When somebody says their food is cooked with love, they typically mean they paid attention to every little detail. They tasted it often, added extra seasoning (typically salt, butter, cheese, salt, or butter) when necessary, and took every step they knew of to make sure you didn't just enjoy and finish the dish at hand, but you loved it and will remember it for a while.
It is with that in mind that I say T. Kyle King's Fighting Like Cats and Dogs was written with love. No stone was left unturned, no salt grain was left in the box.
The Georgia-Clemson rivalry has been a fond topic of Kyle's for a while; he has preached the gospel of this series since his blogger birth, and his passion is the reason why this piece is long enough to fill a book, not just a chapter in a "Georgia's Bitter Battles!" book. He lovingly chronicles the 17 meetings between the Dawgs and Tigers between 1977 and 2003, from Clemson's shocking win in Athens in 1977 to Georgia's shutout victory in Clemson in 2003.
Without love, this book would be for Georgia and Clemson fans only. There is not necessarily much a casual football fan would need to know about this rivalry other than "They played some big games once, and some fans wish they'd play more often." But King's biggest accomplishment is that he makes you care. He carefully sets the table for each meeting, filling you in on how Georgia and Clemson were performing in the lead-up, what expectations were like from both sides, and how the schools did after the meeting. He masterfully takes you to the game, then slowly unfolds the details as if in present tense.
This is easier said than done, by the way. It's easy to revert into typical "beat writer game recap" mode. King does not, and it makes the book. He makes you feel passion for both sides, even in the blowouts. But while there were indeed some blowouts (34-3 Clemson in 1990, 40-14 Georgia in 1994, 30-0 Georgia in 2003), what makes this book, and this rivalry, is the incredible string of battles these two had in the late-1970s and 1980s. From 1977 to 1987, this series' games were decided by one, 12, five, four, 10, six, zero (tie), three, seven, three, and one point.
King also fills in the gaps between the games. For instance, when the schools met again in 1994 after just at two-year hiatus, King reminds us of what happened in that time (the SEC breaking into divisions, Clemson parting ways with head coach Ken Hatfield, a presidential election, etc.) with an almost regretful tone, as if the two programs had to go through some major life events without each other.
The format itself -- talk about 17 games between the same two schools in 17 chapters -- lends itself to some redundancy issues, namely, figuring out how to refer to these two schools without repeatedly saying "Tigers," and "Bulldogs," and "Tigers," and "Bulldogs." King attempts to address this issue by mixing in some secondary nicknames: Red and Black, Classic City Canines, Fort Hill Felines, Orange and Purple, Country Gentlemen. It's an understandable effort, though those names almost become distractions after a while.
Then again, there's a lot about this subject matter that would seem distracting, or redundant, or pertinent only to the fanbases at hand. King's triumph is that you keep reading anyway, and by the time you finish, his passion has become your passion. He makes you an advocate for the series and the rivalry, and you come to understand why he felt this was worthy of a full-length publication all along. That King is a good writer should be obvious to anybody who followed his work at Dawg Sports through the years; that he makes you feel like both a Georgia and Clemson fan in Fighting Like Cats and Dogs proves that he is better than good.