Fortunately, "pitch" has several different meanings

While I was fast-forwarding the TiVo through the commercial breaks during Fox’s Sunday night lineup, I noticed a bunch of commercials for the forthcoming film “Fever Pitch.” This prompted me to, tonight, watch the original version of “Fever Pitch,” starring Colin Firth, which I had recorded off the Independent Film Channel a couple of months ago. First of all, it’s nothing like the DVD cover that’s pictured on its IMDB page — yikes.

I haven’t read the book (although I assume Levi has), but since the screenplay for the original movie was also written by Nick Hornby, I assume it stays fairly true to the book. Therefore, I can already tell that the new “Fever Pitch” is much more loosely based on the book, even aside from the fact that it involves a fan of the Boston Red Sox and not a fan of the Arsenal Football Club. They’ve changed the character names, which can’t be a good sign. Also, we know they filmed scenes with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore at Busch Stadium in St. Louis during Game 4 of the World Series last year; in the original “Fever Pitch,” Arsenal’s final match was on the road, but Colin Firth’s character didn’t go to Liverpool to see it, he was watching on TV in his apartment near Arsenal’s home stadium. (Maybe the editors have changed history by digitally transforming Busch Stadium into Fenway Park!)

I’m pretty sure I’ll end up seeing the new “Fever Pitch,” if only so I can make another post here about differences between the two films.

On a non-baseball-related note: in “Fever Pitch,” it’s mentioned that Arsenal had to beat Liverpool by the specific score of 2-0 to win the championship. Anyone know enough about British football to explain that to me? (Or is it explained in the book, Levi?) I assume there’s some kind of point system involved, but is the point system bizarre enough that they would have lost if they had won 3-0?

Original comments…

Jim: I should have made mention in the one glimmer of hope visible in the IMDB cast list for the new “Fever Pitch”: Johnny Damon as himself.

Luke, hanger-on: It’s been awhile since I read “Fever Pitch” and I don’t know as much about European soccer as I should, but a team competes for something like 37 championships and cups in a given year. I don’t remember what was at stake between Arsenal and Liverpool, but it was probably one of the “home and away” championships, in which one game is hosted by each team and the goals are totaled. In this case, Liverpool must have won the first game by one goal. (I don’t know what happens in the event of a tie.) Or it could just be the regular-season “derby,” like Sox vs. Cubs, intraseason rivalries that mean a lot more to soccer fans than they would to baseball fans. (Then again, European fans take everything much more seriously than American fans, God bless them.)

And, no, Arsenal wouldn’t have lost if they had won 3-0, unless they had conspired with bookies and had bet against themselves to cover the spread.

(Soccer gambling, by the way, is far out, and I wish I had tried it when I was there. For each game there are dozens of possible wagers, much in the same way there are for our Super Bowl — who will win the coin flip, who will have more third-down running plays, etc. — but it’s state-sanctioned and there are betting parlors on every other block.)

Levi: I can’t even think about the movie without getting annoyed at the way that Bud Selig sold out the World Series to a damn movie by letting the film crew on the field right after Game Four. It’s the crowning moment of a couple of thousand games over a six month season, the most important moment in the entire business of baseball, and Bud decided that it was okay to more or less sell it for the sake of a few dollars to a movie that no one will remember in a year.

That man somehow manages to regularly be cheaper and nastier than his suits look. And that’s an achievement.

Jason: I’d say less than a year – 2, 3 months tops.

Becky: This question hits me where I live.

In English football, the main thing to win is “the league” now known as the Premiership. The league involves each team playing each other once home, once away, over the course of the season. Three points for a win, one for a draw (tie). The winner is the team with the most points at the end. THERE ARE NO PLAYOFFS. If there is a tie for total number of points, they go to “goal difference” which is like net goals: goals scored minus goals conceded. So Arsenal had to win by at least two goals- they needed the three points to take them up to a tie on total points and they needed to score two more goals than their opponents to win on goal difference. 3-0 or 3-1 would have done the trick too. It was just a coincidence that the 2 teams still in contention played each other on the last day of the season, adding to the excitement. All clear now?

Levi: Man, Becky. That’s more complex than I thought. Turn Bud Selig loose on that and you’d have ten rounds of playoffs and everyone would have a chance!

Luke, hanger-on: Thanks for the clarification, Becky.

Speaking of soccer’s elegant complexity, this seems as good a spot as any to reiterate my call for relegation in Major League Baseball.

I don’t pretend it could ever happen — fans would love it but owners and players would get assed out, and it would wreck the current system of farm clubs and minor/major affilitations — but neither do I pretend that it wouldn’t be really, really cool if at the end of each season the four worst teams were sent down to AAA and the four best minor league teams were called up. Say good-bye to perennial losers like the Expos^^^^^Nationals, Royals and the Devil Rays — who exist for no other reason then … wait, why do they exist? — and say hello to the Bisons, Clippers and Rivercats!

Jim: Not totally without precedent, since back in the olden days (before 1969), it was common to hear comments like “the Senators are mired in the second division again,” meaning they were down near the bottom of the American League standings. Actually, you occasionally still hear it today, but since the leagues are in their geographical divisions, talk of a “second division” in MLB just confuses everyone.

thatbob: Also in the American version, the Fever Pitch is something that is thrown, while in the British version the Fever Pitch is the surface you play upon. Right?

Becky: Yup, play on the pitch on the UK.

And yeah, relegation and promotion add to the excitement (and potential devastation) of any season.

Terry: Sorry to interrupt. Just want to make 2 points:

1) Although Becky is completely right concerning points and goal difference, Arsenal actually won the league title in 1989 on scoring more goals than Liverpool. If clubs finish tied for points and goal difference, then goals scored become the tiebreaker. Arsenal finished tied with Liverpool on 76 points and goal difference of +37, but had scored 73 goals while Liverpool only managed 65.

2) The movie Fever Pitch (with Colin Firth) is only based loosely on the book. The book is autobiographical series of essays relating Nick Hornby’s life from 1968 to 1992. The movie is, however, a fictional story, but contains with flashbacks that taken from the book.

Terry: The last sentence should have read: “The movie is a fictional story, but contains flashbacks taken from the book.”