Friday, September 16, 2005

DOPAMINE!

My friend, Warren St. John, was in town yesterday, to do a reading of his national best seller, “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, described as “a road trip into the heart of fan-mania”, at Powell’s Books. In a crowded room Warren spoke in some detail of his urgings to write the book, and then read a bit, much to the delight of the audience. It is a great and funny book, along the lines of Tony Horowitz’ “Confederates In The Attic”, or perhaps one of Bill Bryson’s engaging travelogues. It was a delight to see him.

“Rammer Jammer” takes the reader through a season of Alabama Football, (Warren’s home state), and provides relentlessly hilarious descriptions as he follows rabid Alabama fans from game to game in his own used RV, christened “The Hawg” for it’s overly thirsty gas tank. If you are a sport’s fan, and you like to laugh, get this book.

At our house, Marie read the book to us in the evening, to save us from yet another repeat of “House Hunters”, much to our pleasure, over a couple of weeks. It is such a joy to see one’s wife, or one’s son, with tears of laughter in their eyes, as the book provided for us.

After hearing Marie read the book, one little factoid kept coming back to me, as I pondered Warren's writing. Apparently, as explained in the book, neuroscientists, in an effort to more fully understand fan behavior, have performed some experiments with monkeys, whereby, they set up a sort of “game”. The monkeys were able to “win” apple juice, and other treats, and then, the testers would measure the reaction in the monkey’s brains, using some monkey brain measuring device, and discovered that, as the monkey’s “won” their treats, their levels of dopamine would rise markedly. This would lead one to believe that there is far more involved with a human’s love of sports than just a passing rah-rah for one’s home team or school team. It’s drugs!, er, one's own dopamine rush! Picture, if you will, for a moment, a pig pile of grown men, after winning the World Series, or a high school championship, or fans in the stands, celebrating with similar embraces, their war paint covered faces dripping with tears of victory. And I am not even going into those raging shirtless spiked up skull and cross drippin’ biker lookin’ maniacs in Oakland.

But hey, I love sports, I have played the most of them, and I love a victory just as much as the next guy, and if it’s about dopamine, bring it on. When I win, or my team wins, it feels good.

Anyway, fascinated by this whole issue, I wrote a song about it, and recorded it with my ace guitarist Tim Ellis, which will appear in it’s entirety on one of my two CDs, “Dubs On Trial”, to be released later this fall, 2005. Warren calls it the “anthem” to his book, which makes me feel like a winner. Click here for a taste.
And here is Warren St. John's site .

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