Why the hell do we love football?

  • August 26, 2010 12:05
  • Katy Scholes

In his regular Football365 column, John Nicholson discusses his new book We Ate All the Pies.

"Football is a major part of millions of people's lives, a part that they simply cannot live without, as compulsive as any addictive narcotic. We buy the shirts, the season tickets, the magazines, the TV subscriptions and of course, the pies. We drink in pubs and watch it on big screens, we meet up and talk about it - talk about it endlessly. We visit websites to find out news, views and to abuse those with whom we disagree on message boards. We take it all for granted as a normal part of our daily lives. But how did we get here?

In We Ate All The Pies I go back through the history of my football life to better understand how football gets under your skin from an early age, buries itself deep and never leaves you; how it helps to create a lifestyle and an attitude for you, how it expands your horizons and helps shape and express the person you are."

You can read the whole column here.


Biteback, books with teeth – but not real ones – honest!

  • August 25, 2010 10:28
  • Katy Scholes

Biteback Publishing has encountered something of a quandry. We’re soon to begin distributing our books in the US but there’s a problem. Apparently Biteback in the US is synonymous with a notoriously militant animal rights organization, so our friendly distributors across the pond have suggested we use a new customer facing name there.

I decided to do a little snooping to see whether Bite Back US were really all that militant or if we could get away with keeping the name. I found the Bite Back website and was greeted on the front page by a picture of three hooded youths in balaclavas hugging basset hounds and a ferret looking nothing short of p*ssed off.

Hello. Pleased to meet you. Dialogue, call us Dialogue (in the States that is).


Brought to Book: John Nicholson

  • August 24, 2010 10:36
  • Katy Scholes

Gonzo sports journalist and author of We Ate All the Pies, John Nicholson gets Brought to Book.

What is your favourite book?

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. I've loved this since I was 15 and re-read it every year. It's a stunning evocation of a truly insane period in American counter-culture which revolved around the likes of Kerouac, The Grateful Dead, Ken Kesey and many, many more unhinged originals. As a lover of both beat poetry and psychedelic rock music from an early age, this book always plugged right into my cultural DNA. It reads like one big trip but is broadly a true account of the Merry Pranksters - a drugged-up, freaked-out bunch of lunatics who travelled around California and beyond in the mid 60s in a psychdelic school bus with 'Furthur' on the destination plate - mispelt on purpose to better express goping 'beyond'. Wolfe's style is as colourful as the acid visions and the real-life characters such as Neal Cassidy, larger than life. I find it totally life affirming and also now quaintly nostalgic.

As a child, what was your favourite book?

Like all my generation I was brought up on Enid Bylton, which I always enjoyed but the first book I really fell properly in love with was Alice In Wonderland. Wonderland was a place I definitely wanted to go to and preferably live in with a hookah smoking caterpillar. Oddly though, as much as I loved it, I never took to Alice - are you even meant to? She was the boring one to me. The Mad Hatter was more my kinda dude.<!--more-->

What book would you take on holiday this year?

If I was lucky enough to get time off I'd take The Ivory Coast by Charles Fleming. It's a rollicking, seedy tale of a black musician in Las Vegas in the 1950s which Dawn, my partner, highly recommends as a fellow lover of that guady desert paradise. Vegas is one of my favourite places for all manner of reasons and the history of it fascinates me, so I'd like to read that pool-side at the Bellagio while consuming a Marguerita the size of my head. If I had someone to carry my bags I'd also take a huge volume called The Outlaw Book Of American Poetry to dip into whenever I needed a hit of some free-form verse about bodily functions and sex. Which is quite often.

Do you have a favourite political book/biography?

My favourite broadly political book is P. J .O'Rourke's Give War A Chance along with his brilliant Parliament of Whores. Whether you agree with P.J. or not there's a fierce wit and intelligence behind all his writing which either articulates your own thoughts more succinctly or shows you a whole new angle. I don't read a lot of political biography but one I really enjoyed is Peter Slowe's book about Labour Big Beast Manny Shinwell who was about as far away from the careerist politician we have today as is possible to imagine.

Which book published in the last ten years do you think is the most significant?

The Da Vinci Code because it illustrated just how mindlessly gullible people can be and for showing that being a rubbish writer is no impediment to commerical success. Which is just as well for me, really.

Which literary character would you most like to be?

Raoul Duke in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Never been on an ether binge, but have always fancied it, especially out in the Mojave Desert. If not him then certainly Sterne's Tristam Shandy, who I'm guessing, had he worked for Rolling Stone in the early 70s would have lived like The Good Doctor.

What is your favourite sporting book?

Big Mal; The High Life And Hard Times Of Malcom Allison Football Legend by David Tossell. Can you imagine a manager wearing a Fedora and smoking a cigar in the dug out today? We have big money in football today but too many small men. You can smell the Brut and the champagne on every page of this biography.

We Ate All the Pies is available to buy from the Biteback website, priced £9.99. John Nicholson is a regular contributor to www.football365.com


Biteback turns to sport in substitute shocker!

  • August 23, 2010 12:53
  • Katy Scholes

Another football season has begun and to celebrate Biteback Sport are thrilled to publish two fantastic new books. An exploration of the culture of the game, We Ate All The Pies and a classic account of one fan’s obsession with his club, An Irrational Hatred of Luton, these books are every football fan’s must-reads this season!

We Ate All the Pies

“Two words guaranteed to make any piece of writing worth reading: John and Nicholson... even when you don’t agree with him you sort of wish you did. In fact, you wonder if you even agree with yourself anymore.” Sid Lowe, The Guardian

Football is weird. Damn weird. Why do we love it so intensely? Why are millions of us utterly obsessed by it? Why does it occupy so many people’s minds so much of the time? It is a kind of drug or some sort of hypnosis. It’s not just a ball going into a net. Hell no. Have you watched football? A lot of it is so boring it can make your eyes melt.

In We Ate All the Pies, John Nicholson, gonzo sports writer and star columnist for football365.com, asks all these questions and more in order to discover exactly why football is so popular.

From food to booze, to TV, to merchandise and into the psychology of the national identity, John digs deep to find answers and in doing so creates a unique, funny, warm and thought-provoking excursion into our football lives, told in his trademark off-beat, passionate and irreverent style.

An Irrational Hatred of Luton

“Somewhere in a parallel universe there is another Robert Banks, who is a season ticket at Manchester United and is a highly successful novel writer and adored by everyone of the world, regardless of football, religious or racial denomination. But is he happy? You bet the hell he is.”

But Robert Banks is not that man. Since childhood, he has been obsessed with West Ham United Football Club. A team of persistent and historical underachievers. After all, the only thing West Ham ever brought home was the 1966 World Cup, but that doesn’t count, apparently.

Originally published in 1995, An Irrational Hatred of Luton fast became a cult classic amongst Hammers and football fans in general. Spanning twenty years of matches home and away, it contains some of the most sublime writing on football and the irrational nature of fandom ever committed to paper.

Laugh out loud funny, and almost devastatingly poignant, An Irrational Hatred of Luton is an odyssey through the world of a committed football supporter. A real-life Fever Pitch, and with a Hornby-esque deftness of tone, Banks’ book shows how intricately in the life of a true fan, football interconnects with the everyday.

Banks’ friendships, relationships, work, emotions of joy and despair all take place against a backdrop of claret and blue. Then Saturday comes and he watches his team get thumped again. This is a compelling and hilarious journey into the nature of obsession.

We Ate All the Pies and An Irrational Hatred of Luton are available to buy from the Biteback website, both £9.99.


Thoughts on You Alone May Live by author Mary K. Blewitt

  • August 20, 2010 13:14
  • Katy Scholes

"None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realise it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever." Eugene O'Neill (Long Day's Journey into Night)

While researching and writing my book, You Alone May Live, the story of my experiences of the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath, I spoke to those who have similar stories to tell, whose resilience has pushed them to challenge their trauma and focus on the future. Together, we’ve witnessed the wounds of trauma in its various forms. <!--more-->

I began to recognise how influential this long term trauma is on the remaking of an individual’s reality. A person’s fear, combined with apprehension, vigilance and lack of trust, can make life’s hassles and stresses overwhelming. They can become quick to blame and direct anger towards one of their loved ones. Their fear is most certainly real, but they cannot confront the cause of it. The crimes committed against them and their families are still raw and recur often in their dreams: images of the killers waving machetes, gang-raping and driving their weapons into the hearts of their loved ones are constantly replayed. This is made worse when the victims are forced to coexist daily with the perpetrators. An everyday confrontation with the killers of one’s family results in a constant hopelessness, and demoralises one’s will to live. Reliving the memories of these horrific events is a burden that renders life meaningless.

I set up the Survivors Fund (SURF) to give these survivors a purpose in life, a reason to fight. Setting up SURF was worth every sacrifice, not just because of the memory of my lost family but especially for my brother Jean Baptiste. I believe that SURF has made his life worthwhile. SURF focuses on helping to rebuild the lives of survivors. And it derives its strength from the determination of the people not to be consumed by the hatred perpetrated against them. They were fighting, in a sense, fighting back with purpose and meaning.

After the holocaust the world said “Never Again”, yet the Rwandan genocide claimed one million lives in a mere hundred days. The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, recalls the words of Martin Luther King: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

You Alone May Live highlights the fact that despite the world’s obsession with forgiveness and reconciliation, the survivors of the genocide still live in dire situations and ill health with no shelter, no income, no appropriate rehabilitation and no justice for their lost families. Fear is ever present in their lives. My book gives voice to their stories, telling the world about their survival against all odds. Political justice for the survivors of the Rwandan genocide is essential so they can heal their hearts and minds, and eventually aid their forgiveness and reconciliation with the rest of Rwanda.

You Alone May Live is available from Biteback, priced £17.99