A disclaimer: I am not currently, nor have I ever been, an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. Having said that, I found Warren St. John’s book Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer to be a funny, entertaining book.
Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer is both a discussion of what makes sports fans act like they do and a memoir of one fan’s relationship with his team.
The fan is St. John and his team is the Alabama Crimson Tide football team. Over the course of a season, St. John travels to all of the Tide’s games while drinking, eating, and talking with die-hard Tide fans. While you don’t need to eat, sleep, and breathe football to understand the book, it helps to at least know which part of the field is the end zone and how many attempts a team gets to travel ten yards. In other words, you’ll need some basic football knowledge.
On the other hand, while action on the football field certainly is part of the book, it is only part. A great portion of the book is spent examining what is going on off the field. After all, there aren’t many fans to be found playing in the game itself. The fans are all in the stands, the sports bars, and the like.
You can read the book’s introduction on-line, but here is an excerpt to prime the pump:> It would be easy, perhaps, to dismiss such hardcore fans as freaks, except for the fact that the world is practically brimming over with them. Open your daily paper’s sports pages to the box scores. You might want to pause and ask yourself why your hometown paper devotes an entire section to sports. The implication is that the readers’ need to know the outcome of sporting contests ranks up there in importance with their need to know about global politics, business and the arts. Compare that with the amount of column inches per week on religion; it’s not even close.
In the excerpt below, St. John attends the first Alabama game of the season on a blisteringly hot and sunny day. The opponent is Vanderbilt.> Pretty soon, the players come barreling onto the field, and when they do, it’s perfectly clear who will win. Vanderbilt, the home team, is wearing solid black jerseys, while Alabama is in white. We don’t even have to try; we simply have to wait until sunstroke kicks in and fells their entire team….
But there’s only so long even a well-trained athlete can endure temperatures of ninety-something degrees and blistering midday sun in shoulder pads, a helmet, and a photon-slurping black jersey. Apparently, the limit is about two hours and fifteen minutes, because that’s how long it takes before Vandy begins their collapse.
St. John’s writing is thick with information, yet easy to digest at the same time. The book is filled with clever turns of phrase and scientific studies packaged up for mass consumption.
While this book certainly isn’t one of the great works of American writing, it is a good read and you’ll feel happy with yourself for taking the time to read it.