Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 18, 11:36 a.m.
I know this is hard to believe, but it is possible to have a wonderful weekend in spite of the ballgames falling shy of one’s expectations.
Perhaps I’m growing more understanding as I grow older. Perhaps I’m detached enough not to let it bother me. Perhaps it’s all these decades of writing about ballgames and seeing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Perhaps — and this is a long shot — I’m actually getting more mature.
On Friday night, Union County celebrated the fair next door by thumping Clinton, 36-12. The Yellow Jackets were clearly superior. The Red Devils didn’t play badly. They just weren’t good enough. In such a game was there disappointment, but not dishonor.
Union has a junior wide receiver named Shi Smith who probably has a hard time being shy about his ability. His might be a name you shall get to know better.
Back in Clinton on Saturday, it was Homecoming at Presbyterian College. The Blue Hose had lost, 24-17, to the nation’s No. 1 team, Coastal Carolina (in NCAA FCS, which stands for Football Championship Subdivision, and the subdivision is of Division I), on the road the week before. This time they lost, 10-7, to another instate school, Charleston Southern.
Close both times, but the record is still 1-6. After a while, moral victories become immoral.
I know the coaches. Clinton’s a small town. Everybody knows one another. Clinton High’s first-year head coach, Andrew Webb, is the son of one of my high school teammates. I covered Presbyterian when its head coach now, Harold Nichols, played quarterback. One of his players, Hayden Sanders, is the son of an old Furman friend of mine, and, before and after each home game, I join Brent and Sharon Sanders, and other PC fans and parents of players, for tailgate merriment and fellowship.
The Blue Hose have a defense good enough to keep them in games and an offense ill equipped to take advantage. As we used to say when he was still alive, Ray Charles could see that.
Homecoming means more to small schools. At Clemson and South Carolina, the multitudes come to every game. Presbyterian’s crowd on Saturday was twice as big as any other game. My longtime NASCAR friend and colleague, Al Pearce, is a PC man. He came all the way from Newport News, Virginia, took in all the class activities, met me at the tailgate party a couple hours before the game, and drove back to Virginia Saturday night. Usually I see Al when he’s on the way to Atlanta or Talladega and we meet somewhere for lunch.
All one has to do to see what college football is like at the big schools is tune in College Football Game Day. Small colleges are more sportsmanlike, in part because the fans didn’t have to sit in traffic on the way and walk a mile to the stadium, so they’re not so damned ornery. Seldom have I heard the opposition referred to as “them sonsabitches” at PC. Fans of the other team often stop by the parties and are treated with respect and good humor.
A couple of my friends stopped by. The food was phenomenal. I’ve been freeloading too much. For the next home game, I’m bringing a big, steaming pot of chili. I’m no great chef, but I’m good at chili. It’s just now getting cool enough for it.
The floods are over. The Palmetto State is returning to normal. It’s gone all in for autumn. I’m only going to mow the lawn one more time this year, and it’ll be sometime this week when I get around to it.
I spent the first half in the press box. My credentials were justifiable not for a story on the game but for the blog (this blog) I was accumulating observations to write. Then I wandered around a little and settled in one of the few lightly occupied sections of the home grandstand, and for the rest of the game, I exchanged quips with the family sitting behind me. The head of that family was a man with a musical lilt in his voice and a joyous sense of humor in his soul. All of us wanted the Blue Hose to win, but we enjoyed ourselves laughing at each other’s spontaneous quips.
Yeah, I yelled at the refs. It was meant to be humorous, though, not spiteful.
Our local Presbyterians are, by and large, not averse to a few stern beverages to knock off the chill before the game and, all too often, assuage the pain afterward.
Everyone came back to the command center, i.e., motor coach, with plenty of pain issues that had to be addressed. I was there for more than two hours after the game, taking part in emergency treatment. The command center was well stocked with supplies. I was amazed at how many fans in the grassy, tree-shaded lots, not just us but many others, stayed and stayed. I thought about driving back out there this morning to see if any were still there.
Or had any beer left. Can’t buy it on Sunday in South Carolina.
When I got back home, before I put away my stuff, I turned the television on. Ten seconds were left in the Michigan State-Michigan game. I figured I might as well watch the final play.
Next week is Furman’s Homecoming, and the Blue Hose are conveniently idle (yes, like their offense most every week), so Brent and Sharon are coming to Furman next week for the Paladins’ rivalry with The Citadel.
Undoubtedly, more hilarity will ensue, but what I’d like to see is a victory.
As I have loved sports for my entire life, and written about it for the majority, it should come as no surprise that sports, and, in fact, football, play a prominent role in my three novels, which I hope you will consider buying here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1
The new one, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been on sale this month for a mere $1.99 download. Sale ends on October 31, so add it to your device today: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1