When author Nick Hornby admits to his audience that before a North London derby on March 4, 1987 that he’d seen a psychiatrist, at that point you’re in no way surprised, particularly if you’re a committed football club supporter, yourself. But after drawing so many parallels with Hornby throughout his life as an Arsenal fan, you, yourself, begin to wonder how far off the shrink is in your own life. By many accounts Fever Pitch is just a collection of the writer’s memoirs about his experiences at the football. At times you can put yourself in his shoes and feel for the Gunners’ misfortunes regardless of your own allegiance. In others, you feel inclined to laugh whether it’s at the coming of age events Hornby endures at Highbury and beyond or his overall mood and sentiment toward peripheral aspects of his life and how they interact with his primary existence, being an Arsenal fan. Either way, you get the feeling he’s laughing along with you.
Nevertheless, Fever Pitch is much more than the ramblings of a mad man. Hornby, conditioned by a life where he constantly struggles to find his place (all inclusively traced from boyhood to his thirties), engagingly illustrates an accurate account of Arsenal’s history from the sixties to early nineties as well as a telling reflection of the encapsulated socioeconomic eras. The rise and fall of England’s World Cup triumph, Arsenal’s double in ’71, the coming and going of hooliganism’s height in the eighties, the Hillsborough tragedy, and the last minute league championship heroics at Anfield in ‘89 are all topics he covers, but then so are the divorce of his parents, Technicolor, waves of musical influence, the blight of finding fulfilling work, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, the National Front, terrace racism, the results of the Taylor Report and more. That being said, he warns the reader at the beginning that they will be required to entertain the conclusions he draws relating to literature, theatre, art, and so on. As the pages turn, you grow up with Nick Hornby.
Hornby frequently apologizes throughout, as if to say: I know you don’t really understand, but you’re not the first and I accept that. The trouble is, if you’re as football-crazed as we are at The Away End, you do understand, almost effortlessly. For an American, depending on your age, a life like Hornby’s in almost all instances isn’t one you had the enjoyment and simultaneous torture of living out. However, as a suburban boy Hornby is tasked with convincing others and himself more so that he belongs to Arsenal, a club from the city. This is much in the way many Americans view the clubs to which they devout their transplanted hearts to in London, Manchester, Barcelona, or Milan. Read Fever Pitch for the humor, for the culture, and for the unanticipated emotional relation you can make you with your own journey as a football fan. It would make a great history lesson of eras past unbeknownst to new and/or young fans of the beautiful game.