‘Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes You Don’t, Almond Joy Has Nuts, Mounds Don’t’

Little did Clinton captains Charlie Craven, Daniel Moore, and Riley Seals know they were walking into an upset. (Monte Dutton photo)
Little did Clinton captains Charlie Craven, Daniel Moore, and Riley Seals know they were walking into an ambush. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 29, 2015, 10:55 a.m.

When I got up this morning, I thought, well, it wasn’t that bad.

But it was.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton High School’s football team, seemingly invigorated by a season-opening, 30-29, overtime upset of a ranked team, Columbia’s A.C. Flora, wandered into an ambush that would’ve impressed John Wayne.

Greer, an ancestral rival, actually managed to pin down the Red Devils on their home field. As tempting as it is to cite statistical columns that suggested a closer game, it wasn’t. Games turn on big plays, not statistics, and the Yellow Jackets made them.

Zac Ray (64) and Kris Holmes return to the sideline at the end of a long night. (Monte Dutton photo)
Zac Ray (64) and Kris Holmes return to the sideline at the end of a long night. (Monte Dutton photo)

End of chapter. The book continues against Newberry next week.

Just as Andrew Webb’s first team desperately needed to experience the thrill of victory, a reminder of defeat’s agony serves its own purpose. If the Red Devils entered their second game a bit sassy, they quickly learned the error of their ways, but there was no dishonor. No one would have been surprised by Friday night’s 40-8 setback had it not been for the heady after-effects of the opener.

The game seemed full of promise right up until when it started. (Monte Dutton photo)
The game seemed full of promise right up until when it started. (Monte Dutton photo)

This Red Devil team is neither as good as its gallant opener nor as bad as its ignominious encore. The lads are fairly situated somewhere in between.

One up. One down. Take some medicine. Wipe some wounds. In next week resides opportunity to build anew.

 

Most of The Intangibles, my second novel, grew out of a boyhood watching and playing football in a time even harsher than this one. If you’d like to take a look, do so here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=pd_sim_sbs_351_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0T8VASRW4CVYP6QR7JKW

 

My new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is getting fine reviews from those who’ve read it. I just need more of them. Like, oh, maybe … you. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

 

Potentially a Time for Progress

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 27, 2015, 10:18 a.m.

No race this weekend. Maybe I’ll go to a ballgame.

This is going to be — knock on wood — the least busy weekend for quite some time. The Greer at Clinton high school football game is the only item on my slate. It will be a good weekend to dive back into some fiction, both reading and writing.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

On Sept. 4-6, I’ll be at Clinton High on Friday night, Furman University on Saturday, and in my living room Sunday night, writing about the Bojangles Southern 500 based on information gained from my own two eyes, social media, and emails. Those three assignments will informally acclimate me to West Coast Time. I’ll have Time Zone Fatigue without leaving the Eastern.

A week later, a friend and I are going to watch Presbyterian play at Charlotte, but we won’t have long afterward to visit because I’ll have to race back home in time for the Richmond race to start. What a break. The Blue Hose and 49ers kick off at noon.

This weekend, though, I’m going to chill. Or, at least, it’s an option.

Play a little guitar. Watch the Red Sox. For a last-place team without a bullpen, they’re pretty fun to watch.

Mow the lawn. Trim the bushes. Write a song.

I’ve got to do something to jumpstart my book sales, which have lagged a bit this week (though they took a jump this morning). I can check the sales several times a day, but I really shouldn’t. The numbers bounce constantly. It’ll lead me to some hare-brained scheme and take me away from what I ought to be doing, which is preparing a fourth novel for publication, finding a suitable place for it, and working diligently on a fifth.

It’s an assembly line, whether it’s late at night, waiting for the next transcript to arrive, or writing a high school gamer, or trying to move the process along with a novel called Cowboys Come Home.

In fact, it’s an assembly line of assembly lines.

So many rats are in the races that they’ve had to divide them into classes.

(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Hey, here’s an idea. You like what I’m doing, right? I mean, you’re here. We’re (Facebook) friends. You’re following me on Twitter. Maybe you don’t read many books, but you like my writing.

Give it a try. Download it in your devices (but, first, if necessary, load the Kindle apps), and Crazy of Natural Causes, or The Audacity of Dope, or The Intangibles, will all be nestled snugly at your disposal, in your music player, or your tablet, or your laptop, or your cell phone while you’re waiting for a friend to meet you for dinner.

 

And let’s say my new novel isn’t worth $3.49 to you (or $2.99 for Audacity, or $4.99 for The Intangibles). You know someone who’ll like it. Recommend it. It could be that these shameless pleas of mine have run their course with this set of acquaintances. You’re my most loyal. Help me spread the word even if you don’t care to read the words. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

 

In My Element

Wilder Stadium. Richardson Field. (Monte Dutton photo)
Wilder Stadium. Richardson Field. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 22, 2015, 10:30 a.m.

Football has changed. I still love it.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The players are bigger, though not so much at Clinton High School as the teams it faces. The best word to describe the Red Devil linemen these days is stout. Those who aren’t are generally lanky.

The defense doesn’t crush opponents. The offense doesn’t pummel them into submission. Sometimes it seems as if the rules of football don’t allow the playing of football anymore.

“But back in … my day.”

My day wasn’t any better. It was just different. I liked it, though. Football hasn’t changed any more than everything else.

I've had a change of venue. (Monte Dutton)
I’ve had a change of venue. (Monte Dutton)

After twenty years of watching stock cars go around and around from relatively close range, now I go out on Fridays and Saturdays to watch Red Devils, Paladins, and Blue Hose. I still write. I’m as competitive ever. I want to do it better than anyone else. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. The desire is still there.

It sometimes confounds my subjects. What they don’t understand about writers is that we’re competitive, too. Journalism isn’t really about the truth. It’s about getting as close to the truth as possible by writing what the subjects tell us the truth is. It’s not the same, but the pursuit of truth is righteous and exhilarating for those of us who have acquired the addiction.

After Friday night’s football game at Wilder Stadium, which has seldom been wilder, I was in the zone. Sometimes it isn’t pretty to watch. In fact, come to think of it, I’m never pretty to watch. Hence the bachelorhood.

Talladega. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Talladega. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

One of the more frequent questions I was asked about NASCAR during the aforementioned two decades was, “Who’s your favorite driver?”

Fans root for drivers and teams. Writers root for stories.

Once, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, on a Saturday many years ago, I got finished talking to Bud Moore, and, as I walked away, he grabbed my shoulder and yelled in my ear.

“By God, your ass got a story to write about now,” he said.

Exactly. I love it when all hell breaks loose.

Laurens County Speedway, (Monte Dutton photo)
Laurens County Speedway, (Monte Dutton photo)

What I love particularly about sports is that it’s all out there for the world to see. Politicians choke in the clutch, but, quite often, they get to hide it behind closed doors, talking points, and othere diversionary tactics, and they don’t consider it the least bit impolite to ignore the question asked and say what they want to say, anyway. Incredibly, some athletes do it, too, most often those who make a lot of money. The making of lots of money often leads those who make it to lose all respect for those who don’t.

They’ve heard some of us don’t even make a hundred thousand dollars a year. People who don’t make lots of money can’t possibly be very smart.

Okay, Jesus, maybe. Gandhi. The stray prophet. The token eccentric.

Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)
Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)

Here’s how nuts I am. I’d have rather been at the A.C. Flora-Clinton high school football game than the Super Bowl. A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a trip to Laurens County Speedway more than my most recent visit to a NASCAR track. In the past year, the most miserable experience I’ve had on assignment was an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game.

On Friday night, after Clinton’s overtime upset, I asked the Red Devils’ head coach, Andrew Webb, if he made any adjustments when his team trailed 14-0 in the first quarter.

“We really stuck to our game plan,” he said. “We didn’t change anything. We did what we said we were going to do. Our coaches up top made some good adjustments throughout the game, put us in better spots, but as far as changing the game plan, we didn’t change anything. I think we were so amped up that we just made some little mistakes (early). We calmed down and executed.”

Paladin Stadium (Monte Dutton)
Paladin Stadium (Monte Dutton)

I have known writers who sort of badgered coaches because they had in mind what they wanted to write and were determined to fill in their planned blanks. I’ve tried not to do that. I don’t mind if coaches dispute the perceived direction of my question. That’s why I asked it.

It was hot as hell. I was sweating furiously. I was trying to develop an angle that I didn’t think anyone else would. I was trying to get close to the truth by asking people what the truth was.

It’s what I love.

 

The Intangibles is set in a small Southern town during the 1960s.
The Intangibles is set in a small Southern town during the 1960s.

I spend so much of my time holed up at the house writing that, when I get out, it’s golden. A conversation under the grandstands may conjure up a short story. A phrase may show up in a novel. A character may begin with the guy in front of me in a line, or a woman at a bar whose mannerisms I observe while sitting in a booth five yards away. Writers are observers. Journalists cultivate that craft. I’d appreciate your consideration of the books I’ve written. Here’s where you can examine and buy them: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

When This Old Town Seems Young

Keith Richardson FIeld is ready. (Photo courtesy Tex Glenn and Dale McWatters)
Keith Richardson FIeld is ready. (Photo courtesy Tex Glenn and Dale McWatters)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 21, 2015, 11:27 a.m.

Tonight Clinton High School opens its varsity football season at home against A.C. Flora of Columbia. The Red Devils defeated the Falcons in the first round of the 2013 3A playoffs and agreed to open the 2014 and ’15 seasons against them. A year ago, Flora returned the favor rather effectively with a 27-0 win over a Clinton team that would have a rough season.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Now Clinton has a new coach (Andrew Webb), a new offensive system, and the optimism that comes to town with every season. On Thursday, I drove over to the school gymnasium to watch the band play and all the athletes introduced to a crowd of fans on one side and, across the way, a host of cheerleaders and athletes representing the various sports at both the middle school, which is now located in what used to be the high school, and the high school proper. They took their places after being introduced, and by the time it was over, the far side was nearly as full as the near.

People signed up for the booster club and bought shirts and caps. The veteran P.A. announcer, Mark Entrekin, and the excitable “Voice of the Red Devils,” Buddy Bridges, introduced every kid, from middle-school volleyball to varsity football, as they walked and trotted out to midcourt at varying speeds and countenances, some on crutches and others in flip-flops. As kids get older, the rate of movement apparently slows as the swagger increases.

They all seemed confident. They all had their dreams, their hopes, their ambitions, their aspirations, their senses of humor intact. They’re colts and fillies who haven’t been broken.

It is a good thing. It will not be as easy as it seemed on Thursday night. They basked in the heady optimism and the high expectations. The town is in a good mood. Four of the school’s baseball players played on an American Legion team that won the national championship, on ESPU, no less, and the 9- and 10-year-olds won a state championship of their own.

The dreams of exceptionalism are intact.

Now, of course, the kids who basked in the spotlights must play their games. They must crank up the fight songs. They must swish the pompons. They must block, tackle, run, pass, catch, dig up and spike volleyballs, cross the nearby country, and, somehow, do it all in a coordinated and unified fashion. They rest secure in the knowledge that the community is behind them, but the community cannot perform the aforementioned tasks.

Meeting the Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photo)
Meeting the Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton football is two head coaches and six years removed from the school’s eighth state championship. The memory is still relatively fresh, though dimmed by recent results. From the shores of Lake Greenwood to the banks of the Enoree, families send their kids to the schools of District 56, of which Clinton High School is the flagship. This has been the case since long before my mother, father, sisters and brother went to school. It has probably been the case since the villages were linked by more than horses and wagons.

The Clinton Red Devils do not merely represent the school. They don’t merely represent the principal town. They represent the crossroads and the rural routes. Even in the neighboring towns, people are wondering if Clinton will come back this year.

The odds don’t favor them. The schedule is tough. The Red Devils do not back away from powerhouses, even though their own power has recently subsided. If the coming year isn’t successful, the expectations will still be high before the next one. This year, improvement will suffice, but the fans are tired of losing, and the players even more so.

In spite of all this, the kids who hit the field tonight have no responsibility for those who came before them. They have to go out there under the bright lights and win for themselves. They alone will reap the benefits or absorb the adversity, and regardless of what happens against the Falcons of Flora, next week another challenging opponent looms, and then another, and another, until the season is over, and then there will be more sports and more seasons, and more expectations that will sizzle or fizzle in the glare of competition.

What I will try to remember is the faces of the kids as I watched them trot, saunter, amble, and march out to midcourt last night. I expect the wins will outnumber the losses, whether the folks in the grandstands realize it or not.

 

The kids will not play sports forever. They will have to make a living. The principal way I make mine is by writing, and I hope you will consider buying the books that are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

For Old Times’ Sake

Michigan International Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Michigan International Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, August 16, 2015, 12:34 p.m.

It occurred to me recently that the restoration of Darlington to Labor Day weekend means the restoration of what was, for years, my favorite stretch of the season.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

To be fair, I enjoyed going to Michigan, but not as much for the racing as the fact that I just loved going there. I always thought the people who worked at the track were the friendliest in the Sprint Cup Series, and in the latter years of my time as a NASCAR beat reporter, Michigan built my favorite press box. It affords a wonderful view of the action.

In addition, I used to play my silly songs twice each year on Friday and Saturday nights at Captain Chuck’s, the lakeside bar and grill about 10 miles southwest of the track. A dozen regulars probably watched me every time I played, and friends in the business like Ron Lemasters Sr. (who died earlier this year), Nate Ryan, Dean McNulty, and Brad Winters were among those who stopped by on occasion, as did, in a complete surprise, Brad Keselowski, who came unannounced, for obvious reasons, but who graciously signed autographs for everyone there who wanted one.

Bristol Motor Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Bristol Motor Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The restoration of Darlington Raceway to its proper and righteous place lines up Bristol, Darlington, and Richmond. NASCAR just doesn’t get any better than that.

Bristol was where I first saw a major NASCAR race. Darlington was where my daddy took me every spring. In my boyhood, the Southern 500 was actually run on Labor Day, which was Monday, and in one of the more traumatic aspects of those years, I couldn’t go because I had football practice. Under the harsh direction of Keith Richardson and staff, I worked as hard, though not as well, as any of the race-car drivers.

Darlington Raceway (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Darlington Raceway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Who knows? Maybe that’s why Darlington is and always will be my favorite track. I appreciate it.

At Bristol and Richmond, back when the NASCAR media had far more adventurous camaraderie than, as best I know, it does today, many of us partied in the parking lots after the night races. The best night was when Mojo Nixon and I swapped my guitar and took turns playing raucous songs at Bristol. To borrow the late George Gobel’s line, I felt like a brown pair of shoes matched with a tuxedo, but it was still fun.

Richmond was consistently better, but it got too big, and, as a result, died. First came free food, then respectability, and respectability signaled the end.

Richmond International Raceway  (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
Richmond International Raceway (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

I used to call it the Perfect Crime because, when the crowd cleared out, so too did the cops.

Having to face the deadline pressure of a night race without the promise of beer and raucous war stories defeated all worthwhile purpose in the endeavor.

If times hadn’t changed, I dare say I’d miss them more. The money never was much, and now it’s the damn profession’s respectable.

 

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Please consider reading my three novels — The Audacity of Dope, The Intangibles, and, still less than a month old, Crazy of Natural Causes — none of which are respectable but, if the idea of playing drunken songs in parking lots appeals to you, you can’t go wrong by ordering one or more here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Hardly Heavy but Worthy of Lifting

Football time's a-comin' (Monte Dutton photo)
Football time’s a-comin’ (Monte Dutton photo)

 

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 15, 2015, 1:26 p.m.

Sometimes the mind needs to be cleaned of all the items that are too short to stand alone but too long to advance by means of the social media.

 

South Mountain State Park, overlooking Phoenix. (Monte Dutton photo)
South Mountain State Park, overlooking Phoenix. (Monte Dutton photo)

Among them:

My favorite items at the moment are peaches. Yes, peaches. My father sold fertilizer to peach farmers when I was a kid. South Carolina produces more peaches than Georgia, which ought to be the Peanut State if any kind of certification were required, and they’re available on the side of the road this time of year, and I love to eat one, fuzz and all, and make smoothies in the blender, and cut them up and mix them with cottage cheese. They are a source of exquisite pleasure and make being a South Carolinian almost worthwhile.

They rank right up there with homegrown tomatoes sliced on fried bologna sandwiches, with plenty of salt and pepper, and Duke’s mayonnaise, but Palmetto State peaches aren’t available as long. It’s a seasonal pleasure, like football in the fall.

Excuse me, I’m going to take a break for a peach right now.

 

The cemetery bordering the Newberry College campus. (Monte Dutton photo)
The cemetery bordering the Newberry College campus. (Monte Dutton photo)

 

Cancer is all around. I went to the funeral of a friend’s mother on Friday. Buddy Baker died of it. So did Steve Byrnes. Jimmy Carter has it. I got home from the Clinton High School Jamboree last night (which was unpleasant) and found out John Farrell, manager of the Red Sox, has it.

Damn cancer. Enough, already.

Just an unscientific observation. Presbyterians do mourning much better than Baptists. I judge funerals by the measure of how many cry. Friday’s funeral was joyous, warm, uplifting. A few wept. No one cried.

 

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

One of the first signs that a day is going to be a rough one is when you get your clothes out of the dryer, and, somehow, a high percentage of the shirts and pants have turned inside out.

 

I don’t own a typewriter — though it’s possible my old portable one is in a closet somewhere because I don’t remember giving or throwing it away — but I bought a program for my two writing apparati — this Surface and the Toshiba in the office — that simulates the sound of a typewriter while I write.

I can only use it in a Notepad file, but the cutting and pasting is well worth it.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Somewhere from the beyond, my old typing teacher, Ella Savage, smiles in spite of her disapproval of the fact that I am hunched over, my posture is bad, and my feet are not anchored.

As she must of have said a thousand times forty-three years ago, “Get ready. Feet on the flo.’ Begin.”

The Intangibles is set in a small Southern town during the 1960s.
The Intangibles is set in a small Southern town during the 1960s.

I’m typing. I just ate a peach. Life is good.

 

If you’ve read my new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, by all means, leave a customer review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. If you haven’t, please do so, and purchase it here: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

Making up Riley Mansfield was fun.
Making up Riley Mansfield was fun.

If my fiction is new to you, please allow me invite you to order one or both of my other novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Things Even Bigger Than I Am

"Precious Savor, Thou wilt guide us, till we reach that distant shore ..." -- Life's Railway to Heaven
“Precious Savor, Thou wilt guide us, till we reach that distant shore …” — Life’s Railway to Heaven

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 13, 2015, 8:54 a.m.

I feel incoherently profound this morning. I’m thoughtful, but none of the thoughts make sense. I’m wasting my time on issues beyond my ability to comprehend or influence.

I’ve already had coffee. I’ve already had breakfast. My mind doesn’t seem unclear. Obviously, it is. The mistake may be in pondering issues that are beyond me. The world doesn’t make sense right now.

Come to think of it, nothing has changed. I’m just thinking about it.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Cancer, for instance, is breaking out all over. A friend’s mother just succumbed. Buddy Baker, once a valued acquaintance when I did silly things like hang out at race tracks, died. Jimmy Carter has it. At least he’s ninety, and if anyone I’ve ever known should feel fulfilled, it is President Carter.

I just had a colonoscopy about a month ago. At the moment, I don’t think I’ve got it. Who knows, though? It could be a part of God’s plan. People say that all the time. I pray most every night, but who am I to influence God’s plan? I pray for happiness, wisdom, and enlightenment, mainly in general. God’s got lots to do and doesn’t need to be distracted. If I get cancer today, I won’t blame Him. I don’t think it’s His fault that the Red Sox stink. I don’t give Him credit for the Yankees falling out of first place.

I’m not going to make Him a scapegoat for mine and others’ failings. It reminds me of the baseball coach I used to know, oh, thirty years ago, who told me, strictly off the record, that many of his pitchers, when they perform poorly, would tell him it was God’s will.

Things don't have to be just alike. (Monte Dutton photo)
Things don’t have to be just alike. (Monte Dutton photo)

“Son,” he’d tell them, “it ain’t God’s will for you to get your ass kicked.”

So they prayed for him, he said, and went back out on the hill and got their asses kicked again.

And I pray, usually not when I fall asleep, but later, when I awaken, realize the TV is on, and, oh, well, I might as well use the bathroom, and, when I cut the TV off and lie there in the dark, it just strikes me as the appropriate time, me and Jesus, Him listening maybe a little better because the lines aren’t jammed in the Eastern time zone, and sometimes I lose my focus, but then I remember someone else who might be hurting, or some great issue that we Tellurians are capable of resolving for ourselves if we’ll quit being so dadblamed selfish.

I don’t ask the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost to intervene. I pray for Him to provide us the capacity to work together and the wisdom to see it through.

How’s that hymn end? “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

Soon I’m going to ride around the yard, listen to music, and cut.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Please consider reading my new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, not because it’s God’s will, but because I believed you will be amused and it will give you issues to ponder and, quite often, reject, but it is populated with imperfect beings, just like the world: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

 

Informal Football Rules of Survival

Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)
Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, August 12, 2015, 10:24 a.m.

On Tuesday evening, I sat in the Wilder Stadium stands at about the 20-yard line, right about where my late father once watched me play, to see the upstart Red Devils scrimmage the Berea Bulldogs, now coached by a onetime teammate of mine, Wayne Green.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

A few hundred people were in the stands. The booster-club booth was open. The lads gave roughly as good as they got, though they’re far from ready for the season opener on Aug. 21. I watched with a bit of the “bah, humbug!” that often characterizes old men from a different age.

Clinton is modernizing. Most of the time, it’s running a shotgun offense that is a far cry from the wishbone once employed by my team. I’m glad they’re shaking things up. After going 5-7 and 2-9 the past two seasons, and having to outscore teams they once snuffed out, it’s good to see some changes. The new coach, Andrew Webb, is enthusiastic. They’re making progress. I’m upbeat. I’ll be enthusiastic when I see them make fewer mistakes. The stadium is not where Clintonians are accustomed to going for comic relief.

The Red Devils' defense still has some getting ready to do. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Red Devils’ defense still has some getting ready to do. (Monte Dutton photo)

Not to mention Joannans, Mountvillians, Cross Hillians, and all the other Red Devils out on the rural routes.

Hank Williams: I left my home out on the rural route / Told my pappy that I’m stepping out …

A few junior varsity players were sitting below, listening to me hone my cliched exhortations: Go, Big Red! Gotta lock up! You’re better than that, 6-2! Hoddamighty. Way to go! That’s what I’m talking about! Gotta eliminate mistakes, boys!

I started out thinking about the self-preservational rules of football, the practical ones that might still work nearly 40 years after my last game, which was for the championship of the whole dadgum state, and which we won, 14-6.

(1.) If you get beaten, either try to block someone else, or dive to the ground. Do not — repeat, do not — trot back toward the quarterback who is getting squashed by the man you were supposed to block, particularly with your hands on your hips. It will make you an object of ridicule when the team is watching film (oops, video) on Monday.

The Berea Bulldogs (right) paid a visit to Wilder Stadium Tuesday. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Berea Bulldogs (right) paid a visit to Wilder Stadium Tuesday. (Monte Dutton photo)

(2.) The worst people in the world are the coach impressers, the underclassmen trying to make a name for themselves not because they are good but because they break the rules. A coach can clearly explain that the drill is not full-speed, and this is just for blocking assignments, and that’s when these little brown noses will pile into you at full speed, embarrassing you, and the coach will never bless them out. Oh, no. The best way to react is just grit your teeth and take it out on the little snotnose later. Life is tough that way.

(3.) The reverse is, never do something that will result in the entire team having to run wind sprints. I managed to do this in the first varsity scrimmage in which I ever participated, and Landrum High School’s entire team had showered and was heading home while our team, an hour or so from home, was still running up and down the field of their small stadium. It took quite some time for my teammates to forget this offense. (I started a fight. I never started another.)

(3-A.) Fortunately for the kids of today, there doesn’t appear to be any such thing as wind sprints anymore. I’ve got no problem with that.

Coach Webb apparently has a point to make. (Monte Dutton photo)
Coach Webb apparently has a point to make. (Monte Dutton photo)

(4.) Don’t forget to have fun. I played football more to fulfill my responsibility. I put unnecessary pressure on myself, and, quite often, suffocated as a result. It wasn’t until it was all over that I realized how much I missed it, and, in a sense, I have been trying to make up for it ever since.

(5.) Winning is worth it. Winning is fun. Losing isn’t. In part because I played, however modestly, on a state championship team, I have gone through life with a positive attitude ever since. I never give up. Even back when I played, after we had pummeled another team, on the bus ride home, I wondered how the other team emerged from that experience. Did they go forward expecting to lose? I think it may have had an effect. That’s why I so want the kids out there today to experience success.

(6.) Use your head. Study your opponent. Even if he is better, you can beat him by figuring out his habits and taking advantage of them at the right time. If you’re not very smart, someone else on the team is. Pick his brain. Coaches talk about team things. Football requires individual triumphs that, when in concert, produce simple beauty.

(7.) If you play defense, which I seldom did, you can excel by being a screaming lunatic. On offense, a screaming lunatic forgets the snap count, jumps offsides, completely misses his assignment, and, appropriately, is yanked unceremoniously from the game.

Berea coach Wayne Green is in the background. (Monte Dutton photo)
Berea coach Wayne Green is in the background. (Monte Dutton photo)

(8.) If the coach grabs your facemask and yells at you so angrily that you are blinking your eyes from the spit, wait until he is through, and then say, as calmly as possibly, “Oh, by the way, I have no feeling in my right arm.” At the very least, he will be taken aback.

(9.) In team meetings, if you must be funny, be so at a voice level only a few nearby teammates will hear. The sense of humor of most coaches is erratic, at best.

(10.) The notion of being “ready to play” is much more complex than most fans believe. Sometimes you tell yourself over and over things that yourself just doesn’t believe. When you’re a kid, it takes a little trial and error. It’s one of the reasons great teams often lose one game. That loss is a wake-up call.

In spite of the fact that this blog is too long to be on most social-media platforms, I hope at least one kid gets something out of it.

 

Football plays a small role in all three of my novels and a large part in two of them. Here they are. You can read all three on your portable device for no more than a free app and, at the current going rate, a grand total of $11.47. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Furman's Bruce Fowler and I know each other pretty well. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Furman’s Bruce Fowler and I know each other pretty well. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 7, 2015, 10:02 a.m.

For every ending is there a beginning. And vice-versa.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Endings have been prevalent this year. I miss David Letterman. And Don Imus, who isn’t on TV anymore. And Jon Stewart, who hosted The Daily Show for the last time last night. And Brian Williams, the only man who lost his job for lying about Iraq. And Craig Ferguson, the late-night host no one ever talked about but should have.

I also can’t seem to find episodes of Foyle’s War, which, to me, is merely the greatest show ever on television.

Baseball season is winding down, particularly for Boston Red Sox fans. Last night I got home from a meeting in Greenville just in time to see the Yankees defeat them, 2-1. Excruciating losses have been the rule this year. The difference between a good Red Sox season and a bad Red Sox season is that, during a bad Red Sox season, I only half-watch the games. Bad Red Sox seasons are good for reading, writing and playing guitar.

Baseball is in the twilight.(Monte Dutton photo)
Baseball is in the twilight.(Monte Dutton photo)

Another difference is hits with two out and men in scoring position.

Football is on the horizon, and most people are optimistic before the teams actually start playing and hopes have been dashed. I’m scheduled to be at every single Clinton High School game, and I’m looking forward to it if for no other reason than they’re bound to be better. Last year the Red Devils, winners of eight state championships and two in which my brother and I played a role (his greater than mine), won only twice. It seems reasonable to expect them to do better.

A Paladin, sans the horse. (Monte Dutton photo)
A Paladin, sans the horse. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Furman Paladins (knights on horseback, once aligned with the emperor Charlemagne), representing my alma mater, and the Presbyterian Blue Hose, of my hometown, are starting to rustle on the practice fields. Furman, coached by my old friend Bruce Fowler, is on the comeback trail. The Blue Hose, whose coach, Harold Nichols, once quarterbacked teams about which I wrote, had a marvelous season last year. This year they will have to be better because all the teams they caught unawares will be better braced for their assaults.

PC stands for Presbyterian College, not politically correct, but that is still no excuse to call them PC College, which may be less politically correct but is also redundant. Go, go, Presbyterian College College!

At Furman, of course, everyone is accustomed to yelling “FU, all the time!”

All the time.

The Men of PC walk into Bailey Memorial Stadium each week. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Men of PC walk into Bailey Memorial Stadium each week. (Monte Dutton photo)

Few realize what a wonderful season the Blue Hose — it’s a Scottish warrior, by the way, “those blue-stockinged Presbyterians,” a term the aristocrats used for dismissal in the days of yore — experienced last year. The record was 6-5, but three of the losses were to schools that played in the Football Bowl Subdivision (i.e., big boys) and actually played in bowl games. They were Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, and North Carolina State. The other two were schools that competed in the Football Championship Subdivision (i.e., they theoretically are about PC’s size and speed) playoffs, Coastal Carolina and Liberty.

Bailey Memorial Stadium (Monte Dutton photo)
Bailey Memorial Stadium (Monte Dutton photo)

In reasonable matchups, the Blue Hose were 5-0, and one of the conquests was at the Paladins’ expense, which I deeply regret.

The season was one of football’s small miracles. Stern challenges await both the Paladins and the Blue Hose. Furman begins at home against Coastal Carolina, then travels to Virginia Tech and Central Florida. Presbyterian opens with road games versus Miami of Ohio and Charlotte. The latter is the University of North Carolina at Charlotte if one is a student but merely Charlotte if one is a sport. The third game is at home against Campbell, which excites me because it will match Blue Hose against Camels, and one can throw out the record books when those two get together.

I am looking forward to going to these games and writing about many of them.

 

Football pops up in all three of my novels: The Audacity of Dope, The Intangibles, and the brand-new Crazy of Natural Causes. Please consider reading them. Take a look at them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Hey, Let’s Get Stoopid

Look at all the technology!  (Monte Dutton photo)
Look at all the technology! (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, August 5, 2015, 8:01 p.m.

One of the reasons the world is growing more stupid is that stupid has become fashionable and smart has gone out of style.

For instance, it’s really been hot lately. Some stupid people will say, “See? It’s climate change.” Others, on the opposite end of the political spectrum, will wait until winter, and the first time it snows, they will say, “See? Climate change is a hoax.”

Really?  (Alex Howard photo)
Really? (Alex Howard photo)

Climate change is not measured by one’s back yard. I’m positive of this. It might be in the Bible.

Some will say scientists disagree. They don’t. Somewhere in the range of 97 percent agree. The three percent are roughly the same number who once claimed smoking didn’t cause cancer, or that astronauts didn’t really land on the moon, or that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, or that the Holocaust was a hoax, or that Obama was responsible for 9/11, even though he wasn’t president at the time.

I could go on.

One would think that, if there were an issue, people would rely on the expertise of scientists, or historians, or economists, or other people who had devoted their entire to studying the issue in question. One would be wrong.

Business is booming at the Slander Resort. (Monte Dutton photo)
Business is booming at the Slander Resort. (Monte Dutton photo)

Instead people say, in essence, I don’t care what the experts say. I just don’t believe it.

They rely on, oh, their barber. Or their sister-in-law. Or this guy they bumped into at Walmart.

I heard tell …

You know what they say …

I saw it on the Internet …

The Internet? Well, it must be true. It was a meme. It had emoticons. LOL. Nowumsayin?

Okay. Enough of that.

If I were in charge — and, by and large, it’s fortunate that I am not — I would not allow pharmaceutical companies to run commercials on TV. I would allow them to advertise to doctors. The commercials want us all to go to our doctors and demand they prescribe for us the latest glibly-named medication like Emoticon. Wait. That’s not right. An emoticon is something else. The medication is Stiffanol. Or Happinexium. Or Hitrippinex. Or Wowimauium. Kleenex. Labrador. Indonesia. Silverado.

Global warming indeed. (Monte Dutton photo)
Global warming indeed. (Monte Dutton photo)

It’s good for you unless, of course, it causes unusual swelling and a sudden growth of new belly buttons, or other side effects such as death.

Doctors should decide, or else people shouldn’t go to them. The ads are basically suggesting that we treat doctors as pushers. Hook me up, Doctor Feelgood. Gimme the good shit.

Now people have a right to be stupid. I’ve been stupid in many ways over the years. I defend the right to stupidity, just not the wisdom of it. Stupidis is a gateway drug. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

For instance, I’m uncomfortable buying my insurance from a little cartoon character wearing a combat helmet and driving a convertible, or a man wearing a racer’s firesuit.

I might've dated this ol' gal in college.  (Monte Dutton)
I might’ve dated this ol’ gal in college. (Monte Dutton)

I’d rather hire a lawyer because of his resume, or his list of academic achievements, or his record in court, not the fact that he repeats his name fourteen times in thirty seconds. I like Justin Bieber more than Joel Bieber, and that’s saying a lot.

The last thing one will ever see on a reality show is reality.

If I ever get into a dispute, I am not, repeat, not, going to let Judge Judy decide.

That’s just me. Or, grammatically, it’s just I.

My new novel is about a man’s redemption amid the absurdity of life. If you hate this blog, you’ll probably hate Crazy of Natural Causes, too, but I wish you’d read it just in case: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes