Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, October 10, 2015, 4:18 p.m.
Vince Lombardi said that winning isn’t everything. He really did. The next sentence was, “It is the only thing.”
Yet Clinton High School’s football team lost, 24-16, last night, and the record is 2-5, and it only won two games last year, and I’m really proud.
Not at the record. It’s just that they’re playing hard, and, as coaches are fond of saying, sometimes with little conviction and less candor, but not in this case, there’s no quit in these Red Devils.
Today Lancaster is 7-0, and Clinton is 2-5. Life is defined by records. For instance, it helps that I don’t have, say, a criminal record.
My story on the game was a bit maudlin for a disinterested and serious journalist. It’s just that I write what I see — it’s sort of an entry-level method they teach you — and what I saw was a fine Red Devil effort against the state’s eighth-ranked AAA team. Lancaster is considerably larger, which is not unusual. Of Clinton’s seven opponents to date, five have been ranked in something or other at the time of the game. Clinton has beaten two of them, Flora and Woodruff, but lost to the two, Laurens and Broome, that weren’t ranked in something or other.
The Red Devils led, 8-3, at one point, trailed, 10-8, at halftime, were as close as 17-16 until 4:13 remained in the game, and still had a shot at overtime until a pass got intercepted in the final, desperate seconds. Clinton would have had to go for two, but going for two is old hat for the Red Devils, who don’t have a placekicker much better than me, and my brother was the kicker in the family, and the athlete, too, for that matter.
In fact, the Red Devils weren’t even red. They wore black because it was Blackout Friday, and the jerseys raised money and awareness for the county cancer association, and the names on the backs of their jerseys weren’t their own but rather those of people in the community who are either fighting cancer or already died of it. Afterward, the players took their jerseys off on the field and gave them to the people with cancer, or cancer in their families, or whoever paid for the jerseys in someone’s name whose memory they cherished.
All this touched me, and it was reflected in the story I wrote: http://www.golaurens.com/goclinton/item/21900-red-devils-upset-bid-falls-short-24-16
For better or worse, this town reveres its high school football teams, which have won eight state championships over the years, and the eighth was just six years ago.
When I played, Clinton was one of the state’s larger AAA schools. Now it is the smallest, and next year it will remain AAA because the state is going from four to five A’s, and Clinton will be AAA out of five instead of AAA out of four.
It should help.
This is still a fine town, a college town, but it used to also be a mill town, too, and when they closed, not to mention a large bearings plant, it cost us a heap of jobs, and most of what people didn’t have to move away now have to drive back and forth somewhere in order still to live here.
At least one of us tries to make ends meet writing novels. Maybe more. Surely someone at Presbyterian College has written his version of the Great American Novel, or maybe the Great Clinton Novel, and it’s on the market or being rewritten for the umpteenth time.
I’ve got three out, another ready, and a fifth on the way. I also make a little spending money writing journalism in the form of spot news and features about other sports and columns about NASCAR. I’m getting ready to write one tonight.
Late in last night’s game, I made my way carefully down the grandstand steps and started taking pictures on the sideline. I don’t have a camera good enough to take very good pictures, so what I do is I shoot about 25 of them, hoping seven might be good enough to accompany my article and one actually to accompany it. The others I’m using here.
I want the local boys to do well. When I played, we did well. Doing well has inspired me for all the years since. It gave me the confidence to believe I could write novels and the determination to stick with it, just as I have stuck with most of what I attempted in the last 40 years.
It’s entirely possible that I am a fool, but I am a determined fool.
I’ve been a fool / A foo-ool / Forgiving you each time that you done me wrong / I’ve been a long time leaving but I’ll be a long time gone. – Roger Miller (1936-92)
I want that heady confidence to march out into the world on the shoulders of the young men playing football for Clinton High School now, but I don’t believe 2-5 is going to linger. I believe all that unrewarded dedication is still going to make the lives of the Red Devils better.
It’ll just be a little harder, like pulling an upset or hanging in there against teams that, by all measures, are better.
So I get a little sentimental sometimes.
My second novel, The Intangibles, isn’t a story of Clinton, but Clinton inspired many of the roles in it. http://www.amazon.com/Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
My current novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is about a man who is a football coach at the beginning of it, before he loses almost everything and has to find a new way to make a living. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=pd_sim_sbs_351_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=19K86BFFPZTS2YJXRBV3&dpID=617isaEUZWL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR120%2C160_
My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, is about a pot-smoking songwriter who used to be a college football player and becomes a national hero. http://www.amazon.com/The-Audacity-Dope-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B006GT2PRA/ref=pd_sim_351_12?ie=UTF8&refRID=0XAG612JS729AEAW1KSK
So there is a common theme. I can trace some of my aches and pains back to football, but so, too, can I trace many of the characteristics that have helped me make my lonely way through life.