography told though Arsenal football matches, and how the authors life interacts with them and reflects them.

The following are my three favourite passages from the book:

A critical faculty is a terrible thing. When I was eleven there were no bad films, just films that I didn’t want to see, there was no bad food, just Brussels sprouts and cabbage, and there were no bad books – everything I read was great. Then suddenly, I woke up in the morning and all that had changed. How could my sister not hear that David Cassidy was not in the same class as Black Sabbath? Why on earth would my English teacher think that The History of Mr Polly was better than Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie? And from that moment on, enjoyment has been a much more elusive quality

The following goes some way to explaining how playing and watching football are completely different things, and the latter is not merely a replacement for the former:

One thing I know for sure about being a fan is this: it is a vicarious pleasure, despite all appearances to the contrary, and those who say that they would rather do than watch are missing the point. Football is a context where watching becomes doing – not in the aerobic sense, because watching a game, smoking your head off while doing so, drinking after it has finished and eating chips on the way home is unlikely to do you a whole lot of Jane Fonda good, in the way that chuffing up and down a pitch is supposed to. But when there is some kind of triumph, the pleasure does not radiate from the players outwards until it reaches the likes of us at the back of the terraces in a pale and diminished form; our fun is not a watery version of the team’s fun, even though they are the ones that get to score the goals and climb the steps at Wembley to meet Princess Diana. The joy we feel on occasions like this is not a celebration of others’ good fortune, but a celebration of our own; and when there is a disastrous defeat the sorrow that engulfs us is, in effect, self-pity, and anyone who wishes to understand how football is consumed must realise this above all things.

And it is worth remembering how bad most of us are at football – even the ones who seem great:

This is how close I came to becoming a professional [footballer]: at college, one or two of the first team (I was in the first team in my final year) played for the Blues, a team consisting of the eleven best players in the whole of the University. To my knowledge, two of the Blues players in my time went on to play at a professional level. The best one, the university god, a blond striker who seemed to glow with talent in the way stars do, played as sub a few times for Torquay United in the Fourth Division – he may even have scored for them once. Another played for Cambridge City – City, Quentin Crisp’s team, the team with the wonky Match of the Day tape and a crowd of two hundred, not United – as a full-back; we went to see him, and he was way off the pace.

So… if I had ranked number one in my college, as opposed to number twenty-five or thirty, then I might have been able, if I had been lucky, to look bad in a very poor semi-professional team. Sport doesn’t allow you to dream in the way that writing or acting or painting or middle-management does: I knew when I was eleven that I would never play for Arsenal. Eleven is too young to know something as awful as that.


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