Shane Dale’s reason for writing a book is about as good as anyone else’s.
“People kept telling me, ‘Shane, you need to write a book,’ and I’d ask them ‘what about,’ and they’d say, ‘I don’t know, just write a book.'”
So, the freelance writer, who graduated from the University of Arizona with a journalism degree, chose something he’s passionate about: The Territorial Cup rivalry between Arizona and Arizona State.
“I’m a loyal UofA guy, I love UofA, but I also love the rivalry,” he said.
So, Dale set out to chronicle the battle that has been waged since 1899.
How does one do that, you might ask?
Dale interviewed more than 150 people associated with the rivalry, found pictures that are older than he is, and generally did all he could to make sure his book brought more to the conversation than just box scores.
“I really wanted to capture a lot of the history, the why behind why this rivalry is so intense,” he said. “Capture the history behind the Territorial Cup…it’s kind of the whole story behind the cup and how it came to be and where it is today is interesting in itself.”
Indeed it is.
The Wildcats lead the rivalry by a count of 47-38-1, but the Sun Devils have the edge since the schools joined the Pac-10 in 1978 — including a 41-34 victory earned in Tucson last November.
Of course, much of the time a good rivalry is born from big games between schools more than geographical location, and unfortunately Arizona and Arizona State have rarely been good at the same time. So the rivalry, which is easily one of the most intense in college sports, has to have roots planted elsewhere.
And that is the general point of the book. While many fans may think they understand the rivalry, odds are good they don’t know the entire truth.
Dale didn’t know it, either, but in the process of writing this book he gained a pretty solid understanding.
“It seems like the condescension between both schools is like, the indignity of losing to the other school is almost intolerable,” Dale said. “That is kind of what I wanted to capture and that’s kind of what I sensed.”
But, Dale noted, there is a mutual respect for coaches and players that is not necessarily shared by the fans.
Which may be part of the reason why some people are leery of a writer with a degree that says “University of Arizona” on it because, after all, how could he give an unbiased account of the history?
However, Dale said the questions came from both sides of the aisle and, as any writer can attest to, if everyone thinks you are against them you’re probably doing a good job of being somewhere in the middle.
As it goes, depending on your allegiance, there are undoubtedly some chapters you’ll enjoy more than others.
A Sun Devil fan, for instance, will enjoy the 60s and 70s, whereas a Wildcat will be particularly fond of the 80s and 90s.
But don’t blame Dale for the stuff you don’t like, as responsibility for that falls on the people who participated in the games.
And getting to talk to those people, be it players, coaches or Cup curators, Dale came away with plenty of information and a new respect for who made the rivalry what it is.
Like, for instance, ASU coaching great Frank Kush.
“The guy just…if you look up ‘intimidation’ in the dictionary, it’s like just him, standing there,” Dale said of Kush. “He doesn’t have to say anything; he’s just an intimidating guy.”
Dale was also impressed with former Arizona coach Dick Tomey, who remembered specific details about each of the 14 games he coached against Arizona State.
Dale was even able to track down both Mike Stoops and Dennis Erickson, even though each had recently lost their jobs with the schools. In fact, there were only two living coaches Dale could not get in touch with — Dirk Koetter from ASU and John Mackovic from Arizona — but based on how both of their tenures ended, odds are fans won’t feel like they’re missing out.
At any rate the book, which was roughly two years in the making, is the culmination of plenty of hard work and long hours.
“Actually, getting to the point where I actually got to write the book was kind of a relief because I could finally go forward with this project now,” Dale said of the process, where which the most difficult parts were getting quotes, finding a publisher (he ended up self-publishing) and tracking down photos.
So now, Dale waits.
Waits to see how the book will sell, waits to see how the book will be received (note: the first review is a positive one), and waits to see where his first book may lead him. If the Territorial Cup itself was rather familiar, life following Territorial: The History of the Duel in the Desert is foreign territory.
But, if he had to do it all over again, Dale would.
“If I knew at the time it was going to be two years I don’t know if I ever would have started, so I’m glad I didn’t know,” he said. “But now that it’s here, now that I actually have a book in my hands, it’s definitely rewarding.”