Fever Pitch: Arsenal v Stoke City 14.9.68 by Nick Hornby

I know I know, Fever Pitch isn’t a short story. It’s an exceedingly long story. But it’s made up of short stories and so I think it qualifies. It’s like a collection of little truths about soccer and about love and about life and hate and pain, all rolled up into one easily portable format. A book.

The reason I’ve decided to include this book as part of my practice is that, as someone who came to both adulthood and soccer (watching it, at least, having finally gotten the right channel in 2006) and Arsenal was my team. Now this was years and years after the story of Fever Pitch ends, but I still can’t call myself a fan of the game without this important bit of literature behind it. However, since Arsenal and 2006, my home town of Seattle has been a soccer stronghold in the USA, and despite the notably less talented play of Major League Soccer, I can’t quite help but root more strangly for my home team than for a team in England–or Germany, as I’ve come to appriciate the German Bundesliga moer than the Premier League.

Anyway, Fever Pitch starts out in 1968. The world of soccer was so much different then. Since I started following Arsenal in 2006 they have gone from a big club that played the most beautiful ball in all the game to a inconsistant club to a f*cking disaster club.

But back in 68, when Mr. Hornby went and saw his first game, Arsenal had a reputation for being the ugliest and most boring football team in the world. What is it that makes the reputation of a club change? Is it a coach? Since 1996 Arsene Wenger has been at the helm of Arsenal, and while he undoubtedly put some quality teams on the pitch, the Invincibles (the only English team to ever go a season unbeatan in league play), and the Champions League side that lost narrowly to Barcelona just months before I got satellite TV for the 2006 World Cup. And Yes, Arsenal won a few domestic league titles in that span as well, but sadly, that is all far behind.

The difficulty in supporting a soccer team the way in which Mr. Hornby did, and I presume still does (or at least I hope), is that there’s very little pleasure derived from such loyalty. Even the best of teams win substantial trophies once every 3 years at best, and often that the euphoria of that trophy is often tainted by the failure in the FA Cup, Champions League (formerly The Cup Winners Cup), or even the Europa Leauge. It is, in conclusion, a very difficult thing to be a soccer fan with a home team. While I don’t have it in my blood like Mr. Hornby does, I too was enthralled by Arsenal–though in 06′ rather than 68′. Whatever the reason, I’m certain it doesn’t matter. What matters is supporting it, loving it, hating it, much like a best friend–one that you can’t wait to spend time with, but that you are often dissapointed with.

When a 17-Year-Old Checkout Clerk in Small Town Michigan Hits on Me, I Think about the Girl I Loved at 17 by Krys Malcolm Belc, Brevity, Issue 57, Jan 2018

This micro nonfiction piece is packed full of metaphor and meaning. It starts with a brief (very brief) history of the PATH train that ran from New York to New Jersey, opened in 1908. It was a technological, engineering marvel. People were amazed that you could go from one state to another so easily, so quickly. That’s a metaphor–perhaps. The word state.

In the not so distant past, the writer is in a Walgreens and is hit on by the clerk. The clerk is a young girl, the writer assumes 17. I don’t know how he could know this for certain unless he asks. But he assumes 17, and because 17 he thinks back to when he was 17 and loved a girl. But at the time, he was also a girl–anatomically speaking. But now he is in transition. Also, an engineering marvel, going from one state of being (in the eyes of society) to another. But that’s not all. Even though he looks young he will be 30 soon–30 is, dare I say, still young. I hope so anyway. But this clerk at Walgreens believes him to be a similar age as herself. But transitioning, the author informs us, is like going back in time, in terms of physical appearance.

The PATH train is used again to show how Cornelius Vanderbilt stood, holding a strap, rather than sitting, due to how many people wanted to take the PATH train. When his friends made fun of him, he was not ashamed. He would, he said, rather ride standing there than to take a private car. The author connects this with the fact that everyone is trying to be someone other than themselves. An insightful piece about the change of society, but also social constructs. (C)

Glossary of Chain Accidents by Temim Fruchter, Brevity, Issue 57, Jan 2018

This piece is about everything the author doesn’t know. It’s about more than that, obviously–and it doesn’t always make complete sense literally, though metaphorically and emotionally it certainly does.

Lines stand out that touch the human emotional cords that all writers try to touch, try to stroke. Those ones are the ones about unknowing, about being afraid of mirrors, about jumping off a 50-foot cliff and not knowing where you might land. presumably, this author landed in water.

This piece makes me think about those moments I’ve had, fewer now than once before, when I’d look into the mirror for too long. It’s like saying a single word over and over and over and over and over and eventually, the sound of the word loses meaning. If you stare in the mirror for too long, your reflection loses meaning as well. It reveals as a shell that isn’t you and you, as in I, begin to question it. This piece is like that–perhaps for the author, and that’s it made me think of. I like that feeling. It makes my skin crawl. My eyes dry up, my mouth fills with a metallic singe as though I’ve just dropped a penny in my mouth, or perhaps something stronger. This piece elicited some physical reactions in me. I like that. It’s real–or perhaps just passing. (B+)