What Emerged from the Mist

This photo is from a couple of years ago on a weekend when conditions were considerably worse than this one. (Monte Dutton photo)
This photo is from a couple of years ago on a weekend when conditions were considerably worse than this one. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 27, 2015, 12:31 p.m.

Ever since Friday morning, or, I’d say, a good 90 percent of the time, a misty rain has been falling, sometimes heavy, sometimes light, almost always there, speckling the windshield, aggravating me as I have to keep adjusting the windshield wipers, and walk through stadium grass, shoes squishing in the water.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I haven’t hoisted the umbrella once, even though it was in the backpack, down in the bottom, beneath the clipboard, the laptop, the binoculars, and the portable radio, all competing for attention in my on again, off again, world of journalism.

To recap, Laurens defeated Easley, 27-14, on Friday night. I was there because Clinton faced the Fighting Dates of Open. Here’s what I wrote: http://www.golaurens.com/component/k2/item/21782

Dusk settles, game long over. (Monte Dutton photo)
Dusk settles, game long over. (Monte Dutton photo)

Then, after staying up way too late because I’m always keyed up after writing, I headed up to Furman on Saturday afternoon, where the Paladins were a bit lackluster — understandable, perhaps, given that they had edged Central Florida, 16-15, the previous week — but managed to win over VMI, 24-21.

Here’s what I wrote: http://www.goupstate.com/article/20150926/ARTICLES/150929764/1088/sports?Title=Sophomore-placekicker-the-hero-once-again-for-Furman

I harbored hopes of getting back to Clinton, and Presbyterian’s home game against Chattanooga, by half, but doing the Furman game justice took the appropriate time, so I listened to the game as soon as I could get it, speeding through the I-385 mist, and pulled into the Bailey Memorial Stadium parking lot late in the third quarter with the Blue Hose trailing the Mocs, 14-0.

The home of the Blue Hose football team. It's stately. (Monte Dutton)
The home of the Blue Hose football team. It’s stately. (Monte Dutton)

I put on a jacket and started walking down the sidewalk just outside the fence. PC’s quarterback threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. It was sort of the biggest play the Blue Hose offense had all night. 21-0. After standing there, considering, for a few minutes, I turned around and walked back up the hill to the pop-up tent where friends of mine tailgate at each home game. I sat on a tailgate, appropriately, and watched, though not particularly attentively. No more points were scored.

My PC football friends — most have sons playing for the team — slowly arrived, and they yelled my name as enthusiastically as shutout victims can, and one was mad and the rest grasping. The most often cited observation was that the Presbyterian defense really only gave up seven points because one Moccasin touchdown occurred on a turnover and another because of one.

In eternal mist, I took all this in while eating banana pudding and then scraping up dip with taco chips. Repeatedly I was offered strong beverages, but I politely said it was too late to start drinking, but I would take a water.

In other words, when I got home, I had to use the bathroom, anyway.

Next week the Red Devils visit Broome, which may mean I’ll be filing from a McDonald’s for the first time this fall, and Furman will host South Carolina State in a Saturday-night game. The Blue Hose are off in far Cullowhee to play Western Carolina.

Everything will fall well on Saturday. The way I’ve got it figured, I’ll watch a noon game on TV, listen to the Blue Hose driving up the road to Greenville, and cover the Paladins.

Then, like today, there will be a NASCAR race on Sunday.

 

(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Here’s a link to my novel, Crazy of Natural Causes. If you’ve read it already, send me your mailing address (duttonm@bellsouth.net) because I’ve got a little something to send you. If you haven’t read it, buy it here and then send me your mailing address. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

 

Memories Are Made of These

Paul Menard, coming at you.  (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Paul Menard, coming at you. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, September 25, 2015, 9:44 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m fond of walking into a tumultuous atmosphere, looking around, and proclaiming, satirically, “Another … big … day.”

My days and nights are generally pretty calm now. Writing fiction is like being confined to a monastery, though not so spiritual. Also, I get out more often. On Thursday, for instance, I dropped by the post office, chatted about old times for at least 15 minutes with Benson Roth at Printers Associates, dropped by a friend’s house, and had two ham sandwiches for supper. The Red Sox and Redskins lost, but the barn burner was between Memphis and Cincinnati, 127-126, Memphis, I think it was.

So far this morning, I’ve watched a little more of the Pope, sipped coffee, and completed the day’s first social-media perusal. Dean Martin is starring on TCM as a Southern politician who plays guitar. Right now he’s thumb-strumming a song called “May the Lord Bless You Real Good.”

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)

After two months on the market, my latest novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, has fallen off in sales, and I spent a good bit of last night reading up on how I might be able to spread the word a little further out into the Twittersphere, the Amazon jungle, the iVerse, and the Me Generation. One way is for those of you who have read it to write down what you think of it, and I’d recommend a customer review at Amazon or Goodreads, but I’d be appreciative of a recommendation, by whatever means, to what few people you know who still read.

(Actually, more read, but it’s 140 characters at a time, and it’s hard to write a novel that way, which is, indirectly, why I sometimes tweet in haiku.)

Lights. On a Friday night. Hmm. Has a nice ring to it. (Monte Dutton)
Lights. On a Friday night. Hmm. Has a nice ring to it. (Monte Dutton)

Two years, nine months, and 21 days after my job “was eliminated” (“nothing personal, it wasn’t you, it was the job, which, coincidentally, you happen to occupy”) I’m back to fast-paced weekends. Tonight I’m pinch-writing at the Laurens District 55 High School game because the Clinton High School is taking a well-needed week off to “prepare for the region.”

Paladin Stadium, Furman University (Monte Dutton photo)
Paladin Stadium, Furman University (Monte Dutton photo)

On Saturday, I’ll be writing a little in the morning, then heading off to the Furman University to write about a football game with the Virginia Military Institute. Once that story is safely transmitted to posterity, I’m hoping to catch the latter half of the Presbyterian College playing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I try not to be as rushed as I’m going to be tomorrow.

(In the previous two paragraphs, I have been using “the” in a coy and deeply insignificant satire on the way broadcasters tend to say THE Charlotte Motor Speedway and THE New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as if they were THE Ohio State University or even THE United States of America.)

Now a crowd in the streets is singing “May the Lord Bless You Real Good,” and, apparently, Dean Martin’s character is named “Bo,” which strikes me as an ill-fitting name for Dino. Today’s star of the day must be Susan Hayward because, earlier this morning, she was in the British Isles somewhere — probably either Scotland or Ireland — getting herself suspected of murder.

Which brings me, for no apparent reason, to NASCAR and this week’s race of the Chase in the pastoral setting of Loudon, New Hampshire. I’m really excited, even if it’s because the race isn’t at night, so I won’t be writing, selecting pictures, perusing Twitter and Youtube, stacking numbers, and inventing a poll until three in the morning. I might even be done in time to catch the latter half of the Sunday night football game, whichever teams are playing it.

Hendrick Motorsports sent this little hot rod over to Stewart-Haas for Kevin Harvick to race this week. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Hendrick Motorsports sent this little hot rod over to Stewart-Haas for Kevin Harvick to race this week. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

To summarize, Kevin Harvick, who won last year’s Powerball, now has his back to the wall in New England, where he must try to win or at least watch while others screw up similarly to the way he did in Joliet, Illinois, where the Blues Brothers lived for a while.

The odds do not favor him, but that is for what the Chase is intended.

Clint Bowyer is getting "a nasty reputation as a cru-el dude."  (Nick Laham/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Clint Bowyer is getting “a nasty reputation as a cru-el dude.” (Nick Laham/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Michael Waltrip Racing, the team with “nuttin’ to lose,” lost all its points when NASCAR officials uncovered its diabolical treachery in Joliet, where the Blues Brothers lived for a while. If Clint Bowyer, who really must be happy about all this, wins the Praise the Lord for Curt Schilling 313.7 (or whatever it is), NASCAR officials will undoubtedly bring in inspectors of the Atomic Energy Commission to handle post-race examination, just in case MWR put a breeder reactor under the hood.

Richard Milhous Nixon (John Clark photo)
Richard Milhous Nixon (John Clark photo)

Meanwhile, I’m hoping my Ryan Newman banner arrives in time for me to put it up in the living room for the rest of the Chase.

Who’s my pick? Hang on a minute. Heads an odd-numbered car, tails an even. Okay. Heads. That narrows it down to Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, Newman, and Kurt Busch. Next round: Heads, not prime. Tails, prime. Heads again, and we’ve got a winner, Paul Menard!

Who knew?

This is going to be quite a story. Now I can’t wait for Sunday. To New Hampshire and beyond!

Meanwhile, of course, I’ll be in my living room, switching to football games during the commercials.

 

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Buy my latest novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, and that way I won’t have to sell peaches in a vacant lot next year. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Buy my first two novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, and that way I won’t have to become a telemarketer.  http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Hear Shouts of Triumph Echo Through the Sky

Paladin Stadium, Furman University (Monte Dutton)
Paladin Stadium, Furman University (Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, September 22, 2015, 10:01 a.m.

“There isn’t a much better feeling in the world.”

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I was watching a video this morning. The words were Reese Hannon’s following Furman’s 16-15 upset of Central Florida on Saturday.

The Paladin quarterback wasn’t kidding. I made my way through Furman, and hung around working there for several more years, when upsets similar to Saturday fell the Paladins’ way from time to time.

In 1999, my nephew, who was a Denver Broncos fan, and I were in Colorado on the day Furman defeated North Carolina in Chapel Hill. We had just gotten back to Denver from watching Oklahoma play Colorado in Boulder, and the next day we watched the Broncos play the Vikings.

Furman at Wofford, a few years back. (Monte Dutton photo)
Furman at Wofford, a few years back. (Monte Dutton photo)

“Ray,” I said to him, “we’re going to have us a big, old time, but I’ve got to tell you, if I had known Furman was going to beat the Tar Heels, there’s no way we’d be here right now.”

Such upsets are rare. Such achievements are rare. I was sitting in the Bailey Memorial Stadium press box, scribbling on a legal pad and preparing to write a blog about Presbyterian’s victory over Campbell, and monitoring the Twitter feed, hoping somehow the Paladins would hang on. After I got home, I spent hours reading the caustic tweets of UCF fans, a few of whom gave Furman credit, but most of whom were calling for cleaning out their school’s athletic department, beginning with head coach George O’Leary, who had heretofore been known mainly for putting the Knights on the map.

Paladin. It's a knight on horseback. (Monte Dutton photo)
Paladin. It’s a knight on horseback. (Monte Dutton photo)

I only responded once. A fellow who is apparently a blogger and talk-show host tweeted that UCF was losing to a school for “white guys who can’t get in Clemson.” I replied that word of Furman’s lofty academics had apparently not reached Orlando.

That’s all, though. It’s not easy for a school with 60,000 students to accept losing to one with 2,800. It also ain’t easy for a boy named Sue, as Johnny Cash (and Shel Silverstein) noted.

I also thought of another old song, “Don’t Forget the Coffee, Billy Joe.”

Was it only yesterday or 20 years ago?

Furman's Bruce Fowler and I know each other pretty well. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Furman’s Bruce Fowler and I know each other pretty well. (Monte Dutton sketch)

It was almost 33 years ago when Furman defeated South Carolina, 28-23. I remember that day more vividly than yesterday, but, then again, yesterday I was nursing a cold that’s been lingering with the sweat of tramping up and down stadium steps on arthritic knees in the cold night air, scrambling for enough material to write about high school and college games.

I was the Pied Piper of Hamelin after the Presbyterian game.

“Hey, did you hear about Furman?”

“Huh?”

“They beat Central Florida.”

“No way!”

“Sixteen to fifteen.”

A victory over Samford was crucial to Furman's Southern Conference championship two years ago. (Monte Dutton photo)
A victory over Samford was crucial to Furman’s Southern Conference championship two years ago. (Monte Dutton photo)

Bruce Fowler, the Furman head coach, and Tim Sorrells, the offensive coordinator, are friends of mine. They were roommates in college. For a year, I lived on the same hall in, I think, C Dorm. We were co-conspirators in the kinds of pranks that college kids enjoy. They were there on the snowy day when I had to buy enough time to keep the late Jeff Snipes from tearing me apart, limb from limb, on the way to the PAC after I tried to hit Tim’s cousin Paul with a chunk of ice. Paul ducked, the ice hit Sniper right in the face, and that was one of the last things I have ever intended to happen that did.

At the time, I thought it might literally be the last thing.

"All hail the white and purple ..."  (Monte Dutton photo)
“All hail the white and purple …” (Monte Dutton photo)

I know that the school cheer of Coach Fowler’s Cincinnati high school was “M, A-R-I-E, M-O-N-T, Mariemont!” and that Sniper ridiculed Bruce for several years about it and countered with a supposed Belton-Honea Path cheer that decorum prevents being repeated here.

I also know how much pride Bruce and Tim have, and what a sacred mission they consider it to be, returning Furman to its football tradition of days past, and how hard a legacy that is to fulfill.

One game does not a season make, nor does it constitute a tradition unto itself, but, suffice it to say, Saturday was a very good day.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Here’s a link to most of my books, and I think they’re right good for a white boy who couldn’t get in Clemson. I’m still shaking my head. The very idea! http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

The new novel is here: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

The Caravan Stops Here

Curtis Bey (98) and Ugonna Akoh look to the sidelines for guidance. (Monte Dutton photo)
Curtis Bey (98) and Ugonna Akoh look to the sidelines for guidance. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 20, 2015, 11:54 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Saturday night’s Campbell-Presbyterian game was key. It was crucial, must-see but not on TV.

The Blue Hose opened the season at Miami of Ohio (7-26) and Charlotte (10-34). After the Bailey Memorial Stadium opener against the Camels – they are Bactrians, by the way, which is to say, one hump – Presbyterian must play a trio of powerful Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) squads – Chattanooga at home, at Western Carolina, and at No. 1-ranked Coastal Carollina – in the next three weeks. The Blue Hose defeated Western Carolina last year here in town.

Campbell's Kameron Bryant gets ready to fire. PC's Obinna Ntiasagwe closes in. (Monte Dutton photo)
Campbell’s Kameron Bryant gets ready to fire. PC’s Obinna Ntiasagwe closes in. (Monte Dutton photo)

When I drove over to PC, still stinging from Laurens’ crushing triumph over the local high school lads, I envisioned a leisurely evening of bonhomie and pregame frolic, followed by a nice, comfortable conquest of Lawrence and all his Arabians astride their wandering Camels, but it only took my friend Brent Sanders a few seconds to raise alarms. As he nonchalantly played catch with his daughter in the parking lot, he told me great tales of woe about the burgeoning Campbell program and its assemblage of misbegotten transfers from major powers.

The lines brace for collision. (Monte Dutton photo)
The lines brace for collision. (Monte Dutton photo)

For a quarter, Brent seemed prophetic. The Camels led 6-2, with all the points being bunched together. With 8:36 on the clock, Kameron Bryant – Doesn’t it seem strange that a Kameron would score for Camels? As opposed to Cameron for Camels or Kameron for Kamels – caught a 53-yard pass from Jared Joyner, which makes more sense, but Jarrett Ozimek had his kick blocked and PC’s Steve Osondu took it to the house, even though the actual house in the stadium was in the other end zone.

A job done, the Blue Hose defense heads for the sideline to recover. (Monte Dutton photo)
A job done, the Blue Hose defense heads for the sideline to recover. (Monte Dutton photo)

Got that? It was 6-2, Campbell, but things soon got more normal. The Blue Hose even made three extra points, though they naturally missed three field goals.

God has decreed, apparently, that I will see no proficient placekicking this year. At high school games, I’ve seen several placements carom off friendly posteriors and, as you undoubtedly suspect, that smarts and even more so because it catches the poor lineman unawares.

Darrell Bridges (10) tries to avoid the Camels. (Monte Dutton photo)
Darrell Bridges (10) tries to avoid the Camels. (Monte Dutton photo)

It was the fourth quarter before the Camels scored again. The Blue Hose won, 23-13. The postgame show in the parking lot was marvelously festive.

It remains for us to learn what this year’s Blue Hose will do for an encore. Not enough people realize that the 2014 season was a near miracle. The record was 6-5, but three of the losses were to FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, i.e., the masters of the college football universe) schools that went to bowl games: Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, and North Carolina State, and the other two were to FCS powers Coastal Carolina and Liberty.

Presbyterian defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler (in black) makes some recommendations. (Monte Dutton photo)
Presbyterian defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler (in black) makes some recommendations. (Monte Dutton photo)

This year’s Presbyterian team isn’t yet fully formed. In particular, the offense is a sculpture that requires more shaping.

The Blue Hose head coach, Harold Nichols, played quarterback when I was covering the team a couple decades back. Clinton is a small town, and Presbyterian is a small college. Most everyone knows him. Most everyone likes him. This is because he’s a fine fellow. Unfortunately, this alone won’t win the next few games. Nice guys don’t finish last, but, unfortunately, they don’t get any bonus points, either.

The offense had been shut down in Charlotte – 103 yards rushing, nine passing, three completions in 17 attempts – and improvement was a must.

Defense has been the strength of Blue Hose football. (Monte Dutton)
Defense has been the strength of Blue Hose football. (Monte Dutton)

“We moved the football,” Nichols said of the Campbell game. “They’re talented up front. They’ve got 25 FBS or FCS transfers on that team.

“I’ve been scared to death all week. I knew it would be a challenge to move the football, especially running the ball, but we were able to have some consistency and get some first downs. I was disappointed in the field-goal kicking and finishing drives. That remains an issue that we’ve got to get solved.”

Campbell, by the way, had won its first two games easily, though it could have been argued that this was a bit predictable in that the games were against Pikeville (41-20) and Chowan (35-3).

“We talked all week about having confidence in the system, having confidence in ourselves, and there’s some momentum you can gain,” Nichols said. “I’m still not satisfied. We can be pretty good offensively if we can put everything together, but we’ve yet to be able to do that and play a complete game.

Lots and lots of blue jerseys. (Monte Dutton photo)
Lots and lots of blue jerseys. (Monte Dutton photo)

“Part of that’s the competition. We’ve played some really good teams. We have yet to win a ‘warm-up.’ I can tell you that right now. Credit goes to [our players]. They did a nice job, and I was real proud of them.”

The Blue Hose will be underdogs again next week when Chattanooga visits. Camels one week, Moccasins the next. Then it’s up into the hills to play some Catamounts, and down to the beach to take on Chanticleers.

Presbyterian will have to keep its Hose hiked up. That’s for certain.

Intangibles1I was just talking to Presbyterian alumnus Irby Hipp last night, and he told me how my novel The Intangibles takes place during an era when he was in school at PC. The novel is in a small college town, Fairmont. Some see similarities with this one. You can buy it and most of my other books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

A Loss of Character … and Characters

(Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
(Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 19, 2015, 12:55 a.m.

One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy covering NASCAR as much in the final few seasons I was traveling with the circus was that it became so formal. More and more, it was journalism by media conference, and it became harder and harder to have personal interactions with the drivers.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

My best memories were always personal moments: a talk with Jeff Gordon between the rows of haulers in Fontana, dozens of conversations with Tony Stewart, sharing a golf cart with Jimmie Johnson at an outing near Talladega, and many other scenes when the handlers weren’t hovering nearby.

I didn’t see the end of this morning’s Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland. I had just finished visiting my mother and heard John Hunter Nemechek’s victory-lane interview. It made me recall the time I bumped into him and his father at a casino buffet in Las Vegas. I don’t know what year it was, but John Hunter was just a kid, no more than 10 years old or so. Joe was then in his prime as a Cup — it was probably still Winston at the time — driver, and there was some tension between us whose origin I don’t recall. Either he and I had had some minor disagreement in some interview, or maybe it was something I had written, but we sort of eyed each other warily.

Anyway, we had some little conversation that broke the ice. That was always the best way to smooth relations, and Joe introduced me to his son and we wound up eating together, and we parted, not as friends but as friendly.

The reason it’s always John Hunter, not John, Nemechek, is that the driver who won Saturday morning’s race is named after his late uncle, who was killed in a Truck race at what was then Homestead Motorsports Complex. John Nemechek’s death is the chief reason the track was reconfigured. Homestead opened as a scaled-down version of Indianapolis, flat with four distinct turns. The trouble was that a 1.5-mile version of 2.5-mile Indy resulted in transitions that proved dangerous, and those turns were rounded, and banking was increased, to correct the problems that contributed to John Nemechek’s death.

Just hearing the kid’s voice made me recall that long-ago meal at the casino buffet.

Jeff Gordon(HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon(HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Johnson was still a Busch Series (pre-Nationwide and Xfinity) driver when we played golf together. We were getting ready to hit shots when this fellow who was about my size and considerably drunker appeared in the fairway looking for his ball.

“What y’all boys doing tomorrow evening?” the fellow asked.

“Qualifying,” said Johnson.

Jimmie Johnson  (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)
Jimmie Johnson (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

This did not dissuade the fellow, who was wobbling a bit as he pondered his shot back across a row of trees into the appropriate fairway.

“Wull, when ye get th’ough, come on over to them Lincoln Grandstands,” the man said. “Me and the boy’s’ll be getting druuuuunk.”

“Count on it,” I said, intending to do no such thing but not wanting to make the fellow mad.

Johnson and I were having a few beers, too, but we weren’t in this fellow’s league.

In the early years — I started writing about NASCAR full-time in 1993 — golf tournaments involving media, drivers and friends of drivers were common. The courses started getting nicer. The players started getting richer, and the media started getting excluded, and the same process started applying to interactions between media and drivers. We went from being friends of the sport to being necessary nemeses.

My stories started losing character because they had less characters in them. The same became true of the media itself. When I got asked out to dinner with a driver, my goal was impressions. I wanted to make an impression on them and gain an impression of them. It used to tick me off when my colleagues turned these social functions into “media availabilities” and then when the handlers started setting them up that way.

I’m sure some of them started saying, “look at that Dutton. He’s not even taking notes” and “let’s not invite him next year.”

Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)
Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)

The reason Stewart and I almost always got along was that the first time I met him was over spaghetti at an Italian restaurant in Dover, Delaware. Let’s just say we both appreciated the other’s sense of humor.

The conversation with Gordon was over the fact that I was writing a book about him that his “people” hadn’t approved, and I wanted him to know that and not through the filter of his “people.” Hendrick Motorsports has lots of “people.” As a general rule, they are buttoned down people.

I told him I didn’t write “official” books.

Not as many smiles these days. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)
Not as many smiles these days. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)

“I’ve got no desire to depict you as anyone other than the extraordinary talent and person I consider you to be,” I said, “but I guarantee if you or those around you have the right to approve every word, there will be a few of them who say this or that has to come out, and this or that will be the most interesting and entertaining part of the whole book, and the book won’t be any good, and it won’t sell, and I won’t be proud of having written it.”

Gordon said he understood, and the two of us left knowing how each other stood.

Nowadays, I just watch them on TV and read transcripts, but it doesn’t matter all that much because it would be mainly the same way if I was there and didn’t have a camera crew trailing me.

That took lots of the fun out of it from my perspective, and it’s all I can come up with when I think about the unexpected surprise that I don’t much miss being there anymore. The Chase opener will be the 99th consecutive race I haven’t attended.

It’s the kind of streak that doesn’t make it into record books.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’m happy. I’d be happier if you’d help me make ends meet by buying these novels I write nowadays. There’s only a smattering of racing in them, but there are some good characters. Take a look. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

The Questionable Decision of Awakening at All

A starry, starry night led to a murky day.
A starry, starry night led to a murky day.

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 17, 2015, 3:43 p.m.

This has not been one of my better days, partly because last night was one of my better nights.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Remain calm. I didn’t party like it was 1980. (At this point in life, I don’t look ahead. I don’t just go back to the beginning of the current century. I graduated from college in 1980.) As a matter of fact, I drank one beer (light) and one Coke (diet). I had three slices of pizza.

But I played music for hours, sitting out front of a hotel on a lovely evening with a friend of mine and several of his workers. The majority of the songs were ones I wrote. He is working on a job near Greenville and summoned me to come up and play some music. Several others at the hotel dropped in from time to time, and as best I could tell, they enjoyed my music. Or, as I don’t know them, they could have been habitual liars.

The Pawless.
The Pawless.

Back when I traveled all over the country writing about NASCAR, it wasn’t unusual for me to play music. I had little gigs near several tracks. Now most of my playing is where most of my writing is, i.e., right here in the living room. My Martin is leaning against the couch. I took the Pawless to Greenville because it’s the best guitar I’ve got and I wanted my friend to see how great it is. Like most of the guitar-playing public, he can play my guitar better than I can. I love it when others play my guitars because, that way, I can fully appreciate how great they are.

I got home about 11:30 and watched Kevin Spacey on The Late Show, and I flipped channels watching various commentators say various things about the latest Republican Debate, which is about as close as politics ever gets to NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

This morning, I stupidly got up at 7, thinking I could get some work done, but basically what I got done was sitting in the living room staring at this screen, watching black-and-white film noirs starring the likes of Lex Barker and Aldo Ray, and trying in vain to use coffee as a means of staying awake, which did not work, and so, at last, I returned to bed for about an hour in the early afternoon.

Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)
Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)

I got up and the machine was beeping, and I called my mother and continued to impress myself (and, no doubt, her) with my lack of brain power. Then I fixed another mug of coffee and reached the modest level of mental proficiency necessary to write this.

The chief accomplishment of this day has been successfully fixing breakfast. The forecast for tonight is a possible trip over to Clinton High School for a junior varsity football game and watching most of the Clemson-Louisville game on TV. I expect to read part of a book called Freelancer, by Jake Lingwall, while Tigers joust against Cardinals.

I try to write something every day, but on this one, I’ve got nothing on those who post memes and photos of cheeseburgers and spaniels on Facebook all day.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

 

I have good days. Those are the ones I write books like these: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

All in All, a Lovely Weekend It Was

W.L. Varner Stadium, Woodruff, S.C.  (Monte Dutton photo)
W.L. Varner Stadium, Woodruff, S.C. (Monte Dutton photo)
Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 13, 2015, 4 p.m.

Nice people live in Woodruff. If they were any nicer, undoubtedly, they’d be in Clinton. The Wolverines have been hosting the Red Devils, and the Red Devils have been returning the favor, for almost a century, at least in football. Few were the seasons without a Clinton-Woodruff game.

To my knowledge, no one has ever called Donovan Blackmon "Mellow Yellow." He rushed for three touchdowns at Woodruff. (Monte Dutton photo)
To my knowledge, no one has ever called Donovan Blackmon “Mellow Yellow.” He rushed for three touchdowns at Woodruff. (Monte Dutton photo)

The press box at W.L. Varner Stadium was highly agitated during Clinton’s surprising 32-13 victory over Woodruff, but everyone maintained a sense of decorum. The Clinton radio team was on the opposite side of the field, and my Clinton residency was well known, but those wearing maroon and gold were gracious toward the triumphant visitors, whom their team had felled, 35-14, in Clinton the year before. I was gracious, as well, even though I wasn’t wearing red because, many years ago, I discovered a sports writer was much more likely to get good quotations from a coach if he didn’t walk up to him wearing the regalia of the opponent. I had driven up to Woodruff, not much more than twenty miles, wearing neutral navy.

Jalen Carter came up with several big catches for the Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photo)
Jalen Carter came up with several big catches for the Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton is now 2-2. All four opponents have been ranked in various places. The Red Devils have fallen on hard times in recent years, and part of the evidence was the radio show I was listening to the following morning on the way to Charlotte. The knowledgeable host said the upset was shocking because Clinton had been winless and that the Red Devils had been smeared by Greer, 40-8, the previous week. It had actually been two weeks since that smearing. Newberry had beaten Clinton during the week in question, and it was 43-20.

Four games into the career of a new head coach, Andrew Webb, an energetic and genial young man, Clinton has played two extraordinary games and two that were similar in experience to dental work. From here on out, the team will demonstrate whether it is erratic or emerging.

Charlie Craven (10) connects with Tay Cook (3) as Kris Holmes (21) tries to help out. (Monte Dutton photo)
Charlie Craven (10) connects with Tay Cook (3) as Kris Holmes (21) tries to help out. (Monte Dutton photo)

The other ancestral rival, Laurens, is next.

By the time I had gotten finished cropping photos, writing about the game, and sending everything in, it was late, late (James Corden was on) instead of late (Stephen Colbert), and, in order to drive to the UNCC campus to watch Presbyterian play Charlotte at noon, I had to get up early, early on Saturday.

Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte. (Monte Dutton photo)
Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte. (Monte Dutton photo)

Roy Walker and I had planned this for a couple months. Roy and I played for the Red Devils forty years ago, and he went on to become an Oscar-winning (okay, it was the Jacobs Blocking Trophy) lineman for the Blue Hose afterward.

It’s funny about best friendships. They go into hibernation for decades sometimes, but nothing much has changed when the get-togethers resume. Roy was one of my favorite people four decades ago and still is. He looks like he could still play for Presbyterian, but after the two of us had to walk quite a ways to and from Jerry Richardson Stadium after parking on the roof of a deck equipped with many stairs, I no longer believe it to be the case that Roy could squeeze into a No. 77 jersey (70 in high school) and get the Blue Hose rushing attack going again.

Maybe for a few plays.

Charlotte even has a band. And it marches. (Monte Dutton photo)
Charlotte even has a band. And it marches. (Monte Dutton photo)

It needed something. Presbyterian once again has a good defense. Offense was almost nonexistent, and the predictable result was Forty Niners 34, Blue Hose 10. This happens from time to time when little schools play big ones. Meanwhile, in faraway Blacksburg, Virginia Tech was taking Ohio State out on Furman, my alma mater, by a measure of 42-3. At least I wasn’t there. It wouldn’t have been too bad, of course. I would have hobnobbed with people wearing purple the same way I enjoyed fellowship with those wearing blue. I didn’t go to PC, but I still have Clinton cred. In the stands, a lady nearby suggested that one of my faulty opinions was what one would expect from a Furman man, but I appreciated it when she acted like she was kidding.

Next week I expect to be amid the lovely shade trees near Bailey Memorial Stadium, experiencing a Saturday night game between the Blue Hose and the Camels of Campbell. I may even go in the stadium.

Matt Kenseth has won three of the last six Sprint Cup races. (Getty Images for NASCAR).
Matt Kenseth has won three of the last six Sprint Cup races. (Getty Images for NASCAR).

On Saturday, though, I returned home sunburned and tired, having dropped Roy off at his Charlotte home, still relishing the Red Devils and slightly disappointed but hardly crestfallen at the Blue Hose setback. Hearing the Furman score only caused me to say one naughty word under my breath, and I commenced to paying attention to the NASCAR race making its lonely way to conclusion on my large and well-focused television.

So far today, football of the National League variety has failed to gain my attention, due in part to going to bed at about 3 a.m. after writing, editing, compiling statistics and reviewing tweets of the Federated Auto Parts 400 that Matt Kenseth dominated.

I’m a bit dull today, and that’s why this blog isn’t a little better.

 

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)

If you read my three novels — The Audacity of Dope, The Intangibles, and, most recently, Crazy of Natural Causes — you’d probably get an inkling or two of what it was like growing up in this delightful town. Here’s your chance. Click, please. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

It’s All a Matter of the Weather

Peyton Manning. I'm assuming he won't play until Sunday. Yeah. The Ravens at home.  (Monte Dutton sketch)
Peyton Manning. I’m assuming he won’t play until Sunday. Yeah. The Ravens at home. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 10, 2015, 9:49 a.m.

A National Football League game will be played tonight. I know this because I just got finished listening to Jim Cantore analyze the game on the basis of its weather. Perhaps it’s fitting that Cantore specializes in hurricanes and football games. It makes more sense than my profession, which is to write for people progressively reading less and less.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

They’re all watching Cantore explain how the barometric pressure will be more and more a factor as the game between the Steelers and the Patriots advances. By midway through the third quarter, whoa, it’s going to be oppressive.

Or something like that.

The Red Sox, who are battling their way out of the AL East cellar, are off tonight, so undoubtedly I’ll watch the football game, though I’m probably going to be switching to Ken Burns’ The Civil War during commercials, and if the game isn’t close, all bets are off.

I should check the Las Vegas line on what percentage of The Civil War I’ll watch tonight. If The Weather Channel has an NFL analyst, anything is possible.

Now that I’ve completed my typing calisthenics, I’m going to work on a novel.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Hmm. A novel. I’ve already written three. You can buy them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Words That Never Got Spoken

Before the deluge Friday night, the Red Devils get ready for the kickoff. (Monte Dutton photo)
Before the deluge Friday night, the Red Devils get ready for the kickoff. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, September 7, 2015, 3:57 p.m.

On Friday night, the Clinton High School state championship teams of 1975 and 1985 were supposed to be honored in halftime ceremonies at Wilder Stadium. Because of lightning, wind, rain, postponement and an abbreviated halftime on Saturday, it never happened. For the benefit of those teams, here’s what I had been planning to say over the public-address system:

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

In the nearly century-long history of football at Clinton High School, eight Red Devil teams have won state championships. The first was in 1939. The most recent? 2009. All but the first were in Class 3A. Tonight it is our distinct honor to recognize two of those glorious teams on the anniversaries of their titles.

For the record, the eight Red Devil championships took place in 1939, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1985, 1987, and 2009. It’s been forty years since that 1975 championship and thirty since 1985. The head coach of those teams — and four more — was Keith Richardson. That field is named for him, and all the folks gathered on it right now are very familiar with it. Among them are Andy B. Young, Harold Williams, and Bill Rhodes, who helped coach both the teams honored tonight.

A state championship requires sacrifice that goes far beyond the players and the coaches. Tonight we wish to honor cheerleaders, band members, mascots, managers and trainers, people from the community who walked the sidelines, stretched the chains, announced the games, ran the scoreboard, and, just as important, sat in these concrete grandstands and cheered the team on. All the people who did their part in those great seasons, please stand now.

Kris Holmes comes to the sideline. (Monte Dutton photo)
Kris Holmes (21) and Sincere Hunt head to the sideline. (Monte Dutton photo)

It takes a village, and not just one. The high school is named for Clinton, but it draws from Joanna, Mountville, Cross Hill, the banks of Lake Greenwood, and all the people who live in town or out in the country. These teams’ great hearts beat in many places.

The grandstand in which most of you are sitting opened in 1975. Prior to that, the home side was across the way.

The 1975 Red Devils were captained by Roscoe Watson, Roy Walker, and Jimmy Miller. Other team members were Randy Humphries, Dillard Young, Ricky Gary, Terry Sanders, Levi Adams, Jeff Howe, Dale Westermeier, Tommy Jones, Ben Pitts, Cal Gault, Mike Riser, Jimmy Webb, J.T. Coleman, Monte Dutton, Dennis Calhoun, Johnny Dowdle, Tony Hunnicutt, C.W. Wilson, David Wayne Goggins, Bobby Fuller, Gerry Gilliam, Vince Brewer, Ray Riley, Chris Williams, Glenn Shealy, Tommy Simmons, Denny Layne, Mitchell Scott, James Butler, Donnie Humphries, Mike Johnson, Shawn Venable, Jerry Catoe, James Suber, John Henry Sanders, Ben DuBose, Calvin Suber, Phillip Saunders, Derwent Long, Mike Chuvala, Roosevelt Ferguson, Reese Young, Kim Carper, Binky Shealy and Richard Robinson.

Jalen Carter is the grandson of my line coach, Harold Williams. (Monte Dutton photo)
Jalen Carter is the grandson of my line coach, Harold Williams. (Monte Dutton photo)

Roscoe Watson was named state Lineman of the Year for the second season in a row. Roy Walker and Roosevelt Ferguson were named all-state. The defense yielded only 852 yards rushing in the entire season and shut out six of its fourteen opponents.

Though Clinton lost the final regular-season game to Byrnes and failed to win its conference for the first time since 1971, the Red Devils rolled through the playoffs with victories over Andrew Jackson, 7-0, Pickens, 21-7, and Lexington, 37-6, in the upper state championship, played here at Wilder Stadium.

The championship game was played in Myrtle Beach, where the Seahawks led 6-0 at halftime, but Clinton came from behind in the second half on a run by Ricky Gary and a pass from Jimmy Miller to Denny Layne, and the final score was Clinton 14, Myrtle Beach 6.

Myrtle Beach running back Lester Brown, who later starred at Clemson, gained two net yards against the Red Devil defense.

The action was often ferocious, but Newberry, in white, got the best of it. (Monte Dutton photo)
The action was often ferocious, but Newberry, in white, got the best of it. (Monte Dutton photo)

This was a team that fought back against adversity over and over. On the night before Labor Day, Mike Johnson was killed in an automobile accident. The team dedicated the season to his memory.

Coach Richardson called it “a clannish team, a team that took great pride in what they were doing. … They didn’t make a lot of waves, didn’t make a lot of noise, but played extremely well.”

In fact, Coach Richardson said that the state championship teams of 1975 and 1985 were alike in many ways. When the latter team won its state championship, it was the school’s first in seven years. It was a throwback to the 1970s. The year before, the team had failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1971.

The Red Devil defenders -- from left, Xarrius Choice, George Rice, Dakota Webb and Clayton Padgett -- deserved better than they got. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Red Devil defenders — from left, Tyreke Watts, Xarrius Choice, George Rice, Dakota Webb and Clayton Padgett — deserved better than they got. (Monte Dutton photo)

The 1985 Red Devils were co-captained by Ricky Vance, who would later play baseball in the Montreal Expos minor-league system, and Brian Pitts, who played on a national championship team at Furman.

Other team members were Tyrone Chalmers, Jeff Price, Bernard Thompson, Dennis Anderson, Chuck Wilson, Anthony Conway, Thomas Cheeks, Mike Wilkins, Norman Cromer, Johnny Babb, Melvin Bluford, Danny Cook, Andrew Carter, Derrick Booker, Rod Miller, Kevin Emory, John Tiller, Jeff Davenport, Joel Crawford, Mike Seigler, Jeff Mitchum, Harrison Vance, John Cunningham, James Cunningham, George Williams, Travis Roberson, Joe Farmer, Scott Smith, Al Richard, Terry McGowan, Fred Booker, Charles Williams, Quincy Suber, Alex Riley, and Andrew Williams.

Brian Pitts and Ricky Vance played in the Shrine Bowl, while James Cunningham and Jeff Price played in the North-South Game.

Although Woodruff, quarterbacked by future Notre Dame star Tony Rice, won the opening game, 20-13, in overtime, the Wolverines were later forced to forfeit that game for using an ineligible player. As a result, the Red Devil record would wind up being 14-0.

Daniel Moore (85) gets some attention on the sidelines. (Monte Dutton photo)
Daniel Moore (85) gets some attention on the sidelines. (Monte Dutton photo)

In the playoffs, Clinton defeated Wren, 6-0; Seneca, 13-10, in overtime at Clemson’s Death Valley; and, Carolina, 24-7, in the upperstate championship.

Norman Cromer, who gained 165 yards in 31 carries in the upperstate championship game, followed it up with 165 more, in 27 carries, scoring three touchdowns in the Red Devils’ 30-0 shutout of Middleton in the state championship game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Clinton led that game, 27-0, at halftime.

Please honor these great representatives of Clinton High School history with a rousing ovation.

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

The events in my second novel, The Intangibles, were inspired in part by events in my hometown back in the day. If you’re interested in reading a fictional tale of small-town high school football in the late 1960s, you can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Jet Lag Requires No Jets

Friday night. Little did they know. (Monte Dutton photo)
Friday night. Little did they know. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 6, 2015, 12:31 p.m.

I’m proud of myself. I managed to sleep until 10 this morning. This morning person has been doing lots of work at night. A high school football game Friday night (and resumed late Saturday morning). A college game Saturday night. The Bojangles Southern 500 tonight. It’s roughly the same as flying to the West Coast and getting jet lag.

Take a trip and never leave the farm.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Actually, the high school game was only a few miles away. The glow of Wilder Stadium can be seen in the distance from my house, or could if I was ever home to see it. I wrote about the Coastal Carolina-Furman game, and Paladin Stadium is 52 miles away according to my odometer. Tonight the race is on TV, but I probably won’t get done writing about it, selecting photos and video, assembling a table of stats, and thinking of a poll question, until, oh, 3 a.m. or thereabouts.

It’s a grind, but at least I won’t have to drive home afterwards. I haven’t left Eastern Daylight Time since May.

The last time I drove home from Darlington, I watched the beginning of Star Trek in my rear-view mirror. Remember how what looked like a tiny star would suddenly become the Enterprise and zip across the screen? That’s how it looked with the all the state troopers hurrying home, piloting their striped cruisers at a speed that would’ve “sat on the pole” at Martinsville.

At least. Dah-DAH-duh-DAH-dah-duh-DAH!

The Chapin-Newberry team that won the American Legion World Series was honored before the Newberry-Clinton game. Four Red Devils played on that team. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Chapin-Newberry team that won the American Legion World Series was honored before the Newberry-Clinton game. Four Red Devils played on that team. (Monte Dutton photo)

I think the Darlington race was still the night before Mother’s Day then. Time flies like the wind, and fruit flies like a banana. (I’m paraphrasing Mark Twain.) I was riding behind a pickup truck loaded down with gas grills, ice chests, canvass and tent poles, and when two Highway Patrol cruisers zipped by, the guy driving the truck apparently thought since state troopers could drive home wide-open, he could, too.

Uh, oh, I thought. No good can come from this.

Sure enough, about five miles farther down I-20, at one of the Camden exits, I drove past that pickup truck, surrounded by four or five patrol cars, blue lights blazing.

That fellow must not have been from around here.

Donovan Blackmon has been a standout for the Red Devils so far. (Monte Dutton photo)
Donovan Blackmon has been a standout for the Red Devils so far. (Monte Dutton photo)

The football has been unsatisfying. Clinton High got beaten in both installments, before a deluge on Friday night and after it on Saturday. Newberry won, 43-20, and no bomb ever exploded more than that game. Fifth-ranked Coastal Carolina — that’s the Football Championship Subdivision of NCAA Division I if you’re keeping a scorecard — edged Furman, 38-35, but moral victories gradually become immoral over time.

As a writer, I try my best to be fair, but I’m a Clinton native and resident who went to college at Furman, so neutrality requires some effort. My hat’s off to the Bulldogs and Chanticleers. More power to them in the coming weeks.

Paladin Stadium (Monte Dutton)
Paladin Stadium (Monte Dutton)

I’m not the multi-tasker many others are. When I write about an event, I focus only on it. It’s all I can do to take notes, tweet (part of the job these days), and chip away at the copy. On the way home from Furman, I tuned into the game between Arkansas State and Southern California (as they say in Columbia, that other USC).

What? BYU beat Nebraska with a miracle pass? Northwestern beat Stanford? Who won the Xfinity race? Denny Hamlin? At least something makes sense.

 

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)

 

I’ve written three novels. Football plays a role in all of them. Riley Mansfield is an ex-college quarterback in The Audacity of Dope. High school football is at the center of The Intangibles. Chance Benford begins Crazy of Natural Causes as a football coach. You can examine and preferably buy all three here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1