Nick Hornby, Carla Sarkozy et Moi
When Nick Hornby’s memoir “Fever Pitch” appeared in 1992 a number of my soccer loving friends tried to persuade me to read it on the supposedly unimpeachable grounds that it was “a really good book.” I refused with the powerfully exigent justification that it was “about Arsenal.” L’Arsenal, or “Les Artilleurs” as they are sometimes known, is, as many of you are aware, a French football team that plays at Emirates Stadium in the English Premier League by special dispensation of Carla Sarkozy.
It was many years before, on a dreary November day, I happened to skim a few pages of “Fever Pitch” by mistake believing it to be another Hornby book, “About A Boy,” starring Hugh Grant. Mr. Hornby is a Gooner through and through, but credit where credit is due, he can sure as hell write. In order to express my gratitude for his fan’s notes, I sent Nick Hornby a handful of English soccer cards circa 1969 drawn from a collection of a hundred or so that I had purchased in a Newton, Mass. baseball card store many years ago for $20.00. The cards I delivered to the author of “Fever Pitch” featured (naturally) only players who wore the red of the Arse in the years before they crossed the English Channel. In response I received a friendly and appreciative note. The cards, Mr.H. said, had been one of the best things to come out the publication of his book and he would treasure them, especially the “Frank McLintock,” one of his old heroes. I quickly wrote back to say that while I very much appreciated his generous and gracious response there was really no need for gratitude as the cards in question had been poisoning my collection and I had been happy to get rid of them.
Some time later, during Q&A at a reading given in Brookline, MA by Nick Hornby while he was promoting his latest novel, an expat Brit in the crowd asked the author: “What do you think about Tottenham Hotspur?” To which Mr. Hornby disdainfully replied, “They used to be our rivals.”
What made the Farrelly Brothers, usually so delicate and subtle in their handling of controversial material, and the Hollywood producers of “Fever Pitch” starring Jimmy Fallon as John Cusack and Drew Barrymore as herself, decide that L’Arsenal should be transformed not into the appalling New York Yankees whom they so closely resemble, but into the delightful Boston Red Sox, so close in form and apprehension to the mighty Spurs? The Farrellys are from Rhode Island, they really should have known better than to saddle the Sox with the Arsenal legacy.
And so we beat on, boats against the current, at least until Halloween at Emirates Stadium when the Gooners will take on the Lilywhites: presently Tottenham occupy 3rd place in the Premier League and Arsenal 5th. Last Saturday Tottenham produced a magnificent 2-2 away draw with the always-impressive Bolton while Arsenal scraped out a lucky 6-2 victory over lowly Blackburn. Used to be rivals?!
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