Star publisher releases book on Alabama football
by Daniel Gaddy
Jan 03, 2013 | 4232 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Days before the BCS national championship, Anniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers has released an electronic book that explores the cultural implications of college football — a sport he calls a civic religion, a metaphor for combat and a fulcrum for change in American race relations.

The title of the 40-page essay is “The 2013 BCS National Championship: A Reflection on the Moral Equivalence of War Occasioned by the Latest Meeting on the Gridiron of the Crimson Tide and Notre Dame.”

The essay highlights the history of the sport and the roots of the two dynasties, but it’s also a scholarly analysis of how college football has become, as Ayers calls it, America’s cultural dynamo.

“Brandy being Brandy, he has waxed philosophical and historical about the allusions to culture and even literature,” said Ayers’ editor, Randall Williams of NewSouth Books.

In “The 2013 BCS National Championship,” Ayers describes the similarities between football and war. For example, he credits Hannibal with inventing the first sucker play, which his army used against the Romans in the Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C.

In both football and warfare, Ayers argues, strong commanders are imperative.

“It’s not just muscle,” he said of the sport in an interview to discuss the book. “It’s muscle and wit and good luck and preparation and planning and exemplary leadership.”

Ayers also argues that despite serving as a moral equivalent of war, college football became an instrument of peace in the segregated South.

After a 42-21 defeat by the University of Southern California in 1970, the Crimson Tide started on a path of integration. And Ayers said that whites and African Americans sharing the same jerseys played a significant role in changing a segregationist mindset in Alabama.

“Victory can displace the most hardened prejudices,” he wrote.

Wayne Flynt, a historian and author of “Alabama in the Twentieth Century,” agreed that the role college football played in integration cannot be overlooked.

“It was one of the first areas in which they (the players) were valued for their performance and not the color of their skin,” he said.

Flynt said, however, that he worries the sport has changed into a new type of segregation, with an almost all-white stadium and a majority African-American lineup.

In his book, Ayers argues that success of teams like Alabama has helped mend insecurities long held by Southerners over the Jim Crow era. He quoted a Louisiana State fan who summed up the feeling: “If we’re No. 1, it’s usually for something bad.”

In his book, Ayers writes, “You have to be born Southern, inheriting the region’s Manichaean history of unrepentant sins and unacknowledged defeats, to recognize the feeling.”

Throughout the cultural commentary, Ayers also provides personal anecdotes of experiencing the sport with his father, Col. Harry M. Ayers — stories that would seem familiar to any Crimson Tide fan.

In the book, Ayers writes of college football, “All packed together, it is family, home, grade-school classmates singing ‘God Bless America’ joyously off key, the anxiety of the college freshman too soon becoming the nostalgia of an old grad. It is all of life’s experiences that produce bursts of exultation and fits of despondency that define us — as football fans.”

Ayers’ book is available online for 99 cents at, and

Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.

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