College football withdrawal? Read St. John

by

Published: February 21,2005

It is February, and while this month is short, it’s cruelly short. We’re as far from college football as we can be.
And it’s Lent, too. Lent — when the Alleluias are buried and March Madness is still weeks away.

So, perhaps it’s a good time to turn to St. John. In this case, that would be Warren St. John, a diehard fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the author of “ Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Journey Into the Heart of Fan Mania” (Crown Publishers, 288 pages).

You most likely recall this book from last fall. St. John’s book tour hit towns around the South where the passion for college football, particularly Southeastern Conference football, is most intense.

I skipped the book when it came out last August, but picked it up a few weeks ago. Perhaps you missed it, too, but if you’re a college football fan in need of a mid-winter fix, I suggest that you find a copy of “Rammer Jammer.” You’ll end up reading it straight through.

Hitting the road

St. John crafts his travelogue as a season-long road trip to Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Gainesville and Oxford. He chronicles the Tide fans who load up the RVs and lose themselves in the drama, pageantry and revelry of Southern-fried college football, clichés and all.

It’s a colorful, laugh-out-loud, sometimes touching portrayal of folks who will probably help put your own fan mania into perspective.

And that’s the underlying theme of this book: understanding what it is that makes us fans.

“At some point in the life of every sports fan there comes a moment of reckoning,” St. John writes in his introduction. “In such moments, even the fan who rigorously avoids anything approaching self-awareness is sometimes forced to confront a version of the question others — spouses, friends, children, and colleagues — have asked for years: ‘Why do I care?’ In very general terms that’s what this book is about — the human obsession with contests.”

And those featured in “Rammer Jammer” do care about Tide football. Weddings are skipped. Medical conditions ignored. Untold sums spent. Just to get to a game.

Of course, most of us know that it’s more than just a game. St. John offers excellent commentary about the psychological and sociological factors motivating the hardest of the hard core, as well as the alum who might catch the occasional game on TV but still gets pumped up with a win or knocked flat by a loss.

And what do Alabama fans think of “Rammer Jammer?” A few I know have loved it, and told me that everyone they had talked with loved the book, too.

St. John seems to have succeeded in connecting with both the Tide faithful and fans of even their rivals.

Go (insert your team here)!!!

St. John’s insightful stories and critical eye to his own mania help other fans understand the impulses behind their own obsessive tendencies. It gave me a new appreciation of my friends and family who are seemingly consumed by their own favorite team, and led me to realize that perhaps my own love of sports isn’t quite as intense as I thought.

So, go State or Ole Miss. Eagles. Tigers. Majors or Blazers or whatever. And go Choctaws, too.

Two-a-days will be here before you know it.

The MBJ’s Book Business returns this week on page 24. Lynn Lofton offers a profile of one of Mississippi’s great independent bookstores, Pass Christian Books, and Phil Hardwick begins a new monthly column covering the best (and worst, at times) from business book publishers. Enjoy.

Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at jlaird@msbusiness.com.

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