Bleary Reflections on Ichiro

Pixabay

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 21, 2019, 9:57 a.m.

Monte Dutton

Baseball began while I was asleep. The first two games were in Tokyo.

Had the Boston Red Sox been there, I would have gotten up at 5:30 the last two days. Instead, the Mariners played the Athletics and beat them twice. Everyone else begins next week, but for now, as soon as the Mariners land at Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma, which I know is the airport because I’ve flown there), the best record in baseball will reside in Seattle.

I wouldn’t plan on being in the World Series just yet.

It was all worth it, I suppose, just as it was worth it for the local college basketball team to travel to, of all places, Seattle, to play last night in something called the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Presbyterian won its first-ever postseason basketball game in Division I against Seattle University, Elgin Baylor’s alma mater.

On Wednesday, I got up when I got up and saw the last three innings of Seattle’s 9-8 victory. On Thursday, I went to sleep with the TV on and programmed to tune to ESPN at 5:30. This, of course, meant that, for a time, I was half-asleep but aware the game was going on. What little I perceived was clouded by the fanciful. The game was half real and half dream. For instance, I don’t think Ken Griffey Jr. really homered for the Mariners.

Seattle (Pixabay)

What did happen – and this game ended up going 12 innings, so I saw more of it in my right mind – was the end of Ichiro Suzuki’s brilliant career in both America and Japan.

First thought: This is stupid. Why start baseball in Japan? Why do these two teams get to start early? Why do 28 have to start late?

Second thought: Ichiro is going to retire in his native Japan? Cool.

I saw him play, live, that is, only once. Years ago, I took my nephew on a trip to Los Angeles because that’s where he wanted to go. We went to Disneyland, Universal Studios and Knotts Berry Farm for him. We went to see the Mariners play the Angels for me.

Two things I remember. One is the vantage point of Vince and me sitting in the upper deck down the left-field line. The second is a brilliant throw by Ichiro from right field to the plate. I don’t even remember which team won. I became fixated with watching Ichiro’s fundamental soundness in every aspect of the game.

Safeco Field (Pixabay)

When Ichiro left Japan to play for the Mariners, I was briefly annoyed that he had “ICHIRO” on his back above the numbers instead of “SUZUKI.” In time, I came to realize that he was one of those talented people who becomes defined by a single name. Elvis. Beethoven. Picasso. Gandhi. Ichiro. Besides, it’s hard for American fans to pronounce Japanese names. For instance, Boston fans seldom referred to Daisuke Matsuzaka. He was “Dice-K.” The Red Sox don’t even have names on their home jerseys.

Ichiro was underappreciated, partly because his American prime was in far Seattle and partly because he was stereotyped as this inscrutable Wizard of the Orient and people never really got to know him. He was just a ballplayer.

One of the best.

 

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.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Bleary Reflections on Ichiro

Consensus in These Parts: What the Hell Is Going on?

There’s your polesitter, kids. Austin Dillon, leading the pack in the second round of qualifying. No one made a lap in the final round. (NASCAR Media)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 16, 2019, 9:17 a.m.

Monte Dutton

As is often the case, my perspective is clouded by the view of the folks at home. My view is a bit jaded by the fact that many people here know I used to write about NASCAR for a living. It’s probably not really as important as it seems because people mention it when they haven’t got anything else to say.

My view is skewed by the setting, far away from the tracks, just as it can be skewed by those who are at the track. Their views are affected by being surrounded by people who obviously love the sport by virtue of making the appropriate arrangements to be there.

If I boil down all the questions and comments into one, representing the consensus of the good folks of Laurens County, it is:

What in the hell is going on?

The Daytona 500 was same old same old in terms of rules. Atlanta was apparently some kind of transitional phase from one set of rules to another. Las Vegas was full fruition, fruition being an oddity in the desert. Phoenix was new aerodynamics matched with a brief return to full horsepower. Now Auto Club Speedway is allegedly where it all comes together.

Latest source of confusion: What if they held a qualifying session and nobody came?

I thought Phoenix was the best race so far. I liked the power. (NASCAR Media)

These are not people attuned to the details. These are people who, when NASCAR went after the casual fan, stopped being intense ones. It worked. They’re all casual now. They didn’t watch the qualifying debacle, as I did. They went to the JV soccer match and checked their Twitter feed a few times. I got there in time for the varsity match, and some of them asked me, yes …

What the hell is going on?

I’m sorry, Fred, but life is too short, and I’ve got to shoot 50 photos so that 15 of them will be somewhat in focus.

For a while, I sat in the grandstands so that I could talk about NASCAR on a statewide sports network which generally has me on every Friday at 7:30 unless the Clemson baseball game runs late or something. Sometimes it’s 7:45. I don’t mind. It’s fun.

Last night, with the authentic background of fans yelling, “Hey, ref, get a clue, how ’bout it!” I regaled the show’s hosts with my fresh reactions to a qualifying round in which 12 cars were eligible but none got on the track in time to make a lap before the clock ran out.

I must have been funny because everyone was laughing. Sometimes radio hosts sort of overdo the laughter, but I don’t think they were expecting me to do stand-up.

Everybody’s doing Trump. There might be a market for some young comic to do NASCAR.

 

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.

Posted in NASCAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Consensus in These Parts: What the Hell Is Going on?

A Few Beers at the Honky Tonk, Diet Dr. Pepper in the Press Room, and Coffee (Lots of Coffee)

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, March 10, 2019, 11:15 a.m.

Monte Dutton

The Southern Conference Basketball Tournament is a multi-celled organism. My suspicion is that lots of basketball tournaments are.

It’s still going on. I had too much to do back home to stay. Being exhausted was inevitable. I decided I’d just drive home in the wee hours, through fog and rain, and get the exhaustion out of the way. I’m acclimated to tortuous drives now. I made one Friday night, too, from Knoxville back to Asheville because I hadn’t been anywhere in a while and I wanted to take advantage of it. I watched a good friend play music in a band because Knoxville is about as far south as it goes and about as far north as I go, or could go, in this instance.

I was an aging bucking horse let loose from his stall and wanted to kick up my hooves. I could kick a lot higher back when I was half my age, going to that tournament year after year before fate turned me toward lapped cars and blown engines instead of turnovers and shot clocks.

The SoCon has four really good teams, especially for me, a veteran of high school games where they shoot as many threes but not nearly as many go in. All four powerhouses – in order of seeding, Wofford, UNC Greensboro, Furman and East Tennessee State – won in the quarterfinals, but every game I watched – adding in the Furman-Chattanooga women’s game (Paladins, 73-67) on Friday that started shortly after I arrived – was interesting.

Furman’s Matt Rafferty

Wofford, which hasn’t lost a SoCon game and whose four losses read like a who’s who of college basketball, won by 27 (99-72), but VMI made a late first-half run that forced the Terriers to bear down a while. The only games that were close at the end were UNC Greensboro over Samford (77-70) and ETSU over Chattanooga (68-64). The Furman-Mercer game (85-74) was the only one I watched from start to finish as one of my priorities was seeing how the tournament had changed in 30-plus years.

Stan Pamfilis has been the sports director at WLOS-TV in Asheville for a while, which is a part of my home market, but I hadn’t seen him at least since saying hey at some NASCAR race in Bristol or Charlotte some odd years ago. I was surprised he remembered my name and told him so. He laughed and said nobody could forget me, and I reckon that’s true even though I’m too blind to see why.

Jeff Birchfield and Lindsey Young are old acquaintances from The NASCAR Age who were there, covering ETSU and Chattanooga, respectively. That means Jeff is still there. Jim Noble, whose broadcasts were mostly NASCAR-based for God knows how long, is now the Voice of the Wofford Terriers. Successful broadcasters become Voices with a capital “V.” Successful writers? Oh, maybe, scribes with a little “s.” That’s, oh, fair. I always have said on my good days, I’m a writer, but most of the time, I’m just a typist.

It rained as many threes inside U.S. Cellular Center – it was Asheville Civic Center back before there was cellular in the U.S. – as cold, clear water outside. Furman hit 15 and no one seemed the least bit surprised. It was about par for the 94-foot course.

I was impressed by most everything, partly because, as previously noted, I’d watched mostly high school games this dank, soggy winter. I was even impressed by the soupy fog when I was driving down the Interstate 26 descent into South Carolina, listening to a Willie Nelson-Loretta Lynn duet on Willie’s Roadhouse. I was too late for the Opry.

Besides, to quote the late, great Lefty Frizzell, “I’m an old, old man trying to live while I can,” and Garth Brooks, “I’m much to young to feel this damn old.”

It wasn’t that way till just this morning.

Hell’s bells. There’s a race today.

 

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.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Few Beers at the Honky Tonk, Diet Dr. Pepper in the Press Room, and Coffee (Lots of Coffee)

The Threat of Terrierism

(Monte Dutton photos)

Asheville, North Carolina, Saturday, March 9, 2019, 1:58 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I’ve watched Wofford play quite a few times this year and have detected a recurring theme.

This isn’t scientific. The games I saw were on TV before this one. My knowledge is hardly authoritative enough to venture a question to head coach Mike Young.

The Terriers start out quickly. The opposition makes a run that doesn’t put the lead in jeopardy but does make it interesting at halftime. Wofford comes out in the second half and bludgeons the hapless opposition.

Mike Young

Hence are the Terriers 27-4. Hence does it seem impossible for Wofford to lose in this tournament, even though there are at least three other teams – UNC Greensboro, Furman and East Tennessee State – that could theoretically do it.

The 99-72 victory over Virginia Military was vintage Terrier, vintage Young and vintage his band of money players who do not happen to actually, literally make money. They are such a pleasure to watch in spite of the fact that I graduated from Furman. I don’t want them to win. I merely expect it, and it’s entirely possible that those expectations are contagious.

A basketball tournament is the ultimate war of attrition. Nine teams show, each towing various assemblages of fans, not to mention the athletics wardrobe of coaches, trainers, managers, marketers, publicists, tinkers, tailors and candlestick makers. Some are nonessential, but in contrast to the relatively narrow range of those engaged in the human drama of athletic competition, it’s all rather convivial.

Then the teams play, half of them lose and all the accompanying professionals pack their briefcases, stuff a handful of mixed nuts in their suitpockets and file out with hale and hearty handshakes. It’s a bit like the old cartoon with the coyote and sheepdog fighting each other all day over the sheep and then clocking out at the end of the day.

Give the wife my regards, Fred.

The songs of pep bands live forever. Most of them are the ones that were played here when I was a college student. “The Horse,” for instance, was released in 1968 by someone or something called Cliff Nobles and was the instrumental version of “Love Is All Right,” which was released as the “A” side of the record.

What I find a bit odd is that Furman’s pep band has never, in my presence, played “The Horse,” in spite of the Paladins actually having a horse at their football games. A paladin is a knight on horseback.

As a side note, Furman bands have never played the theme of “Have Gun – Will Travel,” a television show in which Richard Boone played a character named Paladin.

 

 

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.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Threat of Terrierism

A Blast from the Past

(Monte Dutton photos)

Asheville, N.C., Saturday, March 9, 2019, 11:02 a.m.

Monte Dutton

In front of the U.S. Cellular Center, which in days of yore I knew as Asheville Civic, musicians cavort around, sawing at a fiddle, plunking a banjo and dancing, though frozen in what I assume is bronze. It’s a nice touch for the plaza out front. On Friday, as I left the 99th Southern Conference Basketball Tournament – Kentucky won it in 1921, UNC Greensboro last year – across the street hip-hop was blaring from the stage of the SoCon Experience.

A man and presumably his wife were taking selfies with the statues.

In my best Richard Petty beatnik/good ol’ boys dialect, a dialect only The King possesses, I said, “Them cats is mismatched,” and the man chortled.

From there, I drove to Knoxville because a close friend was playing in a band there music that would have matched the statues of Asheville better. Half the trip was spent idly, as much of I-40 through the Smokies is one lane. The trip back was faster but foggier, and I made it almost back but not quite because my travels have shown me that the rooms in the towns are more reasonably priced than those in the cities. That plus there’s a heap of basketball fans in this burg.

Another lesson is that I am getting too old for this, but, fortunately, to paraphrase Toby Keith (and Scotty Emerick) grudgingly, I’m as good once as I ever was. I’m not as good twice, and this is day two.

The last time I went to the SoCon Tournament, many fewer called it the SoCon but it was then in Asheville, where after several short-term romances elsewhere, it has returned. This arena is the right size, and Asheville is the right place. Western Carolina, East Tennessee State, Furman and Wofford are within easy range. Chattanooga and UNC Greensboro aren’t too distant, and this year’s movers and shakes are from nearby. The women’s teams are here, too. I watched a part of the Paladins’ victory over the Moccasins (or are they just the Mocs nowadays?) before the rash sojourn to Knoxville.

Now I’m ready to walk out into the arena and watch the first of four Saturday men’s games. It’s VMI versus Wofford for just a few of the marbles.

 

 

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.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Blast from the Past

Kyle Wears His Own Kind of Hat

(NASCAR Media)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 2, 2019, 9:23 p.m.

Monte Dutton

I don’t think I’ve ever been so mystified at what is going on in NASCAR.

Every week so far has seen a different set of rules. The Daytona 500 was “once more with feeling.” Atlanta was “get a load of these new rules.” Sunday’s race in Las Vegas – Pennzoil 400, I think – is “this week the rules are fully in place.”

Early Friday night, I told a radio show I thought Kyle Busch would win Sunday because the weekend just had that feel about it. This, of course, is absurd because my feel is pretty tenuous being on the other end of the country and having to rely on TV for information.

Kyle and Brexton Busch. (NASCAR Media)

Most weeks the host of this show, which is on about 20 stations here in South Carolina, asks me whom I think will win. I’ve tried to tell him that my training is in the field of what already happened, that I never majored in prophecy, and Nostradamus and I have nothing in common, but, hell, I’ve spent most of my life as a journalist, and if someone asks me a question, I’ll answer it. I don’t believe in off the record, though I’ll grant it on occasion. I don’t believe in it from my end.

This prediction was made before Busch made a mockery of the Truck race later that night and triumphed with a bit greater resistance on Saturday in the race of Xfinity. It was partly because most of the time I pick Busch, he seems to win, and Las Vegas is his hometown. If I had picked him every week last year, I would have done better than I did. My record reflects my appraisal of my prognosticating facility.

Richard Petty’s kind of hat. (NASCAR Media)

By raising the subject of Busch’s prowess across series – and how it matches up against Richard Petty’s unprecedented prowess in one – I realize it is the NASCAR equivalent of writing the word “Trump.” I’ve written what I think before, but now that he has 197 victories, it seems timely to reiterate.

It’s remarkable. It’s historic. It would be more remarkable and historic if anyone else had tried to do what Busch has achieved. Ever since he’s competed in a NASCAR series, he’s wanted to run them all as often as Imperial NASCAR will allow. Kyle Busch has ants in his pants and he needs to dance. I admire drivers who want to race every time a track opens its gates.

The one season Richard Petty drove a Ford, 1969.

Some, almost all of whom weren’t around to see it, say 200 wins by Kyle Busch in “the three national touring series” is equivalent to Petty winning that number in what is now Monster Energy Cup.

For the record, I saw Petty win two 100-milers on dirt at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, before it was paved, and they were no easier than Busch in a garden-variety Truck race.

When I am long deceased and Busch stops winning races, he will go down in history, and his three-series victory total will be engraved on his likeness in the Hall of Fame, but it will be the same way that the various and sundry career victories of short-track legends are etched on theirs.

He’s got a lot of trophies. So did Dick Trickle. So did Larry Phillips. So does King Richard.

Busch’s place in history is secure. He’s got his own private niche.

The King in his prime. (NASCAR Media)

I can imagine something akin to the old baseball story, most often attributed to Stan Musial.

“Richard, how many races do you think you’d win now?”

“Aw, I don’t know. Maybe two or three.”

“Huh. So few?”

“Well, you gotta realize, I’m 81 years old.”

 

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.

Posted in NASCAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Kyle Wears His Own Kind of Hat

Around and Around They Go

(NASCAR Media)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 20, 2019, 12:37 p.m.

Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 for the second time. It was a rousing race in front of an enthusiastic crowd by all accounts of the telecasters charged with describing it.

The big race is over. Now we can progress to what is going to happen in the season. The next race, on Sunday, is at Atlanta Motor Speedway, actually located near a quaint Georgia town known as Hampton.

Hamlin will have less angst turning over his triumphant Toyota to the Daytona Beach tourist attraction – I assume this still happens – because he wouldn’t be able to race it anyway because the rules package is changing from here on out.

(NASCAR Media)

Oddly enough, these new incarnations of would-be stock cars are designed to make the racing at other tracks more like Daytona and its even scarier Talladega, Alabama, brother.

This leaves a quandary in its wake. The sleek, sculpted racers of Daytona Beach will not be used again, but the ones that replace them are designed to make other races more like them.

It’s enough to make me want to watch the QuikTrip 500. I want to see if racing fundamentally changes and how much.

Atlanta’s roughly a mile shorter (1.54 to 2.5) than Daytona. The racing isn’t going to be identical. NASCAR officials apparently hope it will be reminiscent. If so, the reminiscences are going to be comprehensive and far-reaching. They may affect who wins and who loses. They may make winning easier harder for some and easier for others. They may take away some of the best drivers’ edge.

NASCAR always reminds me of Charlie the Tuna, the cartoon character that used to appear on Starkist commercials, when they start tinkering. Charlie inexplicably wanted to be a Starkist tuna, meaning that he would be caught, killed, cut up and canned. He thought Starkist wanted tunas with good taste. In fact, Starkist wanted Tuna that tasted good. It seems to me that NASCAR officials are forever caught between good taste and tasting good.

This year is tasting good. Maybe if the fans see it that way, the best and brightest might let things sit for a year. I’d like that.

(NASCAR Media)

I’m trying to hold back and not let my skepticism, fortified by 20 years of watching at closer range, get the best of me. I’m trying just to let them race and see what happens.

Every year NASCAR unveils new packaging, something with “new and improved!” splashed in a band across the box. Meanwhile, many of its once and now would-be fans pine for the way things used to be. Maybe improvements will one day come full circle and stop. If that day is Sunday, it won’t be enough. The past suggests that it will take a whole, pleasing, upbeat season, and then Imperial NASCAR will find something to improve in that.

But I hope not. Damn it, I hope not.

 

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.

Posted in NASCAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Around and Around They Go

Seven Daytona 500s Removed

(NASCAR Media)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 16, 2019, 1:45 p.m.

The last time I wrote about the Daytona 500 from onsite, Matt Kenseth won. To be honest, I barely remember the race. I remember details from hanging out – at the condo, in the garage, in the media center, in the press box — but I didn’t know my last Daytona 500 was going to be my last, so it really just blurs a little more each year and blends in with all the others, from Dale Jarrett to Kenseth, forever and ever, amen.

Now, last night’s Clinton at Seneca high school basketball game … I can tell you all about that.

This morning began with delight because I managed to watch the Truck (Gander Outdoors?) Series race without knowing who won it. I drove to Seneca in the car that gets good mileage but doesn’t have satellite radio, so I rolled into the foothills listening to bluegrass and out of them listening to the Grand Ole Opry. When I got home, there were digital photos to crop and adjust, stats to add up, a story to write and a posting to GoLaurens/GoClinton. Then I put together a story on the county’s private school winning a girls’ basketball playoff game by a score of 60-9.

This is Austin Hill. (NASCAR Media)

Austin Hill won the Truck race. Who’s Austin Hill? I looked him up online and called a friend in Georgia who said he didn’t know much about him, either.

On Friday night, I also talked about the Daytona 500 with Phil Kornblut on statewide radio, or it may not be statewide till next week but this one was just on in Columbia. The parent company shut down South Carolina Network recently, but Phil, who has been doing sports talk for many years, hooked up with a new flagship and set up a network of 25 stations across the Palmetto State that may or may not have been operational last night. Anyway, I was eating hot dogs in Seneca at a Skin’s. I had taped the radio appearance on Thursday night, knowing how hectic Friday was going to be.

Trucks A-Go-Go. (NASCAR Media)

You’re just biding your time with me, figuring I’m going to get around to what I think about this year’s race.

As far as the 500 is concerned, I expect everyone will stay in one line for most of the day until the end – maybe segment ends – at which time all hell will break loose. Other wrecks may happen as a result of some parts failure, most likely a tire.

As far as the season as a whole is concerned, I’ve got even less a clue than usual. Part of it is because I no longer live close to NASCAR’s beating heart. Coincidentally, both of us have acquired an atrial fibrillation. I wouldn’t know I had it if a doctor hadn’t told me. NASCAR may need to switch to Xarelto.

The best and brightest have changed everything again. Trying to make the racing closer, the smart guys have gone dead opposite from last year’s master plan. Seeing whether or not Atlanta has become “a plate race” next week is probably more interesting than what’s going to take place Sunday.

The test, of course, is whether or not the fans like it.

Imperial NASCAR, often criticized for making everything just alike, has responded by making more things just alike.

That having been duly and pessimistically noted, I really don’t know what I think. A baseball manager was once criticized for having a strategy of “let them hit and see what happens.” That’s what I’m doing.

The easiest way to do this business is just write what you see. Start every day with a clean slate. Trust your instincts, not everyone else’s. It’s my way. It isn’t new.

 

 

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.

Posted in NASCAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Seven Daytona 500s Removed

‘We Still Drink Cokes, and Tell Old Jokes …’

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, December 1, 2018, 10:30 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Last night I had a lovely time writing about the basketball games at Clinton High School. Football has fallen to alarming depths in the county. The three high schools combined to finish 9-21. Throw in Presbyterian College, and it was 11-30.

I never looked forward so much to round balls bouncing.

Both games were close. Clinton won the girls’ game. Laurens won the boys’ game. I’m getting old and I’ve seen a lot of ballgames. I’ve seldom seen teams play harder. There was apparently a fan fracas out in the lobby. Some people probably thought I ignored it. I was too busy taking photos, copying scorebooks and interviewing coaches. As far as I know, no one got hurt or arrested. It was a packed house. The atmosphere was electric.

The county rivals meet again in a week at Laurens District High School.

J.D. Payne

It’s tempting to reminisce about the good, old days. They had nothing on the desperate effort shown by the homestanding Red Devils and visiting Raiders. J.D. Payne, Clinton’s senior guard, might as well have been engaged in battle. He was full steam ahead. He damned the Raider torpedoes. The torpedoes, or the Raiders, won 65-60. He gave no more effort than anyone else, though. He just had the best skills. He is a young man of great athletic character. The succession of young men charged with stopping him possessed great determination.

It took a long time to write about it because I wanted to do the night justice. I wanted to put the right amount of time into the photographs I took. I’m no great photographer. I take 50 photos hoping to get 20 that are decent.

Between Friday night and Saturday morning, a fracas in a lobby notwithstanding, I felt like I was witnessing the best in small-town life. I did not want to go to the Christmas Parade this morning. I really haven’t particularly wanted to go to the Christmas Parade since, some years ago, after I wrote a novel, I was co-grand marshal of the thing. This morning it was raining. I would have been at Laurens’ parade tonight, but it was canceled because the rain grew heavier.

As I have lived here all my life, I figured out how to navigate the maze of streets that had not been closed. First I parked in a parking space, but a lady got out of her car, where she was staying dry as long as she could, to tell me the space where I parked was somehow the property of the woman whose business was next to it.

Whatever. I certainly didn’t want to be involved in a fracas. I backed my pickup down the lane and around the corner and into another space in the nearby alley. Then I walked to the bake shop and had a slice of banana bread, an egg-and-sausage sandwich and a cup of coffee I really liked. Then, when I figured it was about time for the parade to be appearing in the distance, emerging out of South Broad, Presbyterian College and the soon-to-be Thornwell charter school, I walked over to the square along West Main, and some folks motioned me across the street where there was an awning under which I could stand and snap photos.

I thought it was wonderful. Kids’ football teams marched. Shriners rode in antique cars. Santa brought up the rear, erasing any mild trauma from the people dressed as zombies and goblins. Halloween costumes must cost too much for one-time use. The Presbyterian College homecoming queen was the daughter of famed NASCAR mechanic Andy Petree. Andy’s famed now. He used to just be somebody I talked to in the press box. Shortly after she rode by, I yelled at Jimmy Miller, the last remaining stock car fan in Clinton, to ask if he knew. Jimmy, with whom I once played football when boys were men, was riding in the passenger seat of a great, big City of Clinton truck. He yelled back and said Andy was watching back down the street somewhere.

Now that men like me are boys, I write about ballgames and parades, not to mention seeing who died and got arrested.

It reminds me of an old story in college, where I knew city boys and girls. One asked me about Clinton. “What do you do?”

“Well,” I said, “sometimes me and a few friends buy some beer, and we go back on the farm and listen to country music, sit on the hood or the tailgate, drink that beer and talk about life.”

I might as well have said I painted a sheet of plywood and watched it dry.

“Thing is, that was a lot more fun than anything I ever do now,” I said.

I’m right back there. Sometimes the only thing that has changed is that I don’t get around nearly as well.

 

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.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘We Still Drink Cokes, and Tell Old Jokes …’

Perhaps I Doth Protest Too Much

Pixabay

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 26, 2018, 1:48 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

It’s not as bad as it once was, but it’s as bad once as it ever was.

Let me explain my Toby Keith paraphrasal. (I don’t think it’s a word, but I’m being an inventor.)

Once upon a time – it was twenty years, actually – my job was writing about automobile racing. NASCAR. Swimming pools. Movie stars. Oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea.

I don’t know why The Beverly Hillbillies is pertinent. It just seems natural.

When I covered NASCAR, this was the beginning of football season. Such were the demands of stock car racing. When I started making a living writing about racing, I didn’t stop liking other sports. It’s quite possible I grew to love them more.

About the only college game I’d see was what ESPN had for me in the motel on Saturday night. I didn’t care who was playing. I just wanted to see a good game. Florida State played a lot of of blowouts in those days. I still don’t like the Seminoles.

Pixabay

When I got home from Homestead, a placed named to suggest the people went home to there, I was ready for some footbaaaallll. I was ready to party hearty. I loved the bowl games. It didn’t matter if it was Akron vs. North Texas in the Fresno Valley Watermelon Producers Bowl.

I don’t pine nearly as badly for it nowadays. I’ve got a season chock full of unsuccessful high school football behind me. The only team I watched that is still playing is Union County, which is sort of fitting because the Yellow Jackets defeated Clinton 62-7 in the lowest night for my friends in low places.

But it was sort of nice to know I could see the second half of the Carolina Panthers’ game on Sunday. All year long, I’ve been checking the score during commercials of NASCAR races. I didn’t mind missing out on Sonic and KFC commercials, particularly the ones currently being aired.

Naturally, the Panthers lost. Three in a row now.

The college game is my preference, though. On the weekend I would have been back from Homestead had I not been deemed by circumstance out of date, over the hill and outdated by common consent, I found the football mostly unsatisfying. A bigger bunch of mismatches than the ones played at noon on Saturday, seldom have I seen.

I enjoyed most the games played on Friday night – Oklahoma-West Virginia in something of a stock car race and Washington-Washington State in something of a blizzard – but I’d have rather watched Vincent Price in The Pit and the Pendulum than Michigan-Ohio State, where James Joseph Harbaugh charged into the Horseshoe like unto Gen. George Armstrong Custer the Little Bighorn.

In vain, I searched for competition. It was certainly not to be found in Wake Forest at Duke, where demonic Deacons routed oddly Blue Devils in a game of the nether reaches.

Pixabay

I also enjoyed South Carolina at Clemson. The Tigers won with relative ease, as is their wont, but the Gamecocks gave it their best. South Carolina’s players are getting better, but there still aren’t enough of them, particularly on defense.

That game was about the best that could be expected, and next week the conference championships feature such tortoises and hares as Pittsburgh-Clemson, Northwestern-Ohio State and Utah-Washington. That leaves Texas-Oklahoma and Georgia-Alabama to anticipate with relish (or mustard). I’ll watch the others just in the off chance of miracles, but I imagine I might get some reading done, too.

As is the case in NASCAR, not everything can be a classic, lest classics cease to exist.

 

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.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Perhaps I Doth Protest Too Much