Somewhat of a Race

Brad Keselowski's Kentucky victory was a no doubter. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski’s Kentucky victory was a no doubter. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

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Clinton, S.C., Saturday, June 28, 2014, 7:15 p.m.

Occasionally, I blog a NASCAR race as it goes along, and this is such a night. At worst, this will be a superior form of tweeting, though lacking immediacy because I won’t post it until after the race. At best, it will be reasonably okay.

This panoramic photo makes it look almost as if there were people there in great numbers. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
This panoramic photo makes it look almost as if there were people there in great numbers. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

7:33 p.m.

Kentucky Speedway is a hard lesson in customer service. When a restaurant opens its doors, everything had better be right. Most people won’t complain; they’ll just never return. This track botched its first Sprint Cup race – I spent a week there one night – and lots of the fans have never come back.

You can’t treat folks that way without there being consequences.

8:10 p.m.

It’s entirely possible that I’m going to learn more about TNT’s programming schedule than stock car racing.

Then again, I already knew a lot about stock car racing.

8:30 p.m.

Larry McReynolds, tonight christened “America’s Crew Chief” by Adam Alexander, said a minute ago, referring to some driver or another, “He’s decided to stay right where he is.”

That passes as a description of the whole race to this point.

McReynolds has no worlds left to conquer … unless he wants to be “America’s Sweetheart.”

9:07 p.m.

Brad Keselowski’s Ford is the fastest car on the track. They just missed the setup on pit road, which is the only place anyone has passed him.

In the latest addition to “Things I Never Thought I’d Say About NASCAR,” nothing that has happened in this race so far rivals the excitement of the Brazil-Chile soccer match.

I may be struck by lightning.

9:30 p.m.

It’s a pattern. Keselowski loses the lead on pit road to his teammate, Joey Logano, and then he passes him with, uh, aplomb. Three times, now. It gives everyone something predictable to discuss.

By the way, I hate the phrase “cosmetic damage.”

9:52 p.m.

Something may happen near the end. It almost always does.

So far, it’s a replay of Thursday night’s Camping World Truck race, with Keselowski playing the Kyle Busch role.

Joey Logano's engine faltered at the end. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Joey Logano’s engine faltered at the end. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

10:08 p.m.

Yellow-flag timing – three were pitting while Aric Almirola was crashing – puts Kyle Busch in the lead and leaves Keselowski and Logano, the chosen ones, buried in the pack.

This is supposed to make the rest of the race interesting.

10:24 p.m.

Keselowski systematically tracks down Busch with all the method of a bounty hunter, and this race’s rigid order has been restored. This is definitely one of the season’s races.

The United States Senate has more upward mobility.

10:39 p.m.

All year long I’ve been writing that the racing was better. Right now it’s in a slump.

But, I reckon the sport can stand an ass whuppin’ now and then.

Breaking news! Keselowski said he wants to win another championship. He’ll have to make it to “Final Jeopardy” at Homestead first. The category is “Winning the Lottery.”

Edwards the Overachiever

Overlooked is how much Carl Edwards has made of what -- AFLAC! -- is apparently a lame-duck season. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Overlooked is how much Carl Edwards has made of what — AFLAC! — is apparently a lame-duck season. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, S.C., Friday, June 27, 2014, 4:14 p.m.

Take a look at the Sprint Cup point standings, and it’s hard to make a case that Carl Edwards’ team is off.

He has two victories and is sixth in the rankings, 71 points behind leader Jeff Gordon.

Yet Edwards hasn’t had a dominant car in any of the sixteen races contested so far, even though he won two of them. Edwards and crew chief Jimmy Fennig have made more of what they’ve had than anyone else. In points, Edwards ranks higher than Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, and Kurt Busch, all of whom have been regularly faster. Edwards is eleventh in money earnings.

It’s no wonder his talents are valued. It’s no wonder he’s likely to leave Roush Fenway Racing. No one should blame him when he does.

Ryan Newman hasn't often been the top priority at the teams where he has worked. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)
Ryan Newman hasn’t often been the top priority at the teams where he has worked. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

4:25 p.m.

Lots of great talents seem unfulfilled these days.

Kyle Busch, plucking Truck races like blackberries from the vine, but perpetually frustrated in the main events. … Ryan Newman, once the driver deemed worthy of Rookie of the Year over Jimmie Johnson. … Kasey Kahne, for whom nothing ever seems to work. … Denny Hamlin, whose last few years have been marred by injury in a sport where injuries have grown increasingly rare … Brian Vickers, his progress slowed by medical misfortune … and even Dale Earnhardt Jr., who, after all, has never won a championship.

It’s inevitable when one driver has won six championships in the past eight years, but it’s still painful to watch.

Kyle Busch seems so all alone. (John Clark photo)
Kyle Busch seems so all alone. (John Clark photo)

4:34 p.m.

There’s been plenty of time to think about the waste Kyle Busch has laid to the Camping World Truck Series. Lots of this time occurred watching Busch winning every race he enters.

My latest thought is that the biggest problem isn’t the presence of Busch. It’s the absence of another.

Busch’s record in Trucks and Nationwide competitition — wait, that’s the wrong word, competition – in Trucks and Nationwide activity, is amazing. Those numbers would count for more if others with his talent were interested.

Some balance has been restored to the Nationwide Series by the rise of Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, not to mention the participation of Cup hands like Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Busch. The young stars of Nationwide are exciting to watch. The young drivers in Trucks watch Busch excitedly as the back of his Toyota gets smaller and smaller. It often looks as if he is racing Jamaican bobsledders.

It’s not Busch’s fault that he wins. The chief problem is others being unable to stop him.

Another is the resources of prominent Cup organizations being put in the field like Chinese infantry against the bedraggled militia of the regulars. A third is the utter domination of Toyotas in the Truck Series.

In Trucks, Busch doesn’t play for the Yankees. He plays for the Harlem Globetrotters.

If you’re interested in other aspects of my writing, take a look at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and consider buying your copy (or Kindle file) of my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope.

The Lads Are Giving It Their All

I sketched USA captain Clint Dempsey and German defender Mats Hummels.
I sketched USA captain Clint Dempsey and German defender Mats Hummels.

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Clinton, S.C., Thursday, June 26, 2014, 3:56 p.m.

Whew. The USA advances, not by winning, not by a draw, but by falling, 1-0, to Germany in the final match of Group G play, and the grace of Portugal edging Ghana, 2-1. The Americans have won once (Ghana), lost once (Germany) and tied once (Portugal), and by the formula that determines which two teams made it to the “knockout” round of sixteen, it is enough to play another day.

We can go nuts about soccer, or futbol, or World Cup, again next Tuesday. Then, most likely, after the furor subsides, and another nation justly wins it instead of us, we can go back to chanting “SEC!” or “Roll Tide!” or “Ah-ah-AH-uh-ah-AH!” with a tomahawk chop, something instead of “USA!” Soccer will settle a little higher on the totem poles of our respective sports consciousnesses. Some sports rise in our consciousnesses from time to time – at Wimbledon, Augusta, Indianapolis, when’s the next America’s Cup? – and some stay there all the time.

Obviously, there are those who love soccer more than anything. It’s a big, diverse country.

Honestly, with our soccer team, it’s so far, so good. It advanced to the final sixteen, and when America plays soccer, winning it all remains a dream. The dream gradually gets a little closer to real life. It’s not a fantasy. It’s just hard to imagine.

During Thursday’s match, I kept reading tweets that expressed disappointment because “America plays to win, by God!” and I thought to myself, well, that would be a sure recipe for disaster.

Germany won because Germany is better. The USA played it smart. They gave nearly as much as they got. It was honorable. They ordered biscuits, they arrived, they’re tasty, and anything from here on out is gravy. Or at least butter. With jelly.

I’ve enjoyed watching our spirited, plucky squad. It’s got timing. It just doesn’t have quite enough skill.

Thursday’s match was honorable. Winning it would have been miraculous. I was proud when Clint Dempsey, the captain, broke his nose in the first match and kept on playing. He’ll get to play more. What I admire most in Dempsey and his mates is that they don’t go crashing to the ground every time someone touches them, then, failing to earn a statuette for their dramatic skills, hop up and go running off again like some gazelle.

They’re liable to knock off some world power – the World Cup has an informal SEC – yet. If they win it all, it won’t be like winning the lottery, but it will definitely be more surprising than Vanderbilt winning the College World Series.

The Commodores can play. In soccer, the USA tries really, really hard, and we all ought to be very proud of that.

“Sixteen left! Sixteen left! We’re one of ‘em! We’re one of ‘em!”

 

Timmy Was Smokin’ and I Was Sketchin’

As luck would have it, I was sketching this while Tim Lincecum was throwing his second no-hitter.
As luck would have it, I was sketching this while Tim Lincecum was throwing his second no-hitter.

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Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 7:16 p.m.

Most of my friends know that my favorite baseball team is the Boston Red Sox. What many may not know is that my favorite National League team is the San Francisco Giants, dating back to Willie Mays hitting a home run in the first major-league game I ever saw (Atlanta, 1966).

My favorite pitcher is Tim Lincecum. I love watching him pitch. When I discovered that he was starting in the Giants afternoon game against the San Diego Padres, I tuned it in on TV, and pretty soon I had my sketch pad out and was drawing Lincecum.

I didn’t have any idea he was going to throw a no-hitter. If I had, I wouldn’t have sketched him with an orange jersey on. I was just trying to add some color. Lincecum actually wore the Giants’ standard home uniform, which is cream-colored.

Lincecum also no-hit the Padres almost a year ago, on July 13, 2013. The Giants won that game 9-0. This time it was 4-0. He is the second Giant to throw two no-hitters and the first in San Francisco. The Giants were in New York when Christy Mathewson did it.

I’m a huge Lincecum fan because he is the fiercest competitor on the mound that I see. He’s just a little guy who puts everything into every pitch. Even when he’s stinks, he’s still a battler.

Thank goodness I got tired of the World Cup matches.

Lincecum also collected two hits, and in the media conference afterwards, he seemed as proud of getting his batting average above .100 as he was of pitching a no-hitter.

The Giants have a knack of being good when the Red Sox are bad, as in two years ago when they won the World Series and Boston was snarled in the Bobby Valentine reign of terror.

The Red Sox got hammered the last two nights in Seattle. It’s good to have the Giants in reserve.

 

 

Love at First Bite

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Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 6:50 p.m.

Today, I voted, which was the simplest of tasks. I worked on a new short story (Part Two of “The Paved Road, posted at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com), which was quite a bit more difficult.

My World Cup pecking order: (1.) USA, (2.) other underdogs.
My World Cup pecking order: (1.) USA, (2.) other underdogs.

I watched the World Cup, or, more accurately, had it on while I was writing.

I’m about to watch a South Carolina ETV program called Making It Grow, not because there is something I want to grow but because someone I know is appearing on it.

I’m going to watch Game Two of the College World Series because Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin was a friend of mine twenty-five years ago and, though I can’t accurately claim to be friends now since I’ve seen him twice in the past decade, I still think a lot of him and try to keep up with the Commodores.

Then, there are the Boston Red Sox, who did me a great favor by getting clobbered last night in Seattle and enabling me to get a decent night’s sleep. I’ll watch them tonight, probably when the Vandy-Virginia game is over.

What's been setting at Fenway thus far is last year's World Series. Defense seems unlikely.
What’s been setting at Fenway thus far is last year’s World Series. Defense seems unlikely.

Today was no different than any other day in that I thought quite a bit about absurdity, principally the absurdity of sport. Many fans watch sports seriously, and I don’t see how they do it.

For instance, I watched a soccer player from Uruguay bite one from Italy. Luis Suarez, I hear, has done this before. Perhaps it’s a Uruguay thing. My thoughts are: (1.) it’s shocking, (2.) it’s funny; the Italian player, Giorgio Chiellini, wasn’t hurt, though Suarez did leave a mark (3.) it, of course, can’t be condoned, inasmuch as you can’t just have people biting each other, (4.) with all concern, and in deference to Twitter, I really don’t think a bite through a jersey on a shoulder qualifies as cannibalism, and (5.) I know someone who might have become a soccer star had she grown up in Uruguay because she once loved to bite people. She was two.

I thought about having Italian for supper because it just seemed like the thing to do, but, as usual, I went with the Tuesday night special at Fatz Café. On the way, I listened to part of the Greece-Ivory Coast (or Cote d’Ivoire) match on satellite radio, where the expert analyst sounded almost exactly like Ringo Starr.

“Uh, in the sickun hahf, ah expect Griss to fuhs the bull goalwuhd cuz it’s gittin frahntic, isn’t it now?”

Fine by Me

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ... headed downhill, literally, not figuratively. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. … headed downhill, literally, not figuratively. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

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Clinton, S.C., Saturday, June 21, 2014, 5:39 p.m.

Since I stopped going to the track – or since my going was stopped, whatever – I’ve grown increasingly ambivalent, not about NASCAR, specifically, but about what NASCAR does. I don’t know whether this has occurred because my viewpoint is distant, I am growing more resigned to the ruling body’s actions, or I’m losing interest.

I believe in just writing what I see and not trying to overanalyze. I don’t know whether I have changed or the racing has changed, and I don’t care. I write what I see. Period. Readers often seem to think they know me better than I do, and that is their right.

For instance, I do not oppose the so-called “knockout qualifying.” I just don’t think it’s worth the trouble. It makes qualifying more exciting, I suppose, but qualifying can never be exciting to me. It’s just a way to set the field. If I were doing it, I’d hold qualifying the way they do it for the Indianapolis 500: four laps, and all four count. I’d go by a four-lap average because that would be a way to make it most indicative of which cars and drivers are really fastest.

Then again, I’m not sure I’d like to sit through it, so, to reiterate, I don’t much care.

Carl Edwards: quiet lately in more ways than one. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Carl Edwards: quiet lately in more ways than one. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Last night, a radio host asked me if I thought NASCAR should hold more road races. I said I like the two road races now because they’re different. I’ve always considered them a welcome change, but that wouldn’t be true if there were lots of twisties on the schedule. I find stock cars rather awkward on road courses, but there’s a certain excitement in watching them slide around. It’s kind of like watching the best football players play basketball.

Should there be a road course in the Chase? I don’t think so, but, again, it’s a mild opinion. It wouldn’t make near the difference that the current format will.

Lately, I keep seeing others make predictions of the four finalists at Homestead, and I chuckle to myself because every set I’ve seen is based on the four strongest drivers being the final four and, given the format, that seems wildly unlikely. The more likely format is two who have been strong all year, one who got hot in the Chase, and one who just basically pulled it out of his ass. I’d pick, say, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, and, oh, Kyle Larson. Or Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, and Carl Edwards. Or Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, and Brian Vickers.

Then, of course, some who will be in it aren’t in it yet: Larson, Stewart, and Vickers, instance.

It’s just something to tweet about, and, as Charlie Rich would have noted had he lived later, “People love to tweet. Lawd, don’t they love to tweet?”

Clint Bowyer practices for Sunday. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Clint Bowyer practices for Sunday. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Able Was I, Ere I Saw Elba

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Sonoma9_SM_061814

Clinton, S.C., Friday, June 20, 2014, 9:14 a.m.

If this was two years ago, I’d be driving down to Oakland to see the Red Sox, but the Sox wouldn’t be playing the A’s, so I’d go see the Avett Brothers in Berkeley, which I did, along with a few sportswriting friends. They’re still friends; I’m just not sportswriting. I still know the password and the secret handshake.

What? There’s no more secret handshake? My career was spent in vain!

Not too far away from the track.
Not too far away from the track.

Ah, since I have allowed my thoughts to be infested with nostalgia, let me compare. So far, the Red Sox stink, as they did two years ago. In between, they won the World Series. The best way I can describe the Boston offense is that they look like they’re playing in the College World Series. They swept the Twins while scoring five runs: 1-0, 2-1, 2-1. At this rate, John Farrell will coach Bolivia in the 2018 World Cup.

Little-known fact: Bobby Valentine coaches Polski Wyrob. Either that or Kielbasa. One of those European sausage leagues.

NASCAR in Wine Country
NASCAR in Wine Country

On Sunday, NASCAR fans will be tracking the “road-course ringers,” which is like going to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs. “Aye, lads, I never saw it, but back in your grandfather’s day, there was a man named Dan Gurney! By God, a man had to know how to use a clutch pedal back in the day.”

In 1966, a kid couldn’t get a decent ride but a road racer could, at least at Riverside. Nowadays, a kid can land in the lap(s) of luxury but a road racer can’t. According to my trusty Google, Boris Said is in the “32,” and in terms of old-fashioned, hop-off-the-plane-and-into-the-car ringers, that’s about it. Poor Boris. He’ll race like a man possessed, lose a half dozen positions on every pit stop and spin three or four times while spending an entire afternoon trying to run up a down escalator against 42 others on the up side.

For Said, there is no up side, other than it will be lots of fun for others to watch.

Grazing out on the vast range of reasons why regulars win, an overlooked one is that they mainly just to have to maintain their positions in fast cars instead of pass people in ones that are less fast. Then, of course, are there pit crews, personnel, and all the other accoutrements provided for with that all-encompassing edge known as money.

It Takes a Leap

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Jimmie Johnson has won three out of the past four Sprint Cup races. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson has won three out of the past four Sprint Cup races. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, S.C., Monday, June 16, 2014, 4:36 p.m.

My original plan, first thing this morning, was to write about Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, but, unfortunately, I didn’t have much to write.

I preempted myself.

Before the race, I wrote a blog in which I described expectations for the race that, by the wildest of coincidences, ended up being on the money, thus relieving me of much else that leaped to mind. To get a whole blog out of a race, it’s not enough for a few items to occur to me, though God knows it’s led me to some mediocre efforts in the past. Really, a blog should leap to mind.

A leap of faith. Or imagination. Or reckless abandon. Or uproarious amusement. It takes a leap.

Instead, this morning I leaped into fiction, and most of the leap in readers has been there lately. Several months ago, I started a second blog mainly as a place to chip away at short stories.

The previous blog flew right over readers' heads. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
The previous blog flew right over readers’ heads. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The blog about how Jimmie Johnson was bound to win at Michigan because of, not in spite of, never having won there before? The same blog where I figured high speeds would result in lots of wrecks but not much passing? That one?

Hardly anyone read it. About fifty or so the last time looked. If I’d predicted Brian Vickers, three hundred would have read it just so they could rag me when he crashed on the first lap. Pre-race blogs are risky. I’m not kidding anyone. I lucked up.

On the other hand, a short story I wrote last week, “Facebook Friends,” has drawn 374 “direct hits” and might well have been read by some of the 121 others who visited www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com just to scroll down the page. This month is just slightly over half over, and the total clicks are more about five times as many as last month.

Of the 126 visitors this morning, only sixteen were stateside. I’m getting really big in India, where most of my previous contacts were telemarketers.

In case, even though you haven’t been interested in my NASCAR blogs, you’d like to read “The Plagiarist of Winfield Shoals,” the short story I finished this morning (instead of writing about the race), here you are:

http://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/the-plagiarist-of-winfield-shoals/

And if you’d like to take a look at “Facebook Friends,” which started this small-scale feeding frenzy when I posted it on June 9:

http://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/facebook-friends/

I’m still working on what will be my fourth novel, but all the new readers of these short stories give me hope that someone out there who might be able to help advance my writing career might take notice.

Meanwhile, back at the race track …

Sonoma’s next, right?

I’m not going to play all those bald-faced social-media games. (“RT if you’re pulling for Junior.”) I’ll do what I always do: write when something leaps.

Reasonable Expectations for the Longest Day

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Jinxed at Michigan? I wouldn't count Jimmie Johnson out. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)
Jinxed at Michigan? I wouldn’t count Jimmie Johnson out. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Clinton, S.C., Sunday, June 15, 2014, 8:59 a.m.

It’s race morning in Michigan, not just in the infield and campgrounds around the track but also in neighboring towns from Detroit in the east to Coldwater in the west, Toledo to the south and Lansing to the north, wherever free breakfast buffets are held and the ice machines have signs that say filling coolers is not allowed.

Seldom have I seen any fan let those signs dissuade him. Or her.

This is NASCAR’s longest day, not because it’s more demanding than any other race but because, owing to Brooklyn’s geographic location and the proximity to the summer solstice, it is literally the longest day. Fans will be back in those motels before the dusk has descended into darkness.

Michigan, the track. It's in the Irish Hills. It's very fast.
Michigan, the track. It’s in the Irish Hills. It’s very fast.

The speeds, well over 200 mph now, are every bit as fast as the days are long. Am I the only one whom high speeds still exhilarate? I still find myself thinking, Wow, look at that. Those dudes are getting it.

And Danica Patrick, too.

Everyone is supposed to express concern about the cars going too fast, but it’s race morning, and it’s too late to change anything. The hay is in the barn, so to speak. The cars are the cows, and the race is the winter. Every preparation as been made for them all to get through. The cars are much safer now. It’s been a long time since any driver suffered more than what might be seen as a common injury in other sports. The race is not just among the cars. It is also between the countervailing interests of speed and safety. In one sense, the speeds may seem frightening, but, in another, safety seems to have its evil twin under control. The drivers don’t seem particularly concerned. They are aware and wary, just as they were the first time they strapped themselves into go-karts.

Jimmie Johnson has never won at Michigan, and some think it suggests he is somehow deficient at a track that not only bears considerable similarity to many others but also served as the model for them. If you think D-shaped, 1.5- or 2-mile tracks with moderate banking are boring, then Michigan International Speedway is the wellspring of your ire. If, on the other hand, you recognize that the key to the Sprint Cup runs through tracks like this one, then you realize the significance whether you happen to like it or not.

In any event, rather than accepting the notion that Johnson is deficient at Michigan – I mean, really, isn’t that notion absurd? – I prefer to think that he’s overdue for a victory. If he wins, a great show will be made of him killing one of the final dragons he hasn’t heretofore lanced. Michigan is one of those short lefthanders whom Derek Jeter has never hit, not the United States Open. Johnson isn’t Phil Mickelson or Sam Snead at the Open. Comparatively, Michigan isn’t the Open, and no one makes a big deal out of a golfer finally breaking his drought at the Heritage.

The pattern of NASCAR, if there is one right now, has gone from a different driver winning every week to a different driver winning his second race every week, and, when you think about it, this is exactly what happens every year because it is simply the statistical likelihood.

If you’d like another perspective of my writing, check out wellpilgrim.wordpress.com from time to time. Or read my novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles. You can even find out about them elsewhere on this site.

Strong Opinions

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I took this photo before a high-school football game in Abbeville, S.C.
I took this photo before a high-school football game in Abbeville, S.C.

Clinton, S.C., Thursday, June 12, 2014, 10:21 a.m.

Some writers try to hide their own views. Notice I didn’t use the word “reporter.” Reporters are supposed to hide their feelings. My contention is not that reporters aren’t writers. They most certainly are, but reporters are a specialized form. When I was a journalist, I took pride in reporting, but writing was what I loved. I enjoyed the stringing of words together more than the stringing of facts.

To each his own. We all fret about things we are not but end up being things we are.

Later I tried in vain to draw it.
Later I tried in vain to draw it.

What led me to this topic on this typical South Carolina morning – mostly cloudy, humid, sun occasionally peeking through, likelihood of thunderstorms this afternoon and evening – was the gentle pressure the writer often feels to conform to what passes for prevailing sentiment.

Let’s say, oh, I tweet that I’m against the wholesale shortening of NASCAR races. Someone will inform me, quite sanctimoniously, that polling of “the all-important 18-35 demographic” reveals overwhelming support for shorter races, as if that should somehow affect what I think. What I write is only representative of the white-male-56-years-2-months-and-4-days-Southern-single-overweight-lives-out-Musgrove-Street-Extension demographic.

I also like liver, cottage cheese, and Lance crackers with chocolate milk. I care more about the Furman Paladins than the Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks cubed, and I love the Boston Red Sox in spite of the dialect barrier. My favorite television show is Foyle’s War, which I can no longer find, and I have never seen as much as one whole song on American Idol or any of the spin-offs of which I am vaguely aware.

In other words, I’m an individual, not a demographic, and I have little interest in establishing a consensus within myself.

So here are a few of the opinions I have this morning retrieved from my dysfunctional, unrepresentative and disreputable soul.

Things don't have to be just alike.
Things don’t have to be just alike.

My favorite golf tournament is the British Open. In order of personal enjoyment: (1.) British Open, (2.) United States Open, (3.) Masters, (4.) PGA. I care next to nothing for any other golf tournament on the face of the earth, particularly since I no longer play and, as such, no longer am invited to play captain’s choice near race tracks.

I care nothing for power rankings, particularly those based on a pretentious way to write nothing more than opinions without names attached. The same writer who wants hard and fast rules for Hall of Fame eligibility doesn’t even want to define mildly what it is he means by “power.” I love opinions (obviously). Just have the guts to call it “My Top Five,” because that’s what it is.

Or do some math and create a formula, or, at least, a hypothesis. Or a hypotenuse. Anything besides, “Here, mortals, are my Power Rankings, handed down to me via burning bush on the summit of Mount Sinai.”

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.

I also rather dislike the changing of a subject in the midst of debate. Let’s say I accuse my sister of steali

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

ng the tweezers from my bathroom while she was using it to shower because her hot water was out. I know exactly where they were, and she has been the only person in there.

This, of course, is completely hypothetical.

She, of course, responds (hypothetically) by saying, “Remember that time when you ran all the gas out of my car?”

“Yes,” I reply. “I was nineteen. You were sixteen.”

“Just the same …”

Do you know how hard it is to remember to buy tweezers? Of course, you do. It’s as hard as remembering the time you ran all the gas out of your sister’s car thirty-seven years ago.

Once this was just the stuff of family conflict. Now … Twitter and Facebook are like that.

            As football season nears, and you begin to reminisce about the modest athletic feats of your youth and the trials of those times, I hope you’ll consider reading my novel, The Intangibles, set in the South in the 1960s amid strife, upheaval and football triumph. You may order an autographed copy by clicking on “Merchandise.”