I've never been much of a SciFi reader, though I do love a good time-travel story, mostly because I am completely in love with planet Earth and have no desire to venture out into the universe. I am a xenophobic Earthling, and much prefer reading about variations on my world than fantastic imaginings of other worlds. Plus, I have a hard time getting into new books (who's who, etc.), so having to deal with alternative physics, moons, and bodily functions overwhelms me
That said, I found myself in a completely alien world over this past week while I was reading Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch
, which is a psychoanalytic exploration of his lifelong obsession with football (aka in the U.S. as soccer) and the London team Arsenal. I read it pretty faithfully, though after awhile I admit that it was hard to read every word related to games that occurred sometime between 1968 and 1992, involving players that I had never heard of before and probably never will again. I also learned a fair amount of new terminology related to U.K. soccer stadiums, logistics, scheduling, and especially fandom.
Through it all, I did feel as if I was reading a sci-fi book. Fever Pitch is inhabited by creatures that spoke, acted, and lived in a way very foreign to me, and yet, like all good books, sci-fi or otherwise, the author was able to find a way that I could relate to it. I don't know anyone obsessed with UK football--I don't even know anyone personally who has ever even watched a UK football game--and yet I do know and live with a sports fanatic, my 15-year old daughter. She lives and breathes American baseball just as Nick Hornby lives and breathes UK football, and reading this book gave me insight into her world and obsession and the behavior it provokes.
Not only that, Hornby is a good writer, and just when I felt like I was wasting my time and should abandon Fever Pitch for something more relevant to my life, say another Heyer Regency Romance, he would throw in a paragraph that eloquently tied his ramblings together and made me sigh and realize that Fever Pitch was really worth reading.
Here are a few of those paragraphs:
"...I am not saying that the anally retentive woman does not exist, but she is vastly outnumbered by her masculine equivalent; and while there are women with obsessions, they are usually, I think, obsessive about people, or the focus for their obsessions changes frequently."
I think this is, for the most part, true. Women obsess about people more than things.
"...though I still go to every home game, and feel the same tensions and elations and glooms that I have always felt, I now understand them to have an entirely separate identity whose success and failure has no relationship with my own. That night, I stopped by an Arsenal lunatic and relearnt how to be a fan, still cranky, and still dangerously obsessive, but only a fan nonetheless."
I liked the distinction between a sports lunatic and a fan. One is crazy, the other just acts like it, but acting and being are two different things.
"This Wembley win belonged to me every bit as much as it belonged to...and I worked every bit as hard for it as they did. The only difference between me and them [the players] 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."
I have never before read anything that so articulately expresses the feeling of belonging that true fans of a club or sport have towards it--being a fan is an active role, not merely watching, but participating and playing a role.
"So football is regarded as a given disability that has to be worked around. If I were wheelchair-bound, nobody close to me would organize anything in a topfloor flat, so why would they plan anything for a winter Saturday afternoon?"
Interesting idea, but I don't buy it!
With regards to winning a championship, he says...
"I 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."
I loved this thought--what else does a fan covet as he/she grows up and matures. Those poor Cubs fans--I can finally understand their collective psyche.
One of the pleasures of reading is finding connections to my own life in those of characters, real or imaginary, and learning more about this world by exploring other worlds. Fever Pitch was a pleasurable book--at times I felt as if I was reading a Ray Bradbury novel or perhaps a Margaret Mead "Coming of Age..." type of book--but the natives, though often scary, were fascinating.
The movie version, with Colin Firth, arrived from NetFlix yesterday. Should I watch American Idol with the kids tonight, or Fever Pitch?