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Fever Pinch

April 11th, 2005

“Fever Pitch” (Nick Hornby) is a great read, but a book about the internal monologues of an obsessive soccer fan is obviously going to be hard to film. Who but the Farrelly brothers, and their brilliant writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel would have the great idea of turning it into a romantic comedy {and, of course, switching the pun to baseball]?

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  1. loofer
    April 11th, 2005 at 07:44 | #1

    I loved this book.
    Nick Hornby has a wonderful ability to capture attributes of obsessive males… High Fidelity was scarily accurate for a recovering crate digger like myself…

    I’d had no idea that they’d already made a version in 1997 starring Colin Firth

  2. michael.burgess
    April 11th, 2005 at 09:27 | #2

    Being obsessive about Soccer I can understand (coming from Manchester). However, how can anyone obsess about baseball which must be the most god awful boring game ever invented-closely followed by American football. They even make Aussie rules and Rugby league seem exiting. I have warmed to Rugby Union in recent times but my Brazilian psychologist reckons I am close to be cured. Go Sydney FC.

  3. Pat
    April 11th, 2005 at 11:50 | #3

    There was an excellent British movie based on the book made in the mid 1990s staring Colin Firth. While it changed a few things to make it more screen friendly, it certainly captured the obsessive-compulsive nature of some fans. It is highly recomended.

  4. Homer Paxton
    April 11th, 2005 at 11:57 | #4

    Altough warmly agreeing with Michael that Football is easily the best sport to watch I have never understood how people can become obsseive about it or any other sport.
    The book is much better than the film.

  5. Gaby
    April 11th, 2005 at 12:21 | #5

    I agree with Pat that the movie was good. And from memory, the book does have elements of romantic comedy.

    An essential component of the book and film is the frustrating nature of supporting The Arsenal through the ’80’s and early ’90’s. They were then, though not now, known for their dour football and the frustrations visited on their fans.

    Hence, the importance of the final scene when Arsenal is playing against Liverpool for the 1989 Championship. I won’t give it away.

    Ahhhh, the rapturous joys of the Beautiful Game!!!…

  6. michael.burgess
    April 11th, 2005 at 12:45 | #6

    Homer, when your growing up in the dark wet suburbs of Manchester there is not much else to do apart from obsessing about football.

  7. Gaby
    April 11th, 2005 at 13:16 | #7


    But in mitigation Michael, you may have had the glories of the young Best to savour. One of the most naturally gifted footballers ever. To watch him dribble is to marvel at perfection. Man and ball in absolute co-ordination with hardly an unnecessary touch taken.

    As he himself has mused, imagine if he had played for “Brasil”?…

  8. roberto
    April 11th, 2005 at 13:22 | #8

    Q: Why does there have ti be a remake?

  9. Homer Paxton
    April 11th, 2005 at 13:23 | #9

    Cruyf was the greatest.
    Skill, pace, dribbling ability, creativity, leadership, could score or create.
    in the 74 final he made a monkey of Dr Kaiser laid on what should have bben a hatrick for Johnny Rep and still had a bad game.

    Unfortunately he was also a prima donna and hedonistic.

    your explanation is accepted Michael.

    I still the the novel was much better thasn the movie which is the 2nd I saw of Colin after P&P!

  10. roberto
    April 11th, 2005 at 13:33 | #10

    Maradona is my pick for greatest ever player. Single handley won a World Cup, played in Italy arguemnt the toughest defensive systems and players.

    His only fault (from a football perspective) was that he never played for Milan. His greatest attribute – he never signed with Juventus.

  11. April 11th, 2005 at 13:35 | #11

    I read ‘High Fidelity’ and was pretty unimpressed. He seemed to be working hard coming to terms with pretty basic things – from memory a whole lot of ‘peer group pressure’ stuff like the division of the world into ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’. I don’t find a psychological novel about that subject too rivetting. Perhaps I could but not by someone in their late 30s or so as he must have been then. More a topic for your twenties I’d say. Hornby struck me as a case of arrested development – at least in that book.

    Then again, perhaps I read books a bit too seriously. Hornby certainly scrubs up well into movies. I enjoyed the film “About a Boy”. And he can be bloody funny too. I remember a passage on an argument between a man and a woman (I think – it was a while ago) that I heard on the radio. Hilarious!

  12. Gaby
    April 11th, 2005 at 14:02 | #12

    Disagree with you on the novel Nicholas. Some of the best parts of the novel were Hornby’s discussion of issues and the surrounding culture of football such as hooliganism, life on the terraces, Hillsborough etc.

    Maradona was unquestionably the greatest. Agree with you Roberto and essentially for your reasons. One could have easily been three! And not to mention 2 scudettos and a Cup Winners with Napoli.

    Roberto, he may not have played for Milan, but he certainly scored some wonderful goals against them.

    Check out this clip of him juggling and warming up before a game:


    Italiam have a wonderful word for such stars: “fuoriclasse”, literally “out of classes”.

    Diego was “il fuoriclasse” of the “fuoriclassi”.

  13. michael.burgess
    April 11th, 2005 at 14:28 | #13

    Actually George Best was indirectly the cause of the end of my first job as a trainee accountant. I was given the job of managing the day to day accounts for his boutique. The manager kept saying that the till would not balance because George kept coming in and taking cash out to go out on a bender. Later it turned out that the manager was seriously ripping him off. In any case my incapacity to make the books balance along with the occasional late start got me the sack. On who was the greatest soccer player ever, I would have to go with Maradona above Best and Paul Trimboli. Though, how good would Duncan Edwards would have been if he had not died in the Munich air crash at the age of 18.

  14. Gaby
    April 11th, 2005 at 14:51 | #14

    Michael, I reckon there are pictures of Bestie in his boutique that I have seen. Probably in one of his many volumes of autobiography.

    The one that I enjoyed the most, and the most revelatory, was that penned by Michael Parkinson.

    Towards the end, Parkie and Best are watching the ’74 World Cup final when Neeskens is stepping up to take the penalty and the commentator asks rhetorically, “who would be in his shoes?” Bestie’s reply was “oh I would, I bloody would!” I believe it too.

    He played some charity games in Adelaide in the ’90’s. One for Neil Fuller the champion Paralympian. Apparently still magic.

  15. Gaby
    April 11th, 2005 at 14:52 | #15

    Michael, I reckon there are pictures of Bestie in his boutique that I have seen. Probably in one of his many volumes of autobiography.

    The one that I enjoyed the most, and the most revelatory, was that penned by Michael Parkinson. Not sure of its level of verisimilitude though.

    Towards the end, Parkie and Best are watching the ’74 World Cup final when Neeskens is stepping up to take the penalty and the commentator asks rhetorically, “who would be in his shoes?” Bestie’s reply was “oh I would, I bloody would!” I believe it too.

    He played some charity games in Adelaide in the ’90’s. One for Neil Fuller the champion Paralympian. Apparently still magic.

  16. Warbo
    April 11th, 2005 at 14:56 | #16

    United or City, Michael? Your answer is important.

    I suspect the ‘greatest footballer’ argument often hinges on who was around in your formative years. I watched the World Cup final in 1970 on a colour telly. First time I’d seen colour TV. That Brazilian side was, to a football-mad eight-year-old, the most exciting thing in the world. So it’s Pele for me, and probably always will be.

    “Maradonna is my pick…” I read at first as “Maradonna is a prick…”, which would be about right. Awesomely gifted and even more deeply flawed. Cheat, junkie, loser, fraud.

  17. michael.burgess
    April 11th, 2005 at 15:17 | #17

    Warbo, who are city- Cheat, junkie, loser, fraud maybe but he also scared other teams shitless like no other.

  18. April 11th, 2005 at 15:42 | #18

    Come now. Single handedly is just about precisely the way Maradona did what he did. He as good as admitted it.

  19. Warbo
    April 11th, 2005 at 15:46 | #19

    United, then. I knew it. Just knew it. Explains everything – including being in thrall to the “hand of God”. You’re English, man! Have you no shame?

  20. michael.burgess
    April 11th, 2005 at 16:05 | #20

    THe hand of god goal says he is a cheat-the first goal in that match though says something else. As for being English, I have had the operation and am now Australian.

  21. Gaby
    April 11th, 2005 at 16:14 | #21

    The references to Maradona being a “cheat, junkie…” etc laughable given what he did, what he actually took. England were not in that game and his “hand of god” is what professionals get up to all the time. Get over it.

    We are talking about his prowess as a footballer. And yes inter-temporal evaluations are hard and to some extent arbitrary. But you hit the nail on the head Warbo in one respect….look at the ’70 Brazil: Tostao, Rivelino, Gerson, Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho….

    And Maradona played with…Battista, Burruchaga, Valdano, Brown…..

    Spot the difference?

  22. Gaby
    April 11th, 2005 at 16:16 | #22

    PML, I’m sure you are referring to his second goal…..

  23. Gaby
    April 11th, 2005 at 16:17 | #23

    PML, I’m sure you are referring to his second goal…..

  24. Homer Paxton
    April 11th, 2005 at 20:58 | #24

    Maradonanever have had Cruyf’s speed or ball skill.
    He did however lead an ordinary Argentinian side against another ordinary German side.
    Cruyf led proabaly the best side in world football agianst the second best side in world football.

  25. Homer Paxton
    April 11th, 2005 at 21:01 | #25

    Maradonanever have had Cruyf’s speed or ball skill.
    He did however lead an ordinary Argentinian side against another ordinary German side.
    Cruyf led proabaly the best side in world football agianst the second best side in world football.

  26. Warbo
    April 11th, 2005 at 21:10 | #26

    Yes – the first goal was a work of genius. The Hand of God goal was a work of bastardry. The net result is a big fat zero. And I emphasise fat.

    Gaby, I’m not being cute when I say you’ve completely lost me. Your knowledge of individual players is obviously better than mine. So I can’t spot the difference and you’ll have to spell it out for me.

    Meanwhile, maybe it’s true that it’s the sort of thing pros do all the time. I’m not interested in talking about them. I thought we were arguing over the greatest player ever. The greatest, to my mind, wouldn’t stoop to the level of mere professionals.

    Forgive the cliche, but Pele was an ornament to the game during and after his playing days (suss impotence ads notwithstanding). He may not have been as skilful as Maradonna (although you could never measure it), but he is/was considerably greater.

  27. Gaby
    April 12th, 2005 at 00:14 | #27

    Can we get one thing sraight, The so called “hand of God” was the first goal. The other was simply the best goal ever scored in the World Cup finals. A dribbling and finish of incomparable genius.

    Homer, come on. Cruyff more skilfull than Maradona! Diego brought things to the game that hadn’t been seen before. Think of his style in kicking penalties with the stutter, or the low bending free kick over the wall as just two examples. Let alone his juggling skills and dribbling that were integrated into his game, and not just party tricks.

    WArbo, my point about the Brazilians was that the ones I named were all world class in their own right, in comparison to Maradona’s teamamates who were more modest players.

    Finally, I fail to see how one piece of gamesmanship can affec his prowess as a soccer player. “Prowess” as a player to me is a function of skill, vision, imagination, leadership, innovation, creativity on the soccer field within those 90 minutes under the most intense pressure.

    An erstwhile soccer playing “ornament” is what one does, usually in Switaerland, with the likes of Joao Havelange or Sepp Blatter.

  28. michael.burgess
    April 12th, 2005 at 09:28 | #28

    Homer, I think (defense apart) that the Brazil side of 1982 was possibly the best side of all time (dum defensive stuff ups not withstanding).

  29. Homer Paxton
    April 12th, 2005 at 09:53 | #29

    sorry but Cruyff was a magnificantly balanced runner who could at pace go in or out on either foot something no other footballer has never been able to do.

    michael I agree the 82 side was a good one but the dutch side of 74 was incomparable who like Hungary of 54 inexplicibly lost to West Germany.

  30. michael.burgess
    April 12th, 2005 at 10:42 | #30

    Homer, I think the fact that the Germans always seem to win (or come close too) whether they have great (1974) or average teams has a lot to do with tactics (effective not attractive) and fitness – they often score in the last few minutes of a game. For this reason, I suspect Sydney FC’s appointment of a German coach could be an inspired choice. I just hope he is correct when he says inside of him is a Brazilian waiting to come out.

  31. Gaby
    April 12th, 2005 at 12:34 | #31

    Sorry Homer but Best and Pele were both equally adept with either foot.

    And I certainly don’t think that the comparison of Holland to the Hungarian “Golden Team” is at all appropriate. The latter re-invented soccer. The use of a libero, of a withdrawn centre forward, the attacking interchangeability of Puskas, Hidegkuti and Kocsis in attack,the use of overlapping fullbacks, Kocsis’s bicycle kick etc.

    The Hungary of the ’50’s truly were the inventors of “total football”.

    Also, while Brazil ’82 was wonderful, the Italian 1982 side was better. They played beautiful technical soccer. And in Scirea they had arguably the best “libero” ever and in Antognoni a wonderful, but inexplicably undervalued, midfielder.

  32. Homer Paxton
    April 12th, 2005 at 14:06 | #32

    I don’t think Hungary had a libero.He sometimes came into the midfield but only to mix up the opposing side.
    Hungary were precusors to total football but they never played it.
    Neither Best nor Pele ( this is hebrew for wonderful) could do much with their left foot.
    moreover like typical rightfooters they could only go in out on the right side of the field.
    Cruyyf co do either on both sides of the field.

  33. michael.burgess
    April 12th, 2005 at 14:45 | #33

    All the discussion on these great sides of the past reminds me just how exiting soccer used to be. My view is that you can’t really compare eras as skilful players today have less room to operate in because of the extra fitness of the defending team and superior defensive tactics. That is why I would rate Maradona higher than Pele as the latter had far more space to operate in. To encourage greater creativity they need to reduce teams to 10. I don’t know why they did not do this years ago. If they did that people like Toti, Giggs and Cole would have even more influence on games.

  34. Gaby
    April 12th, 2005 at 15:37 | #34

    Lorant was effectively the libero for Hungary. A term I prefer to “sweeper”.

    Disagree about “total football”. This was the essence and the core of the effectiveness of Hungary’s tactics.

    Both Best and Pele were certainly two footed. There is a great Best anecdote in the Parkie bio referred to above. When George was about 12 his coach told him that his left foot was a bit weak. So Best practised all week with a tennis ball. Went out on the weekend wearing a boot on his left foot, a plimsoll on his right. His team won 21-0, George scored 12. Didn’t touch the ball with his right. Now that’s talent nurtured by hard work, the essence of genius.

    Homer, Maradona and the others could do it all at any time.

    You make a good point about the difficulty of the modern game, Michael. It has become a lot faster and more athletic, to the detriment of exhibitions of skill.

  35. Homer Paxton
    April 12th, 2005 at 16:22 | #35

    Excuse me but I was quite specific.
    Neither Pele nor Best Nor Maradone on his left could go out in only in out.
    Cruyff could.
    Neither Best, Pele nor Maradon on hisright foot could use the other foot to beat a player.
    Describing the Hungarian centre back as a sweeper is abit of hyperbole.
    The move like the deep centre forward was to make the opposing side not know what to do.
    They didn’t.
    Hungary only lost the 54 final because of the kicking at the hands of WG in first round where Puskas got his injury from.

  36. Gaby
    April 12th, 2005 at 16:36 | #36

    Homer, lets agree to disagree on the respective dribbling ability of our 4 so as not to test the patience of our gracious host.

    All four were wonderful dribblers. I haven’t noticed any limitations on their ability to beat opponents. In fact, quite the contrary.Bobby Charlton said of Best that he had more ways of dribbling a player than anyone else he had seen, including playing a one-two of their legs or corner flag! A comment that can apply to all. In any event,the best dribblers don’t just rely on their feet but have amazing body swerves as well.

    I don’t understand you on the libero. I think we may be at cross purposes.

    Puskas’s equalising goal in the ’54 final was not offside. By the way, Puskas says they lost the final because they forgot the game went for 90 minutes. My source is his own words in “Puskas on Puskas”. This is a terrrific book. He also thought that the fix was on not to let an Eastern bloc country win the World Cup. It was an English ref.

  37. Homer Paxton
    April 13th, 2005 at 15:17 | #37

    My definition of Libero comes from Der Kaiser.
    A person who is a creative midfielder who is too old to play there and whose defensive weaknesses are abscurred by his attacking genius.

    Hungary actually didn’t have one. The main point they had was to confuse the centreforward and make him come back from his attacking position.
    This usually happened.

    It always had me stumped when australia had produced two of the best liberos in the business ie Okon & Zelic why Eddie Thompson promptly moved both of them to the midfield.
    Why didn’t he make them inter-change so when one attacked from the back the other covered and vica versa.
    We could have had a latter day hungarian situation Les Murray woulf have loved with the opposition midfield not knowing whether they were arthur or martha!

  38. Gaby
    April 14th, 2005 at 10:35 | #38

    Ah, I think we differ on the role of a libero Homer.
    I suspect that the great Franz was being a little flippant. He really brought a new dimension to the role though. Wonderful player. I saw him in Adelaide when he played with the New York Cosmos. A magnet for the ball. Never hurried and seemed to just stroll through the game. A perfect positional sense.

    A libero is essentially a free defender who provides cover for the others in defence and midfielders. Primary role is to defend against players who break free from their markers. Hence, needs to have a keen positional sense, a la Beckanbauer.

    A libero’s role is also to disengage from the defence join the midfield and attack as an extra man. Scirea did this brilliantly.

    In this sense, Hungary had a libero. Hidegkuti’s role as a withdrawn centre forward was only one of their tactical innovations. Their football was certainly “total”.

    Eddie was never a master tactician. Nor is Farina. We could have done with a libero to provide extra coverin Uruguay, rather than leave Moore one-on-one with their centre forward in the first few minutes and give up our lead from the home leg.

  39. Gaby
    May 20th, 2005 at 14:52 | #39

    Sorry, couldn’t resist this given a previous comment of mine above in the thread about Hornby’s “Fever Pitch” and also that Arsenal is playing in the F.A. Cup Final tomorrow night.

    Just finished Philip Hensher’s review of “A Long Way Down”, Hornby’s new novel (Spectator, 7 May). He gave the book a good review and it was a very good review itself. I think Hensher is an excellent reviewer.

    During the course of the review he refers to “Fever Pitch” and says,

    “One of the best things about ‘Fever Pitch’, after all, was that on most levels it really was a book about Arsenal.”

    Enjoy the game Michael Burgess.

  40. James Farrell
    May 20th, 2005 at 17:25 | #40

    What’s your prediction on the result, Gaby?

  41. Gaby
    May 21st, 2005 at 23:15 | #41

    James, just about to sit down and watch it.

    I think Arsenal will win. 2-1.

    Watch out for Jose Antonio Reyes. I think he’ll play for Thierry Henry, An elegant young player full of potential and subtle skill.

    Another young Spainiard, Fabregas, will be worth watching for Arsenal, if he plays. Haven’t seen much of him but is widely praised.

  42. James Farrell
    May 22nd, 2005 at 20:40 | #42

    Right on the result. And on the margin, one might even say.

  43. Gaby
    May 23rd, 2005 at 12:37 | #43

    Hey James, watch the game? Very enjoyable.

    Sort of the correct result but only on penalties and only after Arsenal were comprehensively outplayed, after Arsenal started brightly enough.

    I thought Rooney for Man U was excellent. Terrific dribbling and some wonderful shooting, especially his volley in the first half and curling shot that hit the near post in the second.

  44. James Farrell
    May 23rd, 2005 at 13:23 | #44

    I meant to record it but forgot. Wonder whether it would have been different with Thierry. But I did see several under-sixes matches at the Concorde Soccer Club Gala Day.

  45. Gaby
    May 24th, 2005 at 10:48 | #45

    Not sure. I think Arsenal’s major problems were in midfield and defence, especially in failing to control Rooney and Ronaldo when coming from deep.

    Now that Gala Day would have been mucho fun!!!

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