Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer; Photo: Random House

NY Times reporter Warren St. John is best known to NY-area readers as the byline behind articles in the Styles section about David Sedaris, metrosexuals or bank-robbing grandpas (okay, not Styles section, but still good reading fun). But running deeper in his blood is a love of University of Alabama college football. Alabama born and bred, St. John just released Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, a book about the 1999-2000 season for his beloved Crimson Tide. St. John writes from a fan's perspective as he attempts to go to every game in the flotilla of recreational vehicles that follow the Tide, even getting so swept up in the mania that he purchases a rickety, sewage-seeping RV of his own (the Hawg).

Warren St. John; Photo: Charles ThompsonGothamist was still a little skeptical of Bama fans' dedication, until we learned that Warren's honeymoon was postponed because of his book tour through the South later this month. Touche. He agreed to answer some questions Gothamist had about being an Alabama fan, college sports, NYC sports, and men who get pedicures.

How do you feel being the first American reporter to report on the metrosexual craze? Do you get residuals from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? Do you think Mark Simpson [who is credited with coining the phrase] will try to bludgeon you with big words and his Morrissey theory?
I got neither residuals nor cast off skin products from Queer Eye or any of the metrosexual books that have been published. In fact, all I got was a lot of suspicion from football fans in Alabama who wondered what the guy writing the book on Bama fans was doing trafficking with men who get pedicures.

As for Mark Simpson, I think he's a brilliant writer, and I appreciate his ability to get hopelessly obsessed with his subject matter the way he has with Morrissey. He actually denied having coined the word "metrosexual" when I first called him. But I was in a bind; I knew that if I didn't deal with the etymology of the word, some readers would think that I was implicitly and unfairly trying claim coinage myself. Mark had the first print reference I could find, so I told him, sorry, you're getting the credit. He was a little anxious at first, but once the world media showed up at his door to talk metrosexuality, I think he became quite comfortable with the idea that yes in fact, he did coin the word.

In New York, we have the Yankees/Red Sox, but you've experienced Auburn/Alabama, if it's even possible, please compare and contrast.

For one thing, in Alabama there are no pro teams in the state to muddle the picture of fan allegiance. 90 percent of Alabamians are college football fans, according to a Mobile Register poll, and the vast majority of those pull for either Alabama or Auburn. That's part of the reason I chose to do my reporting for Rammer Jammer there; the noise from other sports and teams is squelched, so it's easier to see what's going on.

In general the big difference is that in college football every game counts; there are no 3-game series or double headers. So there's desperation; lose and you won't get a chance for another year. I think that makes the games more intense, like the playoffs in baseball. And for sheer energy, few things match 90,000 young drunken crazies at a college football game.

Who are scarier fans: Bama fans or Yankee Bleacher Creatures?
Tough one. I was nearly beaten up by a Bama fan while reporting RJYH. I've never been threatened by a Bleacher Creature. But then again, I've never tried to interview a Bleacher Creature immediately after a loss.

While in college, we were fortunate to witness a Bama game. It wasn't in Tuscaloosa, but it was clear that Bama fans have a passion for football - they make team symbols out of toilet paper and detergent (Roll Tide!) for crying out loud! What else are Bama fans passionate about?

Right now Bama fans are passionate about hating Tennessee, because of UT head coach Phil Fulmer's decision to act as a secret witness against Alabama in the NCAA investigation that led to severe sanctions. They're also passionate about hating the NCAA, for doling out what many feel were disproportionate penalties. I'm passionate about the latter issue more than the former. We're all looking forward to being passionate about football again.

How do you feel about the NCAA and the idea that atheletes should or should not be paid?
I think if the NCAA is going to limit the opportunities of kids to get jobs because they are athletes, then the member schools should pay the kids stipends. I also think it's wrong that college coaches can revoke scholarships midway through student athletes' careers.

After looking at Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer quiz, it seems like Gothamist is not much of a fan. How do you score on the quiz?
The Rammer Jammer quiz is definitely calibrated more for hardcores than for armchair fans, so I'm at the lower end of the scale. But I have listened to a game on headphones in a church (it was a wedding), and on the issue of being buried in a team casket, I'm still undecided.

We noticed that you have your book tour dates on the site and we were wondering if you're going to travel around from town to town on an RV?
The plan originally was to do an RV trip, but it's not totally practical because many of the bookstores are not set up to handle, um, motor homes. We are doing a bit of a tailgate party theme at some of the readings, and in Tuscaloosa and perhaps Oxford I'm going to have RVers bring their rigs to the readings. I think for the paperback tour next year, which will be more college oriented (apparently college kids don't buy hardbacks unless their professors make them...) I plan to do it in an RV. The Hawg was too undependable for a book tour anyway.

Also, what on earth is up with the tour starting in Nashville? I mean, it's not Knoxville or anything, but you're in the state of your sworn enemy. Has all that hanging out with Paul Finebaum [one of the most vocal critics of the Crimson Tide] gotten to you, or is it more of a "strike your enemy first" strategy?
Good question about Nashville; that's kind of a blip. Ingram is there, the big book distributor. I'm meeting with their employees to talk about football mania for lunch, then doing a reading while Im in town. The big kickoff so to speak really starts in Birmingham. And rather than striking the enemy, I prefer to think of myself as a missionary, offering salvation to the damned.

When you went to Columbia, did your dad, relatives, and other friends from Alabama laugh at the lily-livered Yankee Columbia Lions [proud at various times of their losing streaks]?
Yes, but less so than the Columbia students laughed. People in Alabama viewed a 44-game losing streak more with pathos than humor; it's not in their nature to find losing funny, unless it happens to Auburn or Tennessee.

What is the deal with college sports in New York? Clearly, there is a diverse group of colleges represented in the area, but what happened between moving college and moving to New York? Are New Yorkers simply spoiled by all the professional sports? What are the sheltered people of New York missing out on?
I did a piece last year for the Times about the college football sports bar scene on Saturday in Manhattan. It's astonishing how many crazed college football fans there are in the city who will spend their free time during the most beautiful time of year in the dank, chicken-wing infused air of a sports bar. But since they pull for so many different teams, they don't coalesce into what you might call a proper social movement. They're all in little parallel universes.

Not that Bama's going to be contending this year...but what do you think of the coming season for college football? And how 'bout that BCS?
I'm sorry -- I misunderstood. I thought for a moment you said Bama is not going to be contending this year. Good one.

The Trojans are the team to beat. Then OU. Then LSU.

Warren has started a blog of his own, off the RJYH site, that focuses on fans and Alabama football. One thing Gothamist is intrigued about is the use of pure grain alcohol in Bama fans' drinks...we think some cocktail-making parties are in order.

Buy Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer at Amazon.