In My Element

Wilder Stadium. Richardson Field. (Monte Dutton photo)

Wilder Stadium. Richardson Field. (Monte Dutton photo)

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

Football has changed. I still love it.

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

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

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

“But back in … my day.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talladega. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Talladega. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

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

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

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

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

Exactly. I love it when all hell breaks loose.

Laurens County Speedway, (Monte Dutton photo)

Laurens County Speedway, (Monte Dutton photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paladin Stadium (Monte Dutton)

Paladin Stadium (Monte Dutton)

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

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

It’s what I love.

 

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

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

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

 

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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