Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Why so many folks are in a Fever Pitch about the World Cup

I am as far from being a sports fan as Bobby Flay is from being a vegan,however I do have some some insight into what makes people so diehard invested in that arena and that is partly due to Nick Hornby.

In 1992, Hornby published a memoir called Fever Pitch, which chronicles his life as a fan of the British soccer team Arsenal(which has a success rate similar to the New York Mets from what little I know). His interest started as a kid first as a way to keep a reluctant bond with his divorced father but it was not before long that he didn't need that as an excuse to watch the games.

The book has been made into a film twice, with the  1997 British version being the preferred one for my tastes and granted, I haven't seen the American one but for a Jane Austen gal like me, Jimmy Fallon can in no way replace Colin Firth.

 Hornby wrote the screenplay for the first adaptation and turned the basic story into a romantic comedy, where affable schoolteacher Paul Ashworth winds up in a relationship with new colleague Sarah(Ruth Gemmell). She, of course, finds his interest in soccer to be sophomoric at best yet can not help falling for him all the same:

Sarah does try to accommodate Paul's sports love needs but does get exasperated as Arsenal appears to constantly be number one on his priority list. Even the news that Sarah is pregnant seems to only moderately shake up  Paul's world.

While he's happy to get married and start a family, his laid back approach to preparing for that huge life change gets on her nerves. She really wants him to be as passionate about their relationship and long term goals as he is about Arsenal making it into the championships(the story takes place in 1988-89, which was a "miracle" season for the team) and it's a classic case of miscommunication between the two of them:

This may sound like the typical boy vs girl type of plot but as time goes on, you get the sense that Paul's devotion to Arsenal is not all about clinging to a childhood level of emotional comfort.

Paul's love for his underdog team is a testament of faith, much like someone's devotion to a church or political stance or even a comic book franchise. It can be overindulged in at times and be a substitute for what's lacking in your life but it can also be a touchstone that guides you towards your better nature and keeps your hopes alive in the midst of unexpected chaos. Paul and Sarah both seem to realize this separately and by the time the big game is on, a whole community of other people in their lives are also connected by this one possible shining moment.

Hornby was smart to make his personal story over in a fictional fashion and while I don't know how successful the US version was in that regard, a true bonus to the first film is having Colin Firth. He brings not only his own special brand of charisma to the role but a nice down to earth, regular guy energy to the part that makes it stand out completely from his Mr. Darcy persona. Speaking of Darcy, Mark Strong is also in this movie as Steve, Paul's soccer buddy. For Jane Austen admirers, this is a special treat to have both Mr. Knightley and Darcy together onscreen:

So, with all of the World Cup hoopla going on as we speak, I watched the movie again(yes, it's part of my DVD library as the book is in my personal book collection) and it still holds up nicely.

It is available at Netflix in DVD format(buying it may be tricky but not impossible) and if you are wondering what all of the fuss is about with the World Cup these days, the 1997 movie does explain it all for you. Reading the book is also a viable option and yes, doing both is highly recommended.

 "I am so sick of hearing about soccer,why should I watch a damn movie about it?!" is a reasonable question to ask but if it is on your mind that much, this is a perfectly fine pop culture way to purge that urge.

One time many years ago, I left my house in frustration over the World Series taking over the TV time, a big annoyance when there's only one television available, and wound up at the movies seeing, you guessed it, a baseball film. Believe it or not, the movie(which if I recall correctly was Major League) did actually entertain me and made going back to a household of cheering men more bearable. The hair of the dog and all of that.

Plus, Colin Firth is that spoonful of sugar that makes the sports medicine go down rather smoothly here. Even if you're not into Jane Austen or sports, Fever Pitch does offer a rousing good time that entertains as well as enlightens you about a whole side pocket of fandom that unites more than it divides,which is what such devotion is truly about:

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