Sunday, February 6, 2022

Nick Hornby and the Big Blue

Back in the early 1990's, Nick Hornby wrote Fever Pitch, the best book ever about being a sports fan.  The book (rightfully) made him famous and changed the way lots of us think about sports.  Since then, he's done a lot more writing, but he doesn't write that much about soccer.  I don't blame him -- he probably thinks that he pretty much wrote everything he had to say about soccer in Fever Pitch, and no one likes to be typecast.

Anyway, for some reason he wrote a little mini-book on the 2011-12 soccer season called Pray, and I just found it on Kindle.  It's full of all sorts of little gems, and shows what we missed by his decision not to become the Roger Angell of soccer.  Here's a quote that I thought was particularly brilliant, about the reaction of Chelsea fans to their team's grinding out a 2-2 tie against Barcelona that put them in the Champions' League Final:

The Manchester United fans who'd just watched their team flake away a two-goal lead would have envied the Chelsea fans that night.  I know I did.  In the end, that's all you want:  to know that you support a team clearly straining every collective sinew to overcome its own limitations and get the result it needs.

This is also an excellent summary of why I was so happy with UK's 66-55 win at Tuscaloosa last night.  There are no pretty wins for UK in Tuscaloosa, and I'm really pleased that the Cats accepted that fact and did what was needed to get an 11-point win.  It was UK's first win at Coleman Coliseum since February 11, 2017.

That gym is not a fun place for UK fans.  Since 1977, UK has only scored 80 points at Coleman Coliseum once.  That was on January 26, 1991, when Pitino had UK playing at a breakneck pace, and they lost that game 88-83.  Calipari is now 4-4 in Tuscaloosa, which is pretty consistent with our history.  UK's all-time record against Alabama in Coleman Coliseum is 21-19.

Let's go back to Nick Hornby.  Here's another useful quote from Pray, where he's complaining about high-scoring soccer matches:

{I}f you have always regretted that football is not more like basketball, then I suspect that football is not the game for you.

He's right about that, too.

1 comment:

  1. Late Saturday night, after I was finished watching the Olympics for the night, I flipped over to SEC Network to learn what the score was. I was really sleepy. When I got there, the UK-Alabama score was on the thing at the bottom of the screen. But it disappeared so quickly that I saw only "Kentucky 66" and went to bed disappointed that they lost.