Success is not forever and failure isn't fatal.*
I had a choice. I finished two good books over the nearly week-long sojourn to the Pacific Northwest I took to see my sister-in-law get hitched. I contemplated reviewing the one that probably should have been subtitled Fifteen Months in Islamo-Fascist Hell **, but fate intervened in that decision.
Not that I don't recommend Mark Bowden's latest. Go on out and read it. It's just that, well, football season is here. We went to a lot of restaurants in the Portland area these past few days. Restaurants with bars. Bars with big screen TVs. Big screen TVs that were broadcasting football games of any and all sorts nine times out of ten (the tenth time was invariably an MLB playoff game). We tuned in to the last minute of the Saints-Panthers game just in time to see the Carolina kicker boot the game-winning field goal through the uprights. Dan also got an earful of the little guy shouting down his admonitions to cheer for the Niners with a loud, repetitive "Geaux Saints! Geaux Saints!". The rehearsal dinner at a Pearl District brewpub was adjacent to the upstairs bistro/bar which featured a huge projection screen on which the LSU-Florida game was being shown. Dan was lulled into euphoria not only by the good beer but by the heady news his sister's fiance-now-husband relayed through consulting his BlackBerry - Illinois had won against Wisconsin! "We're going to the Rose Bowl if this continues!" Dan the Illini alumnus informed me...meaning road trip to California! if it comes to that. Whatever.
So, it was only fitting that I finish this book on this trip:
Yeah, I'm biased. I have two generations of University of Tennessee alums in my family, "the original UT" as my mother once said to put a braggart Texas alum in his place. My cousin went to Vanderbilt and my granddaddy never lets her live that one down. Clay Travis is a born and bred UT fan, but a Vandy Law School alum, so he's already in dangerous territory. Last season, he decided to go whole hog and spend a lot of time and money, and burn a lot of gasoline in many cases, visiting many Southeastern Conference football stadiums in order to get the full experience of fandom in twelve different places that revere the game and find myriad ways to show their appreciation. Although I also think it was a fantastic excuse for him to ogle hot girls, drink loads of beer, and bow before players such as Tim Tebow in an "I'm not worthy" fashion, I still got a kick out of this book.
It's hard to say what the best moments are in the book. If I go over tidbits such as the suggestion that William Faulkner be the new Ole Miss mascot, the ignominy of a (Kentucky alum - hee!) pal's inability to finish a daiquiri at an LSU game, the reasons why Steve Spurrier gives the author nightmares, www.stadiumpants.com for those who really want to show their appreciation for a team (because every South Carolina fan needs Gamecocks all over their khakis), and an analysis of why there are so many grown men shaking pompons, but not breaking 'em, at SEC games, I'll just be rewriting the whole damn book. Instead, I'll just put up my personal fave passage from the book. The pics accompanying Travis' account of his foray into Mississippi State territory feature the author in this Clay's possible favorite T-shirt accompanied by a crew of former undergrad classmates. Here's a little banter with one of them on the way to the game:
We're on the road at exactly nine-forty-five, after picking up Krishna at the airport. Krishna immediately requests a stop. "I couldn't bring my contact-lens solution because they thought it was a bomb," he says. Krishna is also hungry. I refuse to stop.
After much whining about how he will be unable to see in the morning and that he is hungry, Krishna finally prevails upon me to stop in Pulaski, Tennessee. No one else is aware that Pulaski is the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. So, I inform everyone. Krishna is undeterred, "I'm going to have to wait a long time at McDonald's then," he says.
When he returns to the car after a long wait at McDonald's, Krishna says, "You were joking about that, right? This isn't really where the KKK started."
"Nope," I say, "It was born right here."
Krishna visibly shudders. "F---ing Tennessee," he says.
"Don't worry," I say. "we're going to Mississippi."***
This book isn't really gonna encourage great strides in race relations and equality between the sexes, though Travis does note that the fan base is slowly expanding to include those who aren't Southern and white. However, if you want a great likeness of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry to a polite Hatfield and McCoy feud (hey, these fans have gotta live with each other through the rest of the year), the definite refutation of the idea that LSU fans smell like corn dogs (though LSU does have the best gameday experience, in the author's estimation), and the use of a coach's full name in calls for his resignation, well, then, go to it, readers.
Oh, and since Travis has his own CBS SportsLine column and was able to finagle a book deal out of that gig, I think a certain local Rodeo Lawyer beer imbiber could get one out of his stellar chronicling of the experience of watching the Saints play. Jeffrey's posts on the Saints' brown-bag-over-the-head performances in recent weeks have been getting better and better. Travis may be stuck on college football, but the librarian has been with the pros for a loooong time. Get the man's gloomy accounts of fleur-de-lis following follies on the bookshelves, pronto, somebody.
*from a plaque on the wall of Shula's Steakhouse in Portland. Supposedly, it was the legendary coach's favorite saying.
**Apparently, Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week is coming up. Why anyone would need a week to be aware of this kind of stuff is beyond me. And why anybody would think that Muslims have the monopoly on any sort of totalitarianism is also beyond me. Save your cream pies for Ann Coulter, y'all. Cream's fattening, anyhow, so get rid of 'em in a consciously anti-fascist manner.
***from Clay Travis' Dixieland Delight