For those who like their patriotism spoon-fed and mashed to pablum: the story of a young Californian who worked as an advance man for the 1984 Olympic Torch Relay. In 1984, Steve Barr is a nice, gee-whiz kind of guy in his early 2Os, clerking away unhappily in a law firm. But when he hears that the Olympic Committee is looking for advance people to help stage an enormous torch relay across the country in time for the Summer Games in L.A., he applies for the job and gets it by saying things like ""What excites me about this project is that it could be the story of 1984."" Barr and 14 other ""torch rats"" then spread out across the country, clocking and measuring proposed routes. Bart has his car towed in New England, gets stones thrown at him in a Philadelphia ghetto, and generally wanders about displaying an irksome innocence in redneck bars and country stores: ""Between odometer checks I had plenty of time to wonder, 'What are we going to do for a media event here?'."" His one encounter of substance (with an embittered Ralph Boston, who protests that the Olympic Committee will not even provide him with room and board in L.A.) is diffused by a shallow attempt at even-handedness: ""Maybe he [Boston] was saying something true about rite outfit I'd gone to work for."" By the time the whole affair ends, Bart has broken down in tears of happy patriotism four or five times. This flame sputters.