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He Done Good: A Review of Kyle King's "Fighting Like Cats and Dogs"

In case you are not aware, the Mayor himself, T. Kyle King, has just published a book entitled Fighting Like Cats and Dogs, a compelling chronicle of the Georgia-Clemson series. Last week, my copy of the book traveled with me on the bus/metro ride to and from work. I now have some thoughts to share with the Dawg Sports community.

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You'll want to read this one, folks via assets.sbnation.com

As any regular reader of Dawg Sports could probably guess, Kyle did a heck of a job with this book. The first thing that caught my eye upon opening the envelope in which it came was the cover. The shot of Robert Geathers and Charlie Whitehurst from the 2003 showdown at Clemson superimposed in front of one half of Memorial Stadium and another of Sanford Stadium perfectly captures the essence of this surprisingly non-partisan gem of a book.

I won't go into too much detail about the book because I believe it is your patriotic duty as a member of Dawg Sports and citizen of the Bulldog Nation to read it. What I will tell you is what stood out to me and what I think can be improved upon for a future edition.

What I Loved:

  • Setting the stage. Readers cannot ask for a better description of pregame hype and buildup in each chapter. Kyle really rolled up his sleeves in the Clemson and Georgia archives to vividly and accurately set the stage for the contests highlighted in the book.
  • Game analysis. Kyle's in-game analysis was incredibly thorough, but not at all too dry. He refrained from relying on a mundane play-by-play recap that someone could probably find buried in the annals of espn.com.
  • Postgame fallout. I also really liked how Kyle followed the teams to the end of their respective seasons after each game. I was even interested in the Clemson parts of the chapters and learned a lot about the history of our neighbors from Auburn-with-a-lake.
  • The pictures. Kyle pulled from the archives a dazzling array of historical action shots to complement his compelling recaps and analysis.
  • By the numbers. Included at the end of the book is a collection of timelines, charts and tables for readers to follow the results of each contest from day one. I especially liked Kyle's coaches timeline and was delighted to discover that the legendary Frank Howard had only a .115 winning percentage against the Dawgs.

What I'd Like To See In the Next Edition:

  • Hairy (no pun intended) nomenclature clarified. One of the drawbacks of a print edition covering only the more recent years in the rivalry is that it skipped some of the explanations of certain terms appearing in earlier chapters. Since the book only chronicles the rivalry from its heyday in the late 1970s, Kyle does not have time to explain the origin of the many nicknames he uses to describe the Clemson Tigers. He regularly, and seemingly at random, employs such titles as "Fort Hill Felines," "Jungaleers,"* "Country Gentlemen,"** "South Carolinians,"*** "Clemsonians," "Orange and Purple," etc. For readers not as informed on Southern college football, the myriad of monickers used for the Tigers could get a little overwhelming and/or just flat our confusing. While I think these nicknames bring a folksy and genuine touch to Kyle's narrative, it wouldn't hurt to refer to Clemson as simply "Clemson" or the "Tigers" a little more frequently.

  • A series scoreboard. Bill Cromartie's chronicle, Clean, Old-Fashioned State, for example, updates readers on the series scoreboard throughout the book. I would have loved to have seen something like that in Fighting Like Cats and Dogs, say, at the end of each decade. Although Kyle provides readers with a great graphic in the "By the Numbers" section, this would help readers keep up as they go through the book, especially when enjoying the edition that chronicles the rivalry from Day One.
  • More of it. Although I'm not going to argue that the rivalry's highest point was reached in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was a little disappointed that this edition of Fighting Like Cats and Dogs did not chronicle the rivalry from the very beginning. My knowledge of the early days of the series is lacking and I could think of no other way to improve it than by reading a full version of Fighting Like Cats and Dogs. For the record, the author does plan to publish a full version; for now, all chapters from the early days are available online at Clemson University Digital Press.

Upon finishing the book, the only thing with which I was dissatisfied was that it was over. Kyle is a master storyteller and paints a vivid picture of the recent history of one of college football's most overlooked and undervalued border wars. My copy of Fighting Like Cats and Dogs is already proudly displayed alongside such classics as Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate and War Between the States, where it rightfully belongs. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

For those who are fortunate enough to have read Fighting Like Cats and Dogs already, please share your thoughts in the comments below. What did you like most about the book? What would you like to see improved upon in a future edition?

Footnotes:

*Per my conversation with the author,"Jungaleers" was a term derived from the fact that tigers live in jungles. It appeared periodically in the 1930s, though the spelling wasn't always consistent. **Kyle also informs me that "Country Gentlemen," by far my favorite of his many names used to describe Clemson, is a term coined by upstate South Carolina sportswriter Scoop Lattimer in the 1940s, which later gave rise to a Colonel Reb-like costumed sideline mascot at Clemson. Kyle, I assume the dapper fellow second from the left on the top row is a country gentleman?

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via libsystems.clemson.edu

***"South Carolinians" is the only monicker used for the Tigers for which I do not particularly care. To me at least, "South Carolinians" indicates either a.) a native of the Palmetto State (as Kyle points out in the book, a number of Peach State natives donned the Orange and Purple) or b.) someone who plays a team called "South Carolina." I'm pretty sure your average Clemsonian would object to being associated with the folks from Columbia.

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