Recommended Reading: Rammer Jammer

When I told folks I was reading a book called Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, most raised an eyebrow and slowly backed away, figuring it was the kind of thing that could get everybody within a mile fined by the FCC. It’s actually a hellaciously good book by Warren St. John about the nomadic lives of RV owners who follow the University of Alabama football team across the Southeast. (The title refers to a ‘Bama cheer.) St. John’s a writer for the New York Times, but he ain’t one of them East Coast liberal elite types. Born and bred in Alabama, he’s not clouded by the kind of condescension that turns feature stories about Southerners into anthropological studies. St. John dives deep into the nature of fandom here, citing history (tailgating dates back to ancient Greece) and psychology to arrive at a comprehensive–and yet compassionate–portrait of the modern sports fan. He also fills the book with dead-on Southernisms–for instance, there’s the guy who’s promised his boss tickets to the Auburn-Alabama game without actually having the tickets; a scalper laughs that “this is a case of someone’s alligator mouth overloading his hummingbird a-hole.” And I plan to whip up a jar full of Bama Bombs–cherries soaked in grain alcohol for an entire offseason–for next year’s Steeplechase.

In an age where postmodern, ironic detachment is the hallmark of the hip aesthetic, it’s damn refreshing to see somebody proudly write what amounts to a soul-baring love letter to a football team. For any sports fan who’s ever exulted beyond reason when their team wins, or had their heart (and almost, in my case, a hand) broken when their boys lose, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is essential reading.


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