Synopses & Reviews
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
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
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
"St. John's account of following the University of Alabama's football team as a part of the team's fanatical legion of tailgaters is just as much fun as the book's title (words to a school chant). As St. John, an Alabama native who writes for the New York Times, tries to join Bama RV nation, he spends five months obsessing about every tiny detail associated with Alabama football and, in the process, comes into contact with a slew of good ol' boys, well-to-do entrepreneurs and the most hated man in Alabama. Despite his own passion for Bama football, St. John is an outsider and must go to the extreme, like buying his own dilapidated RV (astutely nicknamed 'The Hawg'), to be completely accepted by the hardcore RV-owning regulars. Driving the country roads from Gainesville to Nashville, St. John uncovers the ugly, quirky and splendid qualities of both football fans and the states below the Mason-Dixon line. But this book is more than a beer and barbecue fueled travelogue. St. John also explores the sociological and physical effects of being a rabid sports fan. These journalistic asides contrast nicely with St. John's superstitious, obsessed sports-fan persona, which rules much of this amusing and insightful book. Agent, Elyse Cheney." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"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
"New York Times" writer and Alabama native Warren St. John presents a rollicking RV ride through a season in the heart of football mania with the world's most obsessive sports fans.
Having purchased his very own RV and immersed himself in the life and crazy culture of Alabama Crimson Tide fans during the 1999 season, St. John pens a book about much more than football--it is an enduring memoir about sport and culture in the U.S.
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.