Friday, December 21, 2012

Prayers for Arsenal

Like any self-respecting -- and these days, it has to be said, long-suffering -- Arsenal fan, I've read (and re-read) Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby's funny and beautiful homage to football and Arsenal Football Club. Indeed, I own a copy, which I happen to be looking at right now. It's one of my most prized possessions. How could it not be? The first line alone is priceless: "I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring with it." (He was 11 at the time.) Fever Pitch was published exactly 20 years ago (in 1992) and was this year elevated to the rarefied ranks of the Penguin Modern Classics. Hmph. Took them long enough. Mr. Hornby recently revisited his old hunting ground in Pray: Notes on the 2011/2012 Football Season, a much shorter work (50 pages, as opposed to 239). He's lost none of his touch: "Arsenal's catastrophe at Old Trafford [an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of our arch-rivals, Manchester United], however, the worst defeat of my lifetime -- the worst defeat in the lifetimes of any Arsenal fan under the age of 115 -- could only partly be explained by money..."

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