There’s a Soul When You’re There

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

I miss interactions with Jeff Gordon: tactful, but honest and helpful. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevy Racing)

I miss interactions with Jeff Gordon: tactful, but honest and helpful. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 19, 2014, 9:30 a.m.

It’s a long way to Tallahassee and Talladega, though not with my trusty traveling machine, the fancy-looking, high-definition, satellite-connected television that has been gradually broadening my horizon since the day I was born. My cup runneth over.

I should shoot a new photo, with me in the recliner, wearing a  t-shirt and sweat pants, hair longer and unkempt. Not a selfie, though.

I should shoot a new photo, with me in the recliner, wearing a
t-shirt and sweat pants, hair longer and unkempt. Not a selfie, though.

It gives me enough rope to hang myself. It allows me to flip back and forth between ballgames – last night, for instance, in various stages of completion, Notre Dame-Florida State, Kentucky-LSU, Missouri-Florida, Utah State-Colorado State, Southern Cal-Arizona State, Washington-Oregon, Nevada-BYU, and several I cannot now recall – without paying close attention to any of them. I try to focus on one. Mainly, I just punch at the remote during commercials, but, then, if something exciting happens or seems as if it might be about to happen, I dawdle, and, next I know, half the quarter has passed on the other game.

It’s not as good as being there, or, to be more precise, as edifying. It is, however, a great deal less hassle.

I didn’t enjoy anything else this weekend as much as the high school football game I covered Friday night. Then again, I can see the glow of those stadium lights from my house. The local college was off in the Low Country (Presbyterian beat Charleston Southern, 7-3), and the alma mater was in Columbia, attritionally warring away a 42-10 decision to the Gamecocks.

This is about my speed these days. (Monte Dutton)

This is about my speed these days. (Monte Dutton)

No way I was going to fight that traffic, fork over twenty dollars to park, and watch the Furman Paladins get hammered to one extent or another. It didn’t seem so bad from the television screen. I never found myself saying, “I came all the way down here … for this?”

This is how I’ve evolved. I think it’s important to go out and see things live. I understand them better. Television offers few unique glimpses. I like talking to people face to face. For the entirety of my journalism career, I hated writing stories from phone interviews. I wanted to see expressions and reactions. I wanted to try to peer into people’s souls. That’s hard on long distance, maybe impossible, but, more and more, that’s the way people have to work in the big time.

Things are just fine at the high school and small college levels. Nobody knocks you down with unwelcome assistance as to how you should think and write. They’re generally tickled you want to think and write about them.

On the other hand, knowledge of my former sports beat has diminished, as is inevitable when one isn’t there. I still get media releases, transcripts, etc., all those black and white things. I don’t chat with a fabricator or a shock specialist in the space between the transporters. One of the reasons I’m not particularly upset that I’m not there anymore is that the frontiers were already being fenced in before I left. The cattlemen of NASCAR treat the sheepherders as if they are in another class, which is only because they are.

The story at Clinton High School on Friday night was more compelling than anything I’ve witnessed on TV lately. A winless team rose up against a team that had only won twice and pulled it out in the final seconds. No one stopped the presses over that, but the plates are burned in my memory.

For one brief, shining moment, it was … Camelot.

Talladega? I don’t know why they decided to qualify like that. Hell, I don’t even know how they qualified like that. I don’t understand the rule or the rationale. All I know is … well … it seemed ridiculous.

The hardest part is coming up with something to write. People seem to care about my opinions. I’m just not inclined to cultivate as many of them.

Confessions notwithstanding, I appreciate your indulgence of this blog and the other at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. I hope you’ll like them enough to make a small investment in my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope. You can find them, as well as my non-fiction books about NASCAR and music, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144.

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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