Sunday, September 01, 2013

Starting XI: Lines from Fever Pitch that Capture a Futbol Fan's Existence

Though I think Nick Hornsby's book is more squarely focused on the comic tragedy of being a club supporter, I did think that these 11 lines were universal to all football fans. So I'll write them here as a way to kick start the month of September and include a brief explanation for each.

The game is omnipresent:
I. I have measured out my life in...fixtures, and any event of any significance has a footballing shadow. (p. 81)

It approaches an obsession:
II. We invest hours each day, months each year, years each lifetime in something over which we have no control; is it any wonder then, that we are reduced to creating ingenious but bizzarre liturgies [for good luck] designed to give us the illusion that we are powerful after all, just as every other primitive community has done when faced with a deep and apparently impenetrable mystery? (p. 111)

Defeats are a private pain...:

III. We are secretly convinced that none of the other fans understands quite why we have been harder hit than anyone else--we are forced to mourn in public, surrounded by people whose hurt is expressed in forms different from our own. (p. 109)

...that stem from a common deprivation:

IV. When our teams lose...we think of the colleagues and classmates we have to face on Monday morning, and of the delirium that has been denied us (p. 66)

But it remains inescapable:
V. It would be absurd to pretend that my allegiance was sorely tested: I never once thought of abandoning the team simply because they were incapable of beating anyone at all...After a while, when winning a game appeared to be an option that had somehow become impossible, we began to replace the satisfaction of winning: goals, draws, a brave performance in the face of overwhelmingly hostile fortune...these all became causes for quiet, if occasionally self-mocking celebration. (p. 150)

Largely because we simply love it for the sake of loving it
VI. It simply doesn't matter to me how bad things get, that results have nothing to do with anything. As I have implied before, I would like to be one of those people who treat their local team like their local restaurant and thus withdraw their patronage if they are being served up noxious rubbish. But unfortunately...there are many fans like me. For us, the consumption is all; the quality of the product is immaterial. (150)

And we know we are part of a broader community...

VII. It is true that most football fans do not have an Oxbridge degree; but then most football fans do not have a criminal record, or carry knives, or urinate in pockets, or get up to any of the things they are supposed to do. (p. 96)

A community that is both conscious and unconscious
VIII. I love...the fact that old girlfriends and other people you have lost touch with and will probably never see again are sitting in front of their TV set and thinking, momentarily but all at the same time [about you], and are happy or sad for [you]. Nobody else gets that, only us. (p. 195)

We live in our own world
IX. [Football] is not an escape, or a form of entertainment, but a different version of the world. (p. 164)

Where the potential of triumph is sheer bliss

X. I can recall nothing else that I have coveted for two decades (what else is there that can reasonably be coveted for that long?), nor can I recall anything else that I have desired as both man and boy. So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium (p. 231)

And deeply personal
XI. The joy we feel on [championship winning] 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 realize this above all things. The players are merely our representatives, chosen by the manager rather than elected by us, but our representatives nonetheless....I am a part of this club, just as the club is a part of me; and I say this fully aware that the club exploits me, disregards my views, and treats me shoddily on occasions, so my feeling of organic connection is not built on a muddleheaded and sentimental understanding of how professional football works....This [championship belongs] to me [the fan] every bit as much as it [belongs to the players], and I worked every bit as hard as they did. The only difference between me and them is that I have put in more hours, more years, more decades than them, and so had a better understanding of the afternoon, a sweeter appreciation of why the sun still shines when I remember it. (p. 187)

Or to put all of that in one simple line:
Life isn't, and it never has been, a 2-0 home victory against the League leaders after a fish-and-chip lunch. (p. 52)

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