Have you ever read a book that got everything right? A book that so fully reflects your own thoughts and feelings that you almost feel cheated, like the author stole the words from your subconscious and slapped them down on paper just to screw with you?
Please welcome to the show: Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, everyone!
See, I’m… well, there’s no other way to say this. I’m a fanatic. An obsessive. And like Mr. Hornby, my drug, the object of my lunacy, is a sports team comprised of individuals with whom I have no connection beyond temporary geographic proximity. His is Arsenal Football Club, mine is the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball team.
I am passionate about a lot of other things too – books, of course, and films and music – but none of these other, I don’t know, hobbies or interests (the words sound pitiful when made to stand against ‘obsession,’ I grant you) occupy my mind – and, for better or worse, affect my happiness and sense of fulfillment – quite the way that sports, and UK basketball in particular, does on a day-in and day-out basis. “But the season’s only four months long” I can hear you saying. HA! What about the month of practice leading up to the season, when I ravenously devour any word of how new teammates are mixing in with the veterans? What about the coaches’ impressions of so-and-so’s mid-range jumper or passing ability from the high post? What about the spring and summer months, when I watch high-school all-star games and track recruits’ every dribble and shot (there’s a kid named Andrew Wiggins who you sane people probably haven’t heard of but whose name I know I haven’t gone a day without mentioning since at least December)?
The point is, I’m a fetishist, and if I didn’t live in an area densely populated by people like me (to one degree or another, anyway), I might be made to feel awkward about it. As it is, I have friends who are just as irrationally devoted to the team as I am, and these people go no small distance toward minimizing my self-consciousness (I’m sure there’s a psychologists’ term for the inherent dangers of just such a social arrangement). Crucially though, I also have Fever Pitch, which argues – as I have had to do – for the value of sports fandom and against the lie that anyone in possession of an intellect must deride sports as brainless escapism. One of the many reasons we read, after all, is to feel that we are not alone emotionally or intellectually, and Mr. Hornby’s book has been a refuge in that way. It provided me with a framework for more fully understanding this part of my being.
I hope you have a book like this, a book that makes you feel sane when other forces conspire to loosen your bearings, a book that values what you value, a book that makes you laugh and nod and gives you comfort. If you think that books don’t have the power to confer validation upon their readers, then I’m afraid we’ve had very different experiences. Because although of course validation comes from a dozen other places in my life, books have their own way of reaching those hard to scratch places right in the middle of my soul (sometimes when I don’t even know that there’s a place in need of a scratch) in a way few other things can. They are intensely personal in this way, these books, and one that speaks to me with power and clarity might sound tinny and distant to you. This exclusivity is one of the reasons they’re so powerful: it sometimes feels as though they were written with us in mind.
So here’s to the books that get everything right, that clarify and define and question and explain the parts of our world – and ourselves – that might remain otherwise mysterious to us. Here’s to Fever Pitch.
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