"Fresh and funny… St. John has crafter a winner.” —Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic
In the life of every sports fan, there comes a moment of reckoning. It may happen when your team wins on a last-second field goal and you suddenly find yourself clenched in a loving embrace with a large hairy man you’ve never met. . . . Or in the long, hormonally depleted days after a loss, when you’re felled by a sensation similar to the one you first experienced following the death of a pet. At such moments the fan is forced to confront the question others—spouses, friends, children, and colleagues—have asked for years:
Why do I care?
What is it about sports that turns otherwise sane, rational people into raving lunatics? Why does winning compel people to tear down goalposts, and losing, to drown themselves in bad keg beer? In short, why do fans care?
In search of the answers to these questions, Warren St. John seeks out the roving community of RVers who follow the Alabama Crimson Tide from game to game across the South. A movable feast of Weber grills, Igloo coolers, and die-hard superstition, these are characters who arrive on Wednesday for Saturday’s game: Freeman and Betty Reese, who skipped their own daughter’s wedding because it coincided with a Bama game; Ray Pradat, the Episcopalian minister who watches the games on a television set beside his altar while performing weddings; John Ed (pronounced as three syllables, John Ay-ud), the wheeling and dealing ticket scalper whose access to good seats gives him power on par with the governor; and Paul Finebaum, the Anti-Fan, a wisecracking sports columnist and talk-radio host who makes his living mocking Alabama fans—and who has to live in a gated community for all the threats he receives in response.
In no time at all, St. John himself is drawn into the world of full-immersion fandom: he buys an RV (a $5,500 beater called The Hawg) and joins the caravan for a football season, chronicling the world of the extreme fan and learning that
in the shadow of the stadium, it can all begin to seem strangely normal.
Along the way, St. John takes readers on illuminating forays into the deep roots of humanity’s sports mania (did you know that tailgaters could be found in eighth-century Greece?), the psychology of crowds, and the surprising neuroscience behind the thrill of victory.
Reminiscent of Confederates in the Attic and the works of Bill Bryson, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is not only a travel story, but a cultural anthropology of fans that goes a long way toward demystifying the universal urge to take sides and to win.
About the Author
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, WARREN ST. JOHN is currently a reporter for the New York Times. He has also written extensively for the New York Observer, The New Yorker, and Wired. He went to Columbia University and lives in New York. Visit him at www.rammerjammeryellowhammer.com.
"An unreconstructed fan of Alabama football, exiled in New York, Warren St. John goes home to join the Crimson Tide's most rabid supporters as they roll across the South. His four-mile-a-gallon odyssey through the sun, suds, and stink of tailgate culture is a fresh and funny take on the American road trip--and an affectionate yet unsentimental look at Southern life, from belles who chug beer and bray from the stands, to fundamentalists who forgive any sin except a losing season. Like his hero, Bear Bryant, St. John has crafted a winner." --Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic
"What does it really mean to be a sports fan? For the millions of us who are, Warren St. John captures our passion with hilarity, absurdity and poignancy. He just gets our religion. And Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is a marvelous journey into the soul of sports in America. A great ride in the tradition of Hunter Thompson and an even better read." --H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights
"A remarkable and funny book about obsession in America by a really fine writer." — Gay Talese
"Sports fandom is a phenomenon that has so far baffled the field of psychology. The professionals haven't a clue. They should read this book. Warren St. John takes us to where the rubber meets the road." -- Tom Wolfe