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Among the many, many books that find their way to Only A Game are some that don't even make the first cut. We read their titles and toss them into the discard bin. My first inclination when "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer" turned up was to file it with such unworthies as "Tales From The Carolina Panthers' Sideline" and "Eagles: Where Have You Gone? (Catching Up With Chuck Bednarik, Tim Rossovich, Jeff Kemp, and Other Eagles of Old.)" I mean, who wanted to read about a bunch of middle-aged louts with nothing better to do than eat cherries soaked in grain alcohol and truck around the country following the Alabama football team?
But Only A Game Senior Producer Gary Waleik suggested that I give the book a try, and on page one I realized he was right. It' s on page one that Warren St. John writes, "I grew up in Alabama - possibly the worst place on earth to acquire a healthy perspective on the importance of spectator sports." (It's on page 9 that he writes: "You should never walk along the rooftop of a stranger's mobile home, because there's a decent chance he will shoot you.")
The range of this book is extraordinary. Some of the stories about the people St. John comes to know in the parking lots where they live during the football season seem funny, until you recognize how sad they are. Consider, for example, the man and wife who miss their daughter's wedding because she decides to get married on a Saturday during the fall. Neither husband nor wife are the least bit sheepish about their decision to attend the Alabama game instead of the wedding, and the father of the bride is genuinely proud of getting his rolling home out of the parking lot after the game quickly enough so that he and the Mrs. caught part of the reception.
That said, "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer" is not for everybody. It's not for people who have no interest in peeking into a world they wouldn't have known if they hadn't come across the book. It's not for people who are uncomfortable in the company of a writer smart and honest enough to acknowledge that some people can be delightful companions and generous hosts one minute and ignorant racists the next. It's not for folks worried about embarrassing themselves by laughing out loud.
This program aired on August 28, 2004. The audio for this program is not available.
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