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A Journey into the Heart of Fan Mania

by Warren St. John

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 2004
ISBN: 0-609-60708-1
Publisher: Crown

New York Times reporter St. John spends a season road tripping in an RV with the University of Alabama football fan club

Who are these people, the journalist wonders, who follow the Crimson Tide literally week to week, stadium to stadium? How do they do it—haven’t they got jobs? Why do they do it—haven’t they got lives? So the intrepid St. John joined their ranks, a move made easier by his status as an old Alabama fan and the confounded but enthusiastic new owner of a low-rent RV. From time to time the author feels the need to spout a little sports psychology (sports fans are brighter than non-fans! they pop more endorphins, are more fulfilled and physically active!), and he doesn’t do much better when trying to get a bead on what makes the fans tick (“just love,” remarks one gentleman; “the bug bit me,” says another). Thankfully, the whole angle of trying to understand things gets lost under a fabulous wash of incidents and encounters. A paramedic administering to a heart-attack victim in the stands is told to get out of the way. An RVer offers St. John a tomato with the warning, “ ‘Thems ’maters so hot they’ll make you wanna slap yo mamma’. . . . It takes me a moment to realize that the man means this as a good thing.” Bigots will catch the author off guard, and scalpers will become his friends; he is able to capture them in startling, frozen images, or to build up a long-term portrait as this gallery of rogues and acquaintances reveals itself over the season, adoring football, their team, and its traditions, wishing to give it all a long embrace. St. John is never mocking and has no intention of turning the RVing Alabama football fan pack into a freak show, but he ushers their fleeting, intense, Manichean world before the limelight to trip its weird stuff.

Existentialism of the purest sort—that is, it includes laughter.