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Fever Pitch

Many of you may have already seen this movie, or read the book on which it was based. I recently re-watched Fever Pitch again for the first time in a few years. It’s a movie that, at the heart of it, tells the story of the childlike enthusiasm the protagonist has for Arsenal. The movie is an adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, intertwining the love life of the main character with the 88-89 season that culminated in Arsenal’s first championship in 28 years.

As a native Floridian with no childhood ties to British soccer, I can’t identify with a great deal of the specific English circumstances in the film. As a child raised to follow and love the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I can identify with a great deal of the movie’s sentiment. At this point, it is well documented that my Bucs lost their first 26 games in the NFL, and had very little success until Head Coach Tony Dungy’s arrival in 1996. Fever Pitch captures the feelings of despair that only long suffering fans of losing teams can understand. Much of the film is spent following Colin Firth’s prickly Paul Ashworth through his life as a teacher and youth soccer coach. The overblown importance of each loss, and the utter despair of supporting a team that cannot deliver a championship take a toll on his mental health and romantic relationship. At one point in the film, Paul misses out on a promotion at work, but is considerably more upset by Arsenal’s late season loss to Derby County. It’s only understandable that the American remake was based on the Boston Red Sox, who until 2004, had not won the World Series since 1918.

The film handles the Hillsborough disaster well, playing the manic ending of the Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” while going back and forth between crowd shots of Paul as a teen, and with his new girlfriend on the terraces at Highbury. The rush forward of the crowd, mixed with the fast paced song and quick directorial cuts impart the sense of danger that ultimately manifested itself at Hillsborough.

Fever Pitch reminds me a great deal of High Fidelity, also based on a Nick Hornby autobiographical novel. They each deal with a main character (based on Nick), whose emotional development is arrested, at best. Both protagonists ultimately mature just a little in the end. Enough to qualify each movie to be called a romantic comedy, but with subject matter interesting enough to keep red-blooded males interested.

The film ends on the final day of the season, with Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield. Paul and his girlfriend dance in the streets around Highbury while Van Morrison’s eternally upbeat, “Bright Side of the Road” plays in the background.

If you haven’t seen it and are a fan of the premier league, I highly recommend giving it a look.

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  1. Geedon Bruce

    April 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    For the record……
    Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, is not a novel.
    Trust me, I’m an expert on not only books on football, on football and football in the period that Nick lived, 1968-90, on British culture in the period. I’m an exact contemporary of Nick’s, from the same geographical part of south-east England and from almost exactly the same socio-economic group as him, so know how true the book rings, which is utterly.

    When it came out it was (rightly) reviewed as a piece of autobiography and that was how Gollancz presented it to the market. That’s because it is a piece of autobiography, not a novel.

    best wishes,

    Geedon Bruce, UK.

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  3. rory

    February 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Great movie, and I love that there’s a SUBBUTEO player on the cover. If you don’t know what Subbuteo is, click on my name.

  4. Rebecca Jill

    February 4, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I like the author of this article grew up in Florida (I in Tampa) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so I related to the book in that manner, as well. My parents have been season ticket holders for the Bucs, since their beginning in 1976 when I was 2, so we have literally seen it all with them.

    I’m also an Arsenal fan. I loved both the book and the movie. I definitely got more out of the movie having read the book first.

  5. Dr. Gonzo

    February 4, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Shame on iTunes for not offering this.

  6. edgar

    February 3, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Film is ok. Good for a real football fan to watch… But if you like a good read, check out the book… Absolute Quality. I started reading it, and could not put it down….

  7. Simon Burke

    February 3, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I own both the book and the film , the book is legendary whereas the film is really a football film with a love story crowbarred in there – I dont think I’d give it a second look but for the fact as I a ball boy at Arsenal that season. Do fans of other teams actually like the film? I think the book is far more relatable to from the mass audience. Also give look to Alan Davies “My Favourite People” which is great for any footy fan who grew up in the 80’s and he is another gooner.

    • Rod

      February 3, 2010 at 3:46 pm

      Hello Simon, I can tell you that here in America, most football fans I know, liked the film regardless of which team they follow. I have the book and film and liked the book better—-I’m speaking as an Arsenal fan, of course. Area fans gather at the Brewhouse in Atlanta and the owners are Arsenal fans. If you’re ever in the area, stop in. It’s easy to find. You say you were a ball boy in ’89—were you at that game in Liverpool on that great day?

  8. Chris

    February 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    For those with Netflix, I noticed the other day that this version of Fever Pitch can now be watched instantly. Great book, great movie.

    • The Gaffer

      February 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      Fever Pitch is definitely a recommended film to watch. Not as good as the book, but still decent. If you have a Roku player, you can stream Netflix movies such as Fever Pitch to your TV set instead of downloading it to your computer or waiting for the DVD to arrive.

      The Gaffer

  9. James

    February 3, 2010 at 11:10 am

    the book does not have a “main character.” It’s recounting the real-life experiences of the author, Nick Hornby, a real person. It’s not a novel — even an autobiographical novel. It’s a memoir.

  10. Rod

    February 3, 2010 at 9:35 am

    A minor correction. The ’89 league title was the 1st in 18 years, not 28 as written inthe article. Arsenal won the double in ’71.

  11. iancransonsknees

    February 3, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Say what you like but given as the main character is from Reading in Berkshire, and travels to Highbury in London to watch Arsenal he is what is commonly known in England a glory hunting bastard.

  12. Kevin

    February 3, 2010 at 1:35 am

    A good film, and the book is absolutely ESSENTIAL for any football fans. Hell, I’m a Spurs fan and the book is absolutely wonderful, especially for Americans who wonder what it’s like to grow up following a team through their trials and tribulations. By reading this book I gained an immense understanding of what it is like to be a supporter.

  13. Munish Gupta

    February 3, 2010 at 12:23 am

    its definitely a must watch for almost every football fan.

  14. John

    February 3, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Nice piece, although if I can nitpick something I feel is important: High Fidelity is an autobiographical novel, but Fever Pitch is a memoir. (I’m speaking of the books, naturally — the films are both adaptations that take their own liberties).

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