Damn the Climate Change … in Sports

Pixabay

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 2:17 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I’ve been remiss of late.

Part of it is that I’ve been writing enough about sports elsewhere that it leaves me without much more to say. The weekly NASCAR column at Competition Plus (here’s the latest) fulfills my need, not to mention a visit each Friday night on a statewide sports talk show.

It’s hard to find the time, too, and I can prove it. A motorcyclist got wounded last night in an apparent road-rage incident. I’ve got to write about it.

I’m remiss again.

Sometimes I feel I too am in the twilight.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019, 1:13 p.m.

It must irk the fans of the Atlanta Braves that the Washington Nationals are going to the World Series.

Being a fan of the Boston Red Sox, it irks me that the New York Yankees might be playing them. It’s hard for me to say, “In Houston, I Trust,” but I’d wear an IHIT cap if there was one.

Red Sox fans have not been unduly irked since 2003. Where once Boston took years from my life, four world championships might have given a few back. This year was tough, but it happens. Winning it all is hard.

Boston fans have never been intent on world domination. We just wanted one, and we’ve got four. The Yankees are the ones who want to run everybody else out of business.

Oh, God, please forgive me. I sound a little like Trump.

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick duel at MIS. (Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

I love baseball unconditionally, but I guess I’m just old enough to wish it hadn’t gotten so selfish. Teams routinely stack all the fielders where the opposition batter is likely to hit the ball, and, in most instances, he’ll eschew a free hit to the opposite field so he can just take another rip and make his agent happy. It’s more complicated than that, but it seems to me that what passes for accepted practice is geared to the current culture of the game.

As strange as this may seem, I think much the same about another sport I love, stock car racing.

MLB and NASCAR reek of climate change. The rest just smell.

Oh, wait. The whole world smells.

Or, perhaps, I am just getting older.

I still believe in love, though. It just seems more and more unrequited.

I talk a lot about various things – NASCAR, local sports, small-town life – in my latest YouTube video.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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The Granddaddy of Them All

Monte Dutton photo

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, August 28, 2019, 12:45 p.m.

Monte Dutton

Pack Darlington Raceway, and the crowd is still only about 60,000, but for many reasons unique to yours truly, the Southern 500 is NASCAR’s biggest race.

It’s in my home state. It was NASCAR’s first race on a track larger than a mile and first on a track that was fully paved. That was in 1950. The “road” part of Daytona Beach’s Beach/Road Course was paved.

More important personally is that it was the first major race to which my father took me. I had gone to a 1965 race at Bristol with some family friends, but five years later, when I was 12, I watched Buddy Baker drive Cotton Owens’ burnt-orange Dodge Charger Daytona to glory. Much later in life, I got to know both Buddy and Cotton, gone now but two of my favorite people in racing or anywhere else.

Buddy Baker (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty Images)

I remember Cale Yarborough’s Mercury skittering along the top of the guardrail at the inside of the track in front of me. I remember taking a Kodak Instamatic picture of Wendell Scott’s robin’s egg blue Ford flashing by that was remarkably clear because I was doing something known as “panning” the car. I thought a “pan” was for frying eggs back then.

I wish I knew where that photo is today. Maybe it’s in a shoe box at my mother’s house. Maybe it’s not. Probably it’s gone forever, but I remember it.

I also remember sitting on the back straight, mostly near kids in Cub Scout uniforms, and after the leaders flashed by, leaning forward and craning my neck to see who was ahead when they dove into turn three, which is now turn one. I remember that long Daytona of Baker, sliding through turn two like an aircraft carrier running rapids. Buddy drove a race car, but he could wrestle.

The slowpokes had to pit on the back straight, and I watched a driver named Johnny Halford get out of his car and change his own tires. It was a pretty purple No. 57 Charger (non-Daytona), but it wasn’t any faster on the track than in the pits.

At the time, I was introduced to the notion that a car could have a wing that would hold it down. When I went back home, I pulled out several World Book encyclopedias to research the matter.

For the next few years, Daddy took me to the Rebel 400 in the spring, but I had to practice football on Labor Day. All the practices were hard, but that was annually the hardest. My mind was in Darlington.

The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977. (Thomas Pope photo)

My next Southern 500 was in 1976, when I was already enrolled at Furman University. Jimmy Carter, the Democratic candidate for president, spoke to the crowd, as did the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Bob Dole. It was a time long ago, when race fans would still cheer a Democrat, particularly one from Georgia.

David Pearson won. He won every Darlington race I attended in those days. I drove all the way from Greenville to Darlington by myself, and it was the first time I watched a race at Darlington from the covered front-straight grandstands, where, man, was it loud.

Ray Melton was the public-address announcer. He was as unforgettable as the racers, describing the action in a Virginia drawl that surely only fellow Southerners could decipher.

Ray Melton

Lez and gennuhmen, wellum to the Suh Five Hunnud, the Granddaddy of ’Em All, heah at Dahlinton Resweh, the Track Too Tough to Tehm …

The cars ran “hah, wahd ‘n’ hansum” through the turns, and Melton devoted an inordinate amount of time to telling kids to get away from the fence at the bottom of the grandstands because it was “danguhs” down there.

Melton died in 1986, but I should thank him for teaching me how to later make out what Ward Burton had to say.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Downhill in a Hurry

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 3, 2019, 1:21 p.m.

Monte Dutton

High school football players are officially sweating again. During the coming week, they’ll start bumping into each other on purpose. I went out Friday to snap some photos. Few atmospheres are more hopeful than the month before a season starts.

It’s baseball spring training, only much, much hotter. It takes heat to burnish steel.

5:11 p.m.

Speaking of baseball, the leaves are turning. Thank goodness I had a NASCAR Xfinity race to occupy my time while the Yankees were clobbering the Red Sox.

Pixabay

Even if Boston falls from playoff contention, I’ll keep watching lots of the games. I love baseball. This team isn’t as good as the one that won the World Series last year, but it’s still exciting to watch.

This is the difference. It didn’t matter how far last year’s team fell behind, it might win. The same is true this year. But if the Sox are way ahead, they also might lose the game this year.

The starting pitching has been a complete disappointment. As a result, the bullpen is worn out. Problems lead to musical chairs.

Sports is made up of both tangibles and intangibles.

The biggest problem with the Red Sox is they used up all the magic last year.

Pixabay

Sunday, August 4, 2019, 9:05 a.m.

Sometimes I hate to awaken. I almost always fall asleep with the TV on.

Dayton? What’s all this about Dayton? What happened to El Paso?

Next thought.

Presbyterian College just hired a new athletics director from the University of Texas at El Paso. I wonder if he has already left? I wonder how he feels.

These were half-asleep, groggy thoughts. I tried to go back to sleep, but my mind was alive with song lyrics, and I gave up and got up. No good could come from a dream.

If people can’t safely go to a garlic or a country-music festival, or back-to-school shopping, where can they go? They may just hole up with their Facebook pages and take their psychic shots at the outside world. I think I’ll just stay here and drink.

What’s that Jerry Jeff Walker song about staying home?

A few of the lines:

A time for young fellas to carry umbrellas

And considering the climate, you really might find it
The right time to stay at home …

It’s dangerous out on the freeway, its dangerous out in the bars
Everybody’s mad at somebody, it’s dangerous to drink and drive cars

Pixabay

It certainly got my mind off the Boston Red Sox.

I fear we’ve created a world in which the back of that mind is always a little wary, a little fearful. Yet I mustn’t be cowed by uncertainty lest it prevent me from living because I am merely alive.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

What’s at the beginning mustn’t come to an end.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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The Rookie Who Wasn’t

Alex Bowman races Kyle Larson during the Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, July 1, 2019, 11:52 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Alex Bowman’s victory on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway was quite the phenomenon as it was quickly portrayed as, gadzooks, the first time a rookie had won a Cup race since 2006, and, for most of NASCAR’s history, it was the rarity it seems to be now.

One problem.

Bowman is not a rookie. He has competed in the Monster Energy Series since 2014 and is in his second full year at Hendrick Motorsports. Earlier this year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. even referred to Bowman as a rookie in spite of the fact that it was Bowman who succeeded Earnhardt in the No. 88 he drove to victory on Sunday in rather stirring fashion.

To paraphrase the late Rodney Dangerfield, Bowman gets no respect, no respect at all.

I think I heard it on TV Sunday, and since lots of folks apparently hold the absurd view that TV never messes up in such ways, it probably spread like religious dogma from there. For half the race, I was strumming my guitar and singing songs, so I damn near repeated the mistake myself. It was this morning before I was pondering life while watching the progress of an omelet in the griddle, and thought, Hey, wait a minute …

Rookies had a golden age, though, and it coincided with NASCAR’s rapid growth in popularity. Beginning with Tony Stewart’s three victories in 1999, rookie victories became suddenly common. Rookies won at least one race for five straight years, eight of the next nine and nine of the next 11.

The list of relatively recent rookie victories consists of Stewart in ’99; Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2000; Kevin Harvick in ’01; Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson in ’02; Greg Biffle in ’03; Kyle Busch in ’05; Hamlin in ’06; Juan Pablo Montoya in ’07; Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski in ’09; Trevor Bayne in 2011; and Chris Buescher in 2016.

That’s once in eight years if you’re keeping a scorecard at home.

Bowman leads the pack. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The fruitless years are only three in order but still counting. This year’s hopes lie with Daniel Hemric, Ryan Preece and Matt Tifft. All I know about Tanner Berryhill is that he was supposed to run the season, hasn’t, and otherwise I wouldn’t know him from ex-ballplayer Damon Berryhill or the blueberry hill where Fats Domino found his thrill.

All these drivers, even Berryhill, wherever he is, owe a debt of gratitude to Jeff Gordon, who didn’t actually win a point race when he debuted in ’93 but quickly developed into the sport’s dominant figure with three championships in the next five years and four in the next nine. Before Gordon, young drivers worked their way up through the ranks and had to serve apprenticeships in subpar equipment. Gordon’s success created what was then the phenomenon of young drivers moving right into top-flight equipment. Many failed these tests, but the ones who prospered are the ones now remembered.

As I once heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson say, the doors of opportunity have been locked with impunity.

Three teams – Gibbs, Penske and Hendrick – have won all the races. At the moment, NASCAR’s top series offers precious little opportunity for upward mobility.

 

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Remember the Carousel! Raise the Titanic!

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 22, 2019, 1:16 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

None of the NASCAR drivers racing on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway (formerly Sears Point and Infineon) have ever raced on the current circuit.

I, however, wrote about four races there before Bruton Smith acquired the track and the Carousel was excluded, largely in order to make the track easier for the stock car racers. Now the Carousel is back, and I couldn’t be happier.

Back in those days, I would watch the start in the media center, then, thanks to the late John Cardinale, who handled public relations for the track, I was able to commandeer a golf cart and wander around for an hour or so. I’d spend that hour of the race, with a notepad and a scanner, while I drove up to near the top of the hill overlooking the course, where about three quarters of the track, including the Carousel, could be seen. At the peak of the hill stood a building where the spotters congregated on the roof.

With about an hour to go, I’d return to the media center, catch up on the facts and figures, and write.

(NASCAR Media)

I hated it when the course was changed. More than 20 years later, it’s almost a sure bet that the explanations one hears on TV will be sanitized for viewers’ protection.

When Speedway Motorsports acquired the track, Smith wanted to build an oval, but the lovely natural terrain was something local citizens didn’t want despoiled. If Smith had wanted to build a golf course, they probably would have showed up wielding shovels, but as the Rolling Stones sang, “You can’t always get what you want,” so Smith resolved to make his track as much like an oval as he could, and I think he wanted to make it easier so that it didn’t take a road-racing whiz to win there.

 

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

It was at that point that I began to enjoy the area more than the race.

Predictably, I also wish they’d use “the Boot” at Watkins Glen, but I don’t think NASCAR has run that part of the upstate New York course since the 1950s.

The winner of Sunday’s race may well be the driver who is most adaptable to the vagaries of the unfamiliar Carousel, which winds its way down a considerable incline and back up.

I can’t wait to see. On TV.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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I’ll Keep Verbing My Way Back to You, Babe …

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Pixabay)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 17, 2019, 9:53 a.m.

The weekend seemed vacant. The Monster Energy Series was idle, though NASCAR ran a pair of minor-league races in Iowa, one of which had its outcome overturned by the apparent winning truck being disqualified after post-race inspection.

And just when I was about to buy a celebratory watermelon.

The NBA is over. The NHL is over. The U.S. Open is over. Sunday was Father’s Day, and I am not a father. How things have changed. Once running a race on Mother’s Day weekend was taboo. Now it’s a prime date. Meanwhile, Father’s Day was once a prime date, and now it’s an open one.

They never ask me about the weighty matters.

It was reasonably busy, though, here in the typing cave. No, wait. Typing is an anachronism like so much else. It’s the keyboarding cave. I can touch-keyboard. A colleague and I used to call this “verbing,” which is the practice of turning all words into verbs. That’s why I’m keyboarding and laptopping. That way I can blog. Others might enjoy antiquing. Or golfing. Me? I prefer laptopping. I aspire to impact something.

Forget Trump. The real challenge is to stop “verbing,” which strikes at the very heart of truth, justice and the American way. Verbing – perpetrated by wild, maniacal “verbers” overrunning the virtual countryside – is the cause. Trump is merely the effect.

Don’t call the Funny Farm. Mostly, I’m kidding.

A Baltimore Oriole. (PIxabay)

The Red Sox swept, but it was only Baltimore. Back in Henry Fonda’s day, Baltimore was a sneaky town (On Golden Pond for the benefit of the whippersnappers). The Orioles are about as sneaky as the Keystone Kops and occasionally as amusing. I like the Orioles, just not against the Red Sox. Now that the series is over, I hope they beat the Yankees but wouldn’t bet on it.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans was an around-the-clock-twice race of British accents talking incessantly at the same time. I could make neither hide nor hair of it. Toyotas won the overall, and the Clemson Tigers Ford GT, co-driven by Dabo Swinney, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence, won one of the classes. I think it was called the BCS.

Pixabay

How did I spend Father’s Day? I liked and occasionally retweeted or shared photographs of fathers I know. I even made a few pithy comments. My laptop has within its catacombs no photos of my father, due in no small part to his death in 1993. I’m not a big photo scanner.

To my knowledge, there is no Uncle’s Day, although there is probably a National Chihuahua Week. I have no problem with that. The world doesn’t need a day for yapping uncles to be cavorting about.

Not when there’s laptopping to do.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Live from the Auto Racing Cave

Martin Truex Jr., en route to victory at Charlotte. (NASCAR Media)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, May 27, 2019, 3:30 p.m.

Monte Dutton

Today I haven’t been the most energetic sort. It’s hotter than the 31st of August, and it’s only the 27th of May. If I was driving around right now, I don’t think I’d want to crack the window. It’s Memorial Day, and I’m kind of happy I don’t even have to go get the mail.

On Facebook Live last night, I sang the old Hank Snow tune, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” which led one visitor to suggest I might give “The Auctioneer” a try. He’s right.

Leroy Van Dyke

My late father, Jimmy Dutton (1937-93) was an auctioneer. He went to an auctioneering school, as Leroy Van Dyke, who co-wrote and most notably performed “The Auctioneer,” did. Along with Buddy Black, Van Dyke wrote it about his cousin, Ray Sims, an auctioneer of renown, but Van Dyke knew what he was doing. It’s an authentic song. He rolls his tongue in the middle of his delivery.

Jimmy Dutton did that. If I could’ve talked faster, I might have been an auctioneer. I can talk faster now. After all, I managed to get through “I’ve Been Everywhere” last night.

I do the Facebook show, almost always on Sunday night at 8 EDT, so that I can: (1.) sing favorite songs, (2.) sing songs I wrote, (3.) play in front of people virtually since I seldom do it otherwise anymore, (4.) talk about NASCAR and other sports, and (5.) promote myself and my books.

So it’s not like I do it for no reason. Usually 250-350 people watch, about half live and half on replay. The crowd doesn’t matter that much, though I appreciate it. I mainly do it because I like it.

The above explains why I’ve been practicing “The Auctioneer” while the Yankees are unfortunately polishing off the Padres and I’m waiting for the Red Sox to host the Indians at 4.

Last night was the first time I’ve done the Facebook show while a NASCAR race was going on. The Coca-Cola 600 started at 6:18 and didn’t end until after 11, so doing the show from 8 to 9 left plenty to see before and after. I had the game on with the sound muted and closed-captioning activated, so I reported on what was happening from time to time. Most of the show took place during the second of four segments. Brad Keselowski was then leading most of the time, and I happened to be looking at the screen when Ryan Preece wrecked.

Monte Carlo (PIxabay)

The principal reason I am not at my creative best today is because auto racing on TV wore me out. How it’s tiring to sit in an easy chair tweeting is beyond me – I have the same quandary about driving – but I guess it’s the mind that tires. On Sunday, I watched the Grand Prix of Monaco in the morning, the Indianapolis 500 in the afternoon, and the Coca-Cola 600 at night. I even had time to see the last three innings of the Red Sox victory in Houston and the obligatory “edit the obits” and “see who got arrested” that is part of my daily duties at GoLaurens/GoClinton.

As is oft-used cliché in these parts, the school year is ’bout played out. Clinton High has a spring game on Thursday, and it’s still likely to be scorching. Nowadays, if it’s too hot, the High School League won’t let them play. The sun will be getting low by game time, so maybe the ballplayers and I will manage to survive, and I won’t get bowled over on the sideline as I did two years ago.

I told the story last night of Joe McGee, a boyhood hero of mine, and that was before Joe went off to become the only man I knew personally to die in Vietnam. I’ve set a little time aside to memorialize today, and I hope you will, too.

 

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Oh, Be for Real, or, at Least, Do a Little Homework

Wilt Chamberlain (Pixabay)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 23, 2019, 11:12 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

No one thinks Spencer Tracy less an actor because many of his movies were in black and white. No one thinks Abraham Lincoln less a president because he faced no nuclear threat in the Civil War.

Somehow, in sports lies the ignorant conceit that all the modern athletes are better than their predecessors.

“Lies” is a double entendre.

People don’t even spell it out, thanks to the enforced brevity of social media. GOAT: Greatest of All Time. In basketball, the title seems to be a two-man race between LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in an NBA game when there were no shots that counted three points. What about Oscar Robertson? Bill Russell? Bob Cousy? Elgin Baylor? Walt Frazier? Jerry West?

I never saw them play.

Pixabay

I never saw Mel Ott, either, but I read a book about him when I was about 12. If a person is evaluating history, then by definition, it behooves him (or her) to consider all of it. Homework is no more distant than a trip to YouTube. Go watch some video of Jimmy Brown or Dick Butkus. I predict you’ll be impressed. This may seem extreme, but it might be constructive to read a book instead of 10,000 tweets.

When Harold Lloyd dangled off a window-washer’s platform, 20 floors above the city streets, in a 1920s silent movie, he was really dangling above the street. No green screens. No virtual reality.

Everyone seems to compare apples to oranges and discredits the oranges because they make juice but not pie.

The players are bigger, faster and quicker now.

Jerry Kramer

Big deal. If Jerry Kramer had been exposed to modern weight-training techniques, he would have been a bigger pulling guard. If Joe DiMaggio had spent his summers playing on travel teams, he would have been an even greater center fielder. If Richard Petty had been supported by 15 engineers, he would have driven a faster, more durable Plymouth.

Look at the numbers.

Richard Petty chats with Junie Donlavey in 1974. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Nary a sport exists – with the possible exception of soccer – in which the rules have not been changed to pump up the excitement. I don’t oppose excitement, but rules changes must be considered. If they’d played 30 years later, Johnny Unitas would have completed many more passes. Hank Aaron would have hit many more homers. Jerry West would have scored many more points. Bobby Hull would have scored many more goals.

Let’s not even enter a discussion of equipment. It’s a wonder they mostly survived. In auto racing, the great ones often didn’t.

It’s all relative. Greatness in one era is no greater in another.

It is a great mystery to me why, sometime during my lifetime, people abandoned history. They pay for it every day.

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

My eighth novel, a political crime thriller, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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Overlooked and Underappreciated … Mostly by Choice

The Greenville parade for Furman’s national championship, 1988. (Furman University)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 10, 2019, 9:12 a.m.

Monte Dutton

It’s taken a while for me to get around to Jimmy Satterfield, who died at age 79 on May 6. He and I chatted amiably at a Furman football game last fall, and it was the first time I had seen him in at least a decade and probably two.

Satterfield never got the credit he deserved in general, but in particular, he was overlooked in spite of the fact that he coached the Paladins to their only national championship, then Division I-AA, now FCS, in 1988. Dick Sheridan coached the 1985 team to the finals and Bobby Johnson took them there in 2001.

Jimmy Satterfield (Furman University)

The chief reason Satterfield never got his due was that he didn’t much care for it. He was an unassuming man whose eyes twinkled with mischief. He was amused by life. He was the type of man who planted a garden, was careful with his money and didn’t get himself entangled in needless discussion. He just kept his mouth shut and did what he wanted.

As with most coaches, Satterfield was insanely competitive. Most liked him but not when they were playing basketball in the Old Gym at lunchtime. On game day, he turned cold and pitiless toward the opposition.

(Furman University)

It was my observation that Satterfield grew on his players. Many coaches dazzle their players initially, but some inevitably grow disillusioned. Freshmen didn’t care for Satterfield at first. By the time they were seniors, they loved him. He was an acquired taste.

It wasn’t long after I got to Furman that I discovered my natural habitat on campus was in the athletics department. I missed playing high school football. The student body consisted mostly of bright young men and women from families more monied than mine. Athletes were my kin on campus. I just wasn’t athletic.

Robbie Caldwell (Clemson University)

Robbie Caldwell, now Clemson’s offensive line coach, was then a graduate assistant coach at Furman, where he had played center. Back then, Caldwell wasn’t notably higher on the totem pole than yours truly, an equipment manager. It wasn’t unusual for Caldwell and me to drive back from a distant road trip while the team was taking a plane or bus. Once we had to hotwire the equipment van in Boone and drive through the mountains in a cold rain without windshield wipers.

Satterfield was Art Baker’s offensive coordinator when I arrived and then served Sheridan in the same capacity. He became head coach in 1986 when Sheridan left for North Carolina State. By the miracle of some delegation of duties that may or may not have been written down, Satterfield oversaw the equipment department, which consisted of a plain-spoken man named Carroll Peebles and students such as me who came and went with our corresponding education and coaches’ sons who came and went on their way to college studies. In my prime, I could change a faceguard with the efficiency of a NASCAR pit stop because I learned how to do it with impatient assistant coaches screaming at me. It was similar to the way my father taught me how to drive.

Dick Sheridan (Furman University)

Satterfield – I doubt I ever called him Jimmy till last fall – and I conspired regarding the equipment presented to officials. Back in those days, the officials were in complete charge. They didn’t have to worry about some electronic eye in the sky overturning their calls. If they declared a football suitable for use, it was. We had a neurotic, barefoot punter named Willie Freeman – naturally, today he is a psychologist – who liked to kick scuffed-up balls. Most weeks it was my job to present a dozen or so balls to the referee, and one of them would be disguised to look newer than it was. If the referee scribbled a little mark, usually a star, in the corner of the ball, it was good to go punt.

I remember once when a stickler of a zebra refused Freeman’s precious punting ball. When I told Satterfield, those twinkling eyes turned black as coal. At that moment, he would have gladly signed an executive order to have the poor, conscientious referee sent to the electric chair. The look in his eyes sent a chill down my spine.

Bobby Johnson (Furman University)

It passed. The next week, if the same referee was passing through Greenville, Satterfield might have met him on Fried Chicken Day at Stax’ and recommended the cornbread and turnip greens.

Satterfield didn’t tell jokes. He told funny stories that came to mind. When I had been in the ninth grade at Clinton High School, then distant from the varsity, the Red Devils had come up against Satterfield’s Irmo Yellow Jackets in the upper-state championship game. Clinton won, 7-0, en route to its first modern state championship. Satterfield and I discussed that game many times, including last fall, and I don’t think he ever accepted that his team lost it.

Clay Hendrix

Jimmy was from Lancaster. His brother Steve was a college head coach (Wofford) before he was. Jimmy took over at Furman, won a national championship and three Southern Conference championships in eight years. His record was 66-29-3, but the Paladins drifted downhill in his last three seasons – his worst and last record was 5-5-1 – and the love grew cold, as it often does with the men who show the boys how to join them.

Unlike a large percentage of successful football coaches, Satterfield didn’t have much of an ego. He had considerable pride. He packed up the family, and after two idle years, became head coach for eight years at Lexington High School.

Art Baker

When I saw Jimmy last fall, he looked fully capable of coaching the Paladins that afternoon, but then this spring, he underwent bypass surgery, and it didn’t go well. The golden age of Furman football was full of characters on the coaching staff and roster alike. Baker was a rah-rah guy. Sheridan was a man of considerable charisma and indomitable will; he was brilliant at devising game plans, but Satterfield was better at adjusting on the fly. Johnson, whose greatest gift was pure, burning intelligence, shared with Satterfield a cold calculation on game day. That quartet, plus Steve Robertson, a perfect assistant coach who always was one, produced more than a generation of successful coaches. One of them, Clay Hendrix, coaches the Paladins now, and, at this moment, greatness is again at near range.

As was the case with another longtime coaching acquaintance, Presbyterian College’s Cally Gault, I felt no undue sadness at Satterfield’s death because I know from experience the pleasant memories will be the ones that linger.

Satterfield lived his way. It was his badge of success.

 

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The Old, Familiar Smell of Qualifying Success

After all, it is the Monster Mile. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 3, 2019, 2:02 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I’m looking forward to seeing stock cars qualifying one at a time again. It’s not that I think the old qualifying format was bad. I just don’t think any form of qualifying is particularly exciting.

Each car goes out and takes two laps, counting the faster. The fastest lap wins the pole and sets the lineup . Group qualifying will continue at road courses.

After five-plus years of three rounds, clocks almost running out while drivers and teams played the safest brand of “chicken” (at a standstill) imaginable, NASCAR officials have publicly acknowledged that the “experiment” ended up being untenable.

It’s going to be nice to see each car roar out of the pits, climb the banking and turn a lap. It gives the announcers a chance to hype the fact that Kyle Busch is pulling up on the track, trying to turn a faster lap than Joey Logano, or Chase Elliott, or Martin Truex Jr., or someone else, or vice-versa.

Kurt Busch (NASCAR Media)

It’s not my favorite format; nor has it ever been. What I’d like to see is qualifying, albeit in one session, Indy 500-style. Each car takes four laps, each one counts, and the total average, whether measured in minutes and seconds or average speed, decides the qualifying order.

Announcers will have plenty to discuss. Was his first lap faster than the current polesitter’s first? How much did he fall off? How well can he hold that speed throughout the run? Does he have the concentration to turn four faultless laps? TV can track via video shadow the progress of the live car at every stage of the run. I’d be fascinated. I am watching Indy.

Tyler Reddick in Xfinity practice. (NASCAR Media)

Maybe, somehow, that’s boring. One of NASCAR’s problems is that some fans, while threatening to stop or renounce their fandom, seem to find everything boring. Four-lap qualifying won’t bore me, and I’ve often rested my judgment based on the fact that if I like something, undoubtedly others will, too.

NASCAR has often based its judgment, apparently, on the fact that if I like something, by definition, it won’t. It would be absurd to suggest that I hold some reverse sway. Coincidence? Yes. My view never meant much when I was there. It’s just frequently at cross purposes with theirs.

And you can’t argue with success.

 

 

If you enjoy my insights about racing and other subjects, make a small pledge of support. Rewards are in place for pledges of $5 or more. If 1/10 of my followers and Facebook friends pledge $1 a month, I’ll be set. Read all about it here.

If you yearn for my writing in larger doses, I’ve written quite a few books. Most are available here.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle, the first of my two motorsports novels, is now available in audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) with the extraordinary narration of Jay Harper.

Just out is my eighth novel, a political crime thriller called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s right up to date with the current political landscape in the country.

My writing on other topics that strike my fancy is posted here.

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