I've asked Kyle a few questions about the book. He poked fun at himself, turned a few questions into 1000 words, and got to the heart of his step back from blogging:
How is writing a book similar to blogging? Different?
Well, at least for me, the length is the same. It’s actually a very different style of writing, even though each form of sportswriting occurs in episodic bursts with common themes running through them both. Blogging involves a continuous need to balance thoroughness with timeliness; with a book, considerations of speed are largely nonexistent, while depth of coverage is a must. A quick Google search is liable to unearth a useful piece of information for use on the Internet, but writing about the lineups for two college football teams from a game played in 1900 requires digging through some primary source materials. Also, books don’t have hyperlinks, which probably saved me a lot of hours.
Why Clemson vs. Georgia?
I’m 44, so Bobby Dodd left the sideline at Georgia Tech before I was born and Steve Spurrier began coaching at Florida the year I graduated from college. During my formative years as a fan, the Bulldogs dominated the Gators and the Yellow Jackets, while Georgia struggled with Auburn and Clemson. I grew up with the two sets of Tigers being perennially the toughest teams on the slate, and, as Dale Cooper said when ordering breakfast, old habits die hard.
I wanted to tell the history of this rivalry because it has mattered so much to both schools, who are located virtually right on top of one another, and who still play regularly in multiple sports. This rivalry has it all: It has been a neutral-site rivalry and a home-and-away affair; it has been a non-conference rivalry and a conference rivalry; the two teams have met on Labor Day and on Thanksgiving Day. There are numerous family ties between the two schools, so much so that a University of Georgia chancellor was the father of a Clemson College president. Both teams peaked simultaneously in the early ‘80s, and the two programs were mirror images of one another, as Vince Dooley’s and Danny Ford’s teams rose to the top using ball-control offense, rock-ribbed defense, and sound special teams. The similarities are so striking that both programs won national championships after going 6-5 and changing their uniform pants. (Georgia reintroduced the silver britches for the 1980 campaign, and Clemson took to wearing orange pants for big games in the 1981 season.)
Unlike Bill Cromartie in Clean Old-Fashioned Hate and Cale Conley in War Between the States, though, I wasn’t telling the story of a rivalry with which every fan from eight to 80 was familiar as an annual affair. After playing 24 times in 26 years from 1962 to 1987, Georgia and Clemson met on the gridiron six times in 25 years from 1988 to 2012. With the series about to be renewed in arguably the biggest game in the history of the rivalry, it was time to remind fans of both teams of their long heritage with one another.
Any chance you take on Georgia vs. Auburn?
And call it what? Fighting Like Cats and Dogs II: This Time, It’s Personal? Sure, I’ve thought about it; it’s the one major Georgia rivalry that doesn’t yet have its own book, and the Plainsmen are the Bulldogs’ oldest and most-played rival, but the very thing that makes it appealing makes it so very daunting. With only a very few exceptions, Georgia and Auburn have played annually for 120 years. That’s a lot of games to cover, including a lot of Red and Black losses to a rival I absolutely despise, so the emotional and time investments would be substantial. We’ll see how Fighting Like Cats and Dogs does, but our old college buddy, Pete Allen (who devoted many hours to helping me research this book), has been trying to get me to tackle the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry next, so I may give in eventually.
What about other writing projects?
Right now, my focus is on getting the word out about Fighting Like Cats and Dogs, so I haven’t been giving that a great deal of thought. If this book does well, I’ll give some thought to what, if anything, to do next. Like (I suppose) a lot of Southern lawyers my age, I have a couple of half-finished novels in the desk drawer, and I don’t rule out returning to one or both of those at a later date. During his lifetime, Walker Percy published six book-length works of fiction and two book-length works of non-fiction, but, by the time he was my age, he had published exactly none of them, so I’m not in any hurry. Right now, I’m just enjoying the knowledge that I’ve published as many books about college football as Stewart Mandel has.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
William Faulkner. In 1937, Thomas Wolfe wrote a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald in which he explained that great authors were “putter-inners” more than “taker-outers”. Faulkner was the ultimate putter-inner, because he felt he had the whole of history weighing upon every word, requiring that, in order to get it all in, he expand from a word to a phrase to a sentence to a paragraph, piling words on top of words to get down to the essence of it all. Sometimes he succeeded, and sometimes he failed, but he was determined to delve down to the depths of the few places and subjects that mattered to him most. Longwinded provincial Southern writer who is bound and determined to expend as many words as it takes to cover comprehensively the tiny number of topics about which he cares passionately? Yeah, I can relate to that.
Now that you aren’t blogging, are you surprised that you have children?
Hey, I even remember their names now! In all seriousness, though, my seven years at Dawg Sports were a really rewarding time, and I’ll always be grateful to MaconDawg, the rest of the staff, and the entire community there for the camaraderie that I continue to enjoy and the confidence they gave me that my departure from the masthead would not harm the site. It was very gratifying to be able to take a step back on my own terms, focus attention on other aspects of life, and still know I had a place there as a community member without any day-to-day managerial responsibilities. I’ll always be grateful to everyone there for each of their contributions to a chapter of my life that I enjoyed from start to finish, and for all of their understanding of my need to turn the page, not because sports blogging didn’t matter---it still did---but because family, faith, and career mattered more.
Many thanks, Kyle.