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Literature / Fever Pitch

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"All those things you feel for that team? I feel them too — for you."
Fever Pitch, 2005 adaptation

Fever Pitch (published in 1992) is author Nick Hornby's (About a Boy, High Fidelity) first book and is an autobiographical look at being a sports fan and all that entails in the context of growing up supporting Arsenal FC in England.

Each chapter covers a single match attended between the late 60s and the early 90s, and relates to Hornby's own childhood and life experiences. As much a memoir as a sports book, it was extremely well received (at a time when mainstream interest in football was on the rise in Britain following the 1990 World Cup) and won several awards, in addition to spawning a whole sub-genre of football fan memoirs (none of which quite matched this).

It has been since adapted into two movies, both romantic comedies, with one made in Britain and released in 1997 which was written by Hornby himself starring Colin Firth and a second adaptation starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore which transplanted the story to Boston and replaced football (soccer) with baseball and Arsenal with the Boston Red Sox.

In both stories, Firth & Fallon (Paul and Ben, respectively) play obsessed fans of their respective squads and fall in love with Ruth Gemmell & Barrymore (Sarah and Lindsey) and must learn how to strike a balance between their fandom and maintaining a relationship.


  • Armor-Piercing Question: After Ben continues to be in denial over being at fault for Lindsey breaking up with him, one of his students lays it out that he may be prioritizing the wrong things in his life.
    I'll just leave with you with this; you love the Red Sox, but have they ever loved you back?
  • Artistic License Sports: Thoroughly averted of course, this a book by an obsessive fan about his favourite team.
    • The 2005 film plays this straight with its climactic scene: No one would've been scalping tickets in the eighth inning (and virtually every stadium closes off attendance after the first several innings), Lindsey somehow survives a feet-first 30 foot fall from Fenway's "Triangle" wall, is shown on TV running on the field (TV broadcasts are mandated not to show fans running on the field, in order to discourage that type of behavior), and is allowed to carry a brief conversation with Ben before being taken away by security (apparently, Talking Is a Free Action at Fenway Park, and to top it off she apparently isn't banned from future games either).
    • A big plot point is pivoted on Ben missing an 8-run comeback at Fenway against the Yankees; no such game occurred that seasonnote 
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: How Hornby got started following football. After his parents' divorce, his father started taking him to football to spend time together.
  • Babies Ever After: The American film ends on this in narration.
    Al Waterman: You know that little player to be named later? Ben says if it's a boy, they'll name him Ted Williams Wrightman. If it's a girl, Carla Yastrzemski Wrightman. Let's all pray for a boy.
  • But We Used a Condom!: Sarah's pregnancy in the British version is very much a result of this.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Ben still can't shake his priorities even while Lindsey is talking about her hurt feelings.
    Lindsey: You don't see us tangled up in the sheets with the Eiffel Tower in the background. You see the Mariners are coming in, and Pedro's pitching Friday.
    Ben: [beat] Actually, on Saturday. Schilling's Friday.
  • Coming of Age Story: The whole book is one.
  • Down to the Last Play: Actually occurred in real-life as Michael Thomas scored for Arsenal in a 2-0 win that won them the league.
    • Same goes for the American version. The Boston Red Sox were down by three games in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series against their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, and trailed 4-3 in the ninth inning of Game 4. A ninth-inning stolen base by Dave Roberts and a subsequent single by Bill Mueller allowed the Sox to tie the game, and in the 12th inning, a two-run walk-off homer by David "Big Papi" Ortiz gave the Sox the win they needed to stay alive in the series. The Red Sox then won the next two games. In Game 7, the Sox pulled out all the stops and hammered the Yankees 10-3, moving on to the World Series. The Sox then swept the St. Louis Cardinals and won their first World Series in 86 years.
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out: Hornby was a fan through some of Arsenal's leanest years in terms of trophies won, including two eight-year trophy droughts either side of the FA Cup win of 1979.
    • The American version, naturally.
  • Foreign Remake: The 2005 film.
  • Heel Realization: After the Red Sox drop to a three-games-to-none deficit in the ALCS, Ben and his buddies are despondent and head to a bar, where they spot several Red Sox players eating dinner as if the world wasn't ending. While his friends chide the Sox for not moping around, Ben looks at it that if they as fans are taking the loss worse than the players who are actually participating in it, maybe it says more about their view on life than theirs, and leaves to go win Lindsey back.
  • Kavorka Man: Paul in the British version. He may be played by Colin Firth, but he's still a socially-awkward Manchild to the point where it's hard to see what Sarah sees in him; it's implied that she only has sex with him out of sympathy (she invites him into her place for "coffee" after what appears to have been a somewhat uninspiring date), the result being a Surprise Pregnancy.
  • Love Overrides the Law: In the American version, Drew Barrymore's character runs across Fenway Park in the midst of the 2004 ALCS' Game 4 to prevent Jimmy Fallon's character Ben from signing away lifelong season tickets to his team. Although she is carted off at the end, field security allow a few moments for them.
  • Opposites Attract: Ben (a schoolteacher who lives and breathes Red Sox baseball) and Lindsey (a rising businesswoman who doesn't know anything about sports). Although she often struggles to be as important to him as the Sox are, she also admires his "lyricism" for it.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Pitch" referring to soccer fields in the book and thrown baseballs in the US movie.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The American remake was originally written to end on a bittersweet, "There's always next year" note. But then the Red Sox actually won the championship after pulling off the greatest Miracle Rally in baseball history so naturally the plot was quickly rewritten to accommodate it. The final scene was actually filmed on the field with the real Red Sox celebrating in the background and you can actually see stars Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore in some of the news footage of the on-field celebration. Naturally applies to the book as well.
  • Skewed Priorities: What throws a wrench into the relationships in both movies, particularly the American film. A breaking point for Lindsey comes when Ben turns down accompanying her to Paris because of an important homestand series.
    Ben: The team needs me!
    Lindsey: The team needs you?...Here's a tip, Ben: when your girlfriend says 'Let's go to Paris for the weekend', you go.
    • When interviewed by ESPN at spring training, Ben lists his life priorities, in order: "The Red Sox, sex, and breathing."
  • Sports Widow: The premise of the 2005 film, while aspects of it show up in the 1997 film; in the latter, Sarah already knows about Paul's Arsenal fantacism, while in the 2005 film, Lindsey severely underestimates before the season how much Ben is obsessed with the Red Sox and is constantly fighting for his attention during it.
  • Tempting Fate: In an attempt to be a better boyfriend, Ben decides to miss a Yankees-Sox game to go with Lindsey to a birthday party. They have a great night, only for Ben to learn after the fact that the Sox pulled a Miracle Rally in the ninth and he missed it, which he blames Lindsey for and fractures their relationship.
  • A Touch of Class, Ethnicity and Religion: Explores Britain's class divide and how football can both overcome it and succumb to it.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Both films, especially the British one.