More than Rivals (Book)

Book Release: May 16, 2016
More than Rivals (Book)


“More Than Rivals” (by Ken Abraham) is a story of a championship game and a friendship that moved a town beyond black and white.

Dove Review

Based on real-life events, “More Than Rivals: The Story of a Championship Game and a Friendship that Moved a Town Beyond Black and White” deftly demonstrates the struggles small towns faced during desegregation by shedding light on a little-known story from that time period. Author Ken Abraham shaped the tale of two talented sons of Gallatin, Tennessee—a white man, Eddie Sherlin, and a black man, Bill Ligon—via an exciting sports-journalism style of writing. As the author’s lens swings back and forth between the two diverse cultures, the reader feels empathy for and connection to both cultures. Each glimpse into a household, school, or church scene further highlights the wide gaps both sides of the track were forced to cross when “separate but equal” was struck down.

“More Than Rivals”, which began as a film project, is fast-paced and easy to read. The storytelling captured my interest, and the mounting tensions kept me turning pages. However, I did have a few criticisms of the book. In this reviewer’s opinion, Abraham drew out the events preceding and during the pivotal basketball game for too long; I found myself growing impatient for resolution. Also, in the final chapter, I would have preferred an epilogue written in third person instead of a dialogue-heavy conversation between the now-older Eddie and Bill. As it stands, the conclusion felt cheesy and contrived.

A caution for parents: “More Than Rivals” deals with mature themes because Abraham didn’t shy away from the difficulties inherent in desegregation. He also described the teenage characters’ daily lives with truth and objectivity. Bill and Eddie were often embroiled in tempting and/or volatile situations, which placed both them and their friends in harm’s way (spiritually, emotionally and physically). However, it is exactly for those reasons that I believe mature teens and tweens could—and probably should—read the book, because the values of Christianity are spotlighted throughout the book.

Overall, I found “More Than Rivals” to be a well-written, timely tale for the chaotic days in which we live. I, for one, am glad the story’s many champions were passionate about finding a vehicle for it, and I hope to see it on the big screen sooner rather than later.

Content Description

Sex: Teen characters dance provocatively together at a party; heavy petting by a male and female teenager is described, including the girl putting the male’s hand on her naked breast. Male character refuses to go farther, talking about his commitment to his faith.
Language: One adult female character calls another a “whore” and a “slut”; “nigras” is used several times as a slur, as are the terms “crackers” and “darkies.”
Violence: Teens break into a school (with consequences); teens mention shoplifting (without consequences, but with a guilty conscience); teenagers beat up, trip and threaten one another; parent strikes a child on the thighs with a switch; a teen threatens a principal “you’ll get yours” and his parents and friends attempt to intimidate others with their presence because of prejudice.
Drugs: A drunk driver causes a wreck which kills several people and maims one; teens party often in the book (underage drinking); veterans and other adults are said to be “high” or “drunk” several times; cigarettes are mentioned, because of the time period.
Nudity: See above (sex/sexuality); also a female character is described as being dressed immodestly in church; a teen girl flirts with a teen boy by wearing a short skirt and showing her thigh; a girl's cleavage is described and noticed by a male character.
Other: Many instances of name-calling and racism (including a cross-burning by the Ku Klux Klan and talk of lynching, both as it occurred in the past and threatened in the present day) due to the theme of the book. Overall theme is uplifting and inspiring, as the book’s climax centers on an incidence of unity and love between two people of different races.


Company: Union The Book, LLC
Writer: Ken Abraham
Genre: Biography
Pages: 311
Reviewer: Dena Dyer