The ethos and angst of football in Alabama. It's Norman's anecdote-filled thesis that football holds centripetal sway over Alabamians because 1) it appeals to their wild side; 2) it helps make them feel better about the Civil War; 3) it's the state's major claim to fame; and 4) it's one sure way for poor boys to make good. Norman then puts his concept to the test of what happens during the two weeks prior to the annual intrastate war known as the Alabama-Auburn game. Even here, football takes on an US vs. Them cast; Auburn is the aggie and engineering school, 'Bama the ""party school."" Thus, there's a class rivalry between alumni who, during the rest of the year, seem able to commingle and even cohabit peacefully. But divorces, feuds and not a little violence can intrude when ""the game"" upsets the delicate peace. The main players here are the schools' coaches: Alabama's Ray Perkins, trying to fill the legendary shoes of Paul Bear Byrant (at one time the state's most powerful, best-known figure), and Auburn's Pat Dye, a Bryant disciple like Perkins who's out to make his team No. 1 in the only place it really counts--Alabama. Interspersed with their countdown preparations are their own football bios; a long chapter on Bryant and his impact on college football and Alabama; some nice reportage on what life after football is like in Alabama for ex-stars and good ol' boys; and an intriguing chapter on Dollarhide, the ""most famous hunting camp in the state,"" where football and the blood rituals of the hunt inextricably link. A thoughtful look into a regional passion, this will delight sports fans and provide new perspectives (mostly favorable) on a previously vilified state. But skip it if gridirons and machismo Southern style leave you cold.