Fever Pitch is one of my favorite books ever, and it's a memoir, which is one of my least favorite genres, so this says a lot about how good this book is. After the World Cup ended this year, I felt a void and that I need to fill my life with more soccer (which I'll call football from now on on this review).
The Book Review
I love that it's about football, but at the same time it isn't. Fever Pitch was Nick Hornby's first published book, and it's a memoir about his 23 years as a football moron (his words, not mine). The book is an ode to obsession, and even though I am not obsessed about football the way he is, I can't help but still identify. Most of the book happens around Arsenal matches (which, when I visited England in 2016, I i was very happy to have a chance to watch a live final match at their stadium), but they are not the main story, they are just the backdrop to tell Nick's life story.
A few stand out moments:
There's some pretty memorable (and funny) lines in there.
"I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring with it.”
"But those who mourn the loss of identity football fans must endure miss the point: who wants to be stuck with who they are the whole time?"
"It worries me, the prospect of dying in mid-season like that (...) we have this naive expectation that when we go, we won't be leaving any loose ends lying around."
"If you want entertainment, go watch clowns."
And the Heysel and Hillsborough stadium disasters. There is a chapter in Fever Pitch that I never forgot, where Nick is teaching English as a Second Language to a group of Italian nationals. They want to see the Liverpool and Juventus game, but don't have a tv. So Nick opens the school after hours and get the TV set out, just so they all can watch the game together. But the game doesn't start, and the Italians are restless, so Nick starts to pay attention to what the TV newscast is saying: that English hooligans caused the death of 38 people at the Heysel stadium in Belgium in 1985. And not many chapters later, he talked about the Hillsborough disaster (I linked it up there, but beware it's kind of hard to read). In a way, Hillsborough is kind of the end of an era for English football and even for Nick Hornby's story. Not much after that the book ends, and he mentions is a lot throughout the whole story. The changes that brought to the way the game is viewed were so controversial at the time Nick Hornby was writing, needed to happen. It struck close to home, actually, when he talks about how fans think the future (at the time) of football was just the same football, just slightly safer terraces—not a radical change. The sentimental attachment, and the claims of "tradition" that the fans of the sport claimed, were not really heard. And it struck me again about how our human nature is so opposed to change. This opposition to change is something I struggle with on a daily basis, is what makes some of my professional work so hard and difficult to cope with sometimes. And this is only one of many instances where I related to this book. I may not be obsessive about anything at the level Nick Hornby is, but I still get it.
And at some point in the book he says (I forgot to bookmark it, so forgive my faulty memory) that because of his obsession, that every time Arsenal is playing, or the results are shared on the paper or the news, that all the people that he came across his life, will be thinking of him. And funny enough, now it will be more than just his 150 friends he's met through life, but also all the millions of people that read his book. My husband and I record all Arsenal games to watch on the weekends, and every time Arsenal scores I say out loud "just one more, Arsenal, so little Nick can relax."
The Cover Redesign
This cover is not so much a redesign, but an ode to my favorite t-shirt of all time. In 1997, when I visited England, I bought an Oasis t-shirt from their historic Maine Road concert that happened in 1996. The t-shirt, which I wore until it basically dissolved (and I wish I still had it), had the Oasis logo inside a football field. It was beautiful in its simplicity, and that's what I wanted to convey with this cover redesign: the simplicity and beauty of the game. Some previous official Fever Pitch cover designs included stadium seating or shields as visual elements, and they all work well. But I was missing the green of the field, the thing, the place, where so much of the story centers around, while telling everything else that was also not happening there, but was happening because of what happened in the field.
I wanted this to be simple, like I said before, and with a very limited color palette. Two-color print: black and this almost obnoxious green, but not quite. It would be either printed as a paperback or a hardcover with a dust jacket, either version would have a soft touch layer applied to it (i really love the soft touch on black, it really brings the color up a level).