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Fever Pitch

For New Year's Eve we watched Fever Pitch. It was a very funny romantic comedy with special appeal to Red Sox fans. This movie was being made during the 2004 Red Sox season and required some extra rewrite at the last minute. The movie crew had an interesting challenge since they decided on the day of the last WS game while they were in Toronto that they had to go to St Louis for some filming on scene.

For a Red Sox fan this was a very special movie and we enjoyed it a lot. But for any serious sports fan the film would have some interest because of the humor about the obsessiveness of sports fans. (Obsessive? well, I've occasional checked baseball scores on my cell phone in the middle of a contra dance).

What really struck me is that the screen play by Nick Hornby is based upon his autobiographical book about being an English football fan! I see there was a 1997 movie with the English plot which I'd like to see for contrast and I just ordered it from the library.

I didn't know much about English football and now I know much more than I ever wanted to know because I just read the book. Nick has been an Arsenal (N. London) fan since he was a little kid and writes about the complete control of his life by this fandom. Each chapter is focussed on a particular game and goes through a span of many years (1969-1992) - some with an awful team and some with a championship team. The level of suffering, angst, and craziness among these folks seems to be much greater than that of diehard US baseball fans.

In the 70s and 80s there was a tremendous amount of rowdiness among the fans with little crowd control, very crowded old crumbling stadiums; lots of nasty homophobic, racist, and anti-semitic jeers; and there were usually serious fights inside and outside the stadium. It makes Yankee/RedSox rivalry seem like a tea party and I don't mean the Boston Tea Party. There were several matches with many deaths. English fans were the major cause of 38 deaths in the May 29, 1985 European Cup Final between Liverpool v. Juventus in Belgium. And then there were 95 deaths on April 4, 1989 at Hillsborough in South Yorkshire! Sorry, Victoria Snelgrove's family, but those Red Sox fans were tame and the Boston police a lot more competent in that fateful 2004 incident compared to these fans and the police.

Now I gather they have new stadiums, high ticket prices, and most of the rowdy fans can't afford to come so it is a much tamer sport.

He has lots of commentary about his own personal dilemmas, the sociology of sports fans, working class people, adults behaving like children, and the politics of team ownership and stadium building. The book was a bit too long and repetitive, but I did enjoy it.