Wondering what to do with those Amazon gift cards you racked up over the holidays? You might consider Josh Kendall's (The State) book 100 Things South Carolina Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. The book is part of a series published by Triumph Books that features similar "100 Things" lists for the country's most prominent programs. Although there are aspects of the book that might not please some Gamecocks fans, it gets my recommendation for providing an informative, entertaining look at many of the notable athletes, personalities, and moments in Gamecocks history.
Although the book's title suggests that it'll be in part a bucket list for Carolina fans, the book is much more about the things South Carolina fans should know than things they should do. In that regard, it's a really informative book. Fans who are too young to have experienced much past the program's most recent history will find the book particularly interesting. Understandably considering that we're currently living through the program's golden age, recent events get their fair share of attention. In fact, "Steve Spurrier: Winning at Last" is number one on the list. Although Kendall provides an engaging look at the Gamecocks' recent successes, these sections aren't as informative as others. This is the portion of Carolina history younger fans will know well, and for older fans, too, this part of our history is fresh in the memory.
However, Kendall also does a great job of delving into the Gamecocks' distant past with numerous entries on topics that many casual, relatively younger fans won't know a whole lot about. What makes these chapters particularly impressive is that Kendall has done a great deal of research to dig quotes from old issues of The State and other sources that really help him bring the historical era to life. One such example that really stood out to me was several quotes from various papers describing the exploits of early 1930s back Earl Clary. Kendall reports that there's little on record about Clary after his playing days, so Kendall lets the contemporaneous accounts of Clary's performances do the talking. They really give you a good feel for how people talked about football back then. There's even a folksy line describing Clary from Clemson's Frank Howard, then an assistant coach for the Tigers. The hard work Kendall did researching such materials and presenting them in a compelling way really piqued my interest and helped me imagine what is was like to be a fan of the Gamecocks during this time.
My only complaint about the book is that, particularly for a book that's being marketed to Carolina fans, I sometimes felt the tone was a bit condescending towards Carolina football. It won't be lost upon many readers that the author is a graduate of the University of Georgia and that he works for a newspaper with a complicated relationship with Carolina athletics. While the book is tastefully done for the most part, there are moments where I found myself a little annoyed with Kendall's tone towards Carolina. I'll give two examples. First of all, the Navy loss comes in at number 14. Certainly, an important moment. However, while it may seem hard to imagine to outsiders, we Carolina fans do take pride in the accomplishments our Gamecocks have achieved, even if those accomplishments are somewhat meager. Many of us might even think that the positive things we've achieved are more important than a devastating loss. My second example is more recent. There's an entire entry devoted to Stephen Garcia's misadventures, and it comes in at number 41. This one irked me more than the Navy entry. The Navy loss is universally regarded as the epitome of Carolina's historical woes, so it's arguably worthy of front-and-center recognition. Does Garcia's misbehavior deserve similar recognition? I don't think so. I've always thought that the hoopla over Garcia was driven by rival fans making mountains out of molehills and the contingent of Carolina fans who obsessively turned Garcia into some kind of mythic figure. Eventually, Garcia will assume a more measured, less exaggerated legacy. We don't need a Georgia fan to perpetuate the idea that Garcia's suspensions were some kind of defining moment for our program.
In saying this, though, I really do want to insist that this is a very good book that many Gamecocks fans will enjoy. I certainly did. It might be the case that the only way the problems I've mentioned could have been avoided would have been for the publishers to have gone with another author; my reactions may have owed just as much to what I knew about the author as to what's present in the writing. Choosing another author, though, would have meant going with someone without the journalistic skills Kendall possesses, and his usage of those skills to write such a detailed, informative book is what makes this a good reading experience.
- 2014 Capital One Bowl final score: South Carolina's 34-24 win over Wisconsin provides closure
- Capital One Bowl: South Carolina Gamecocks Beat Wisconsin Badgers 34-24, Jadeveon Clowney to Enter NFL Draft
- Gamecock Basketball: Carolina escapes SC State 82-75
- Will Louisville court Lorenzo Ward to be the Cardinals' next head coach?
- Steve Spurrier responds to Dabo's BCS comment