Let me bounce a few things off of you. Columbia is an Ivy League school, right? The New York Times sports page is about the size of the Chicago Tribune book section, correct? And New York City is in the northeastern United States, huh? So, are you thinking college football yet? I figured not. So it’s somewhat odd that the author, Warren St. John, is such a college football junkie. He writes for the NYT, he lives in NYC, and he went to CU.
But don’t worry; he comes on strong with the college football cred. Check this out, he once made a three-hour phone call to his parents during college. He didn’t say much to them during the call, he just had them set the receiver next to the radio so he could listen to the Alabama vs Auburn game. This was in the early 80’s, before big TV contracts and ESPNU. It was also during the time of $0.25/minute long distance calls (New York to Birmingham). Nutty.
That sets the scene for St. John’s study of sports fandom. If you think this phone incident is a little over the top, then just imagine what his college mates at Columbia thought. They had never seen anyone quite like him. To St. John, this didn’t make sense. He couldn’t believe that all of his fellow students, who had so much in common with him, didn’t share his same love for college football.
This haunts him well into his adult years. So what’s a guy to do? How about revisiting the fandom of your youth and trying to figure out how a completely normal human can lose all sense of rationality on fall Saturdays? In fact, maybe hitching a ride with one of those crazy, RV owning, crimson clad, ‘Bama fans on every Saturday during the 1999 season would do. But, you wouldn’t actually go to the level of buying your own RV and queuing up every Saturday for a spot in the RV lot? Would you?
Well, St. John would. And did! And what ensues is hilarious, disturbing, touching, and enlightening.
Hilarious is saying “Roll Tide” every time you meet a fellow Alabama fan. Hilarious is missing your daughter’s wedding because she had the audacity to plan it during the Tennessee game, then telling everybody in Alabama about it on the 11 PM news. Hilarious is vomiting before the game because you’re so nervous, just to watch.
Disturbing is racism and hypocrisy within the fan base. Disturbing is being afraid for your physical safety because you pull for the other team or disagree with the fan base. Disturbing is fans with guns.
Touching is bonding with fellow humans through the small thread of this common interest. Touching is realizing that a Saturday on The Grove at Ole Miss is so beautiful and special, that it doesn’t matter who wins. Touching is noticing that the things that made you happy as a kid, still make you happy as an adult.
Enlightening is finding out that I may not be so weird after all. Enlightening is knowing that it’s okay not to be dejected after a loss because everybody deals with disappointment a little differently.
This was a great audio book experience. Fun, not too intense, about a topic that really interests me (so I don’t have to think about it that much), and read by the author.
St. John is still a huge Alabama fan and it appears that he stays in contact with a few people that he met during this season of RVing. For example, he bought two tickets to a Yankee’s game from John Ed, the Tuscaloosa ticket broker. He also went to a game the next year with the Bice’s (spelling?), the people who generously invited him on his first RV trip to start this project off.
St. John seems like an approachable, likable, interested sports fan. I could see hanging with him, despite the fact that he still relishes in one of the Alabama victories over Notre Dame (I think it was the 1985 drubbing).