The Anthem, Gym Kids, Refs … the Usual

(Monte Dutton photos)

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, December 16, 2015, 7:31 a.m.

The national anthem is tough, man. (Cue the Jon Gruden.)

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

I once sang it before a minor league baseball game. Twice, come to think of it. As a matter of fact, I’ve always sung along before athletic events if it was practical, partly because it’s a longtime superstition, dating back to my inglorious athletic career of antiquity.

I can sing it in D. “The Star Spangled Banner” requires star spangled pipes. The trick is not to drag in the “and the rocket’s red glare” doldrums so that one can triumphantly make it to “and the home of the brave.”

DSCF1403I can sing it in D. I can even play it on guitar. In D.

The anthem provides some amusing moments. Last night at a high school game, I got that feeling of dread that comes from listening to a voice that isn’t going to make it to the end. When a singer strains horribly at “what so proudly we hailed,” then “and the home of the brave” is just not going to happen.

I thought it was kind of heartwarming because when the singer couldn’t make it to the end, when her voice ground to halt in a manner that evoked an engine seizing, the crowd picked her up with a sudden, necessary, almost chanted, ending. “… And the HOME … of THE … BRAVE!”

A basketball head.

A basketball head.

Chanted ending. Not enchanted evening.

In spite of the save from the bullpen, the singer slumped and leaned over the scorers’ table, where friends attempted in vain to comfort her.

Laurens had already won the girls’ game, and the Raiders went on to win the boys’ contest, too, so I reckon it didn’t do any harm.

"What if I went this away?" "No. Go that away."

“What if I went this away?”
“No. Go that away.”

High school gymnasiums are generally run by kids. Not high school kids. Little kids. Sons and daughters of coaches. They rule with cute, little, pudgy hands. Sometimes, at junior varsity games, they stand up in chairs at the table, as if they expect to get to play all night with the scoreboard. When Mom’s or Dad’s team is in warmups, the little kids chase after the basketballs that bounce away. Sometimes they decide not to retrieve them and, instead, kick them down a hall and around a corner. Then, when Daddy or Mommy shows up, trying to figure out why a ball and a golden child are missing, the kid flashes that adorable smile, nothing happens to him, and he keeps right on getting into mischief until it’s time to have a Happy Meal on the way home.

Woodmont provided the opposition.

Woodmont provided the opposition.

Ballgames are events for the students who don’t play, too. They don’t show up in letter sweaters anymore. When the Raiders visited Clinton last week, many LDHS students came in pajamas. The Clinton kids were decked out a different way.

It had something to do with a Twitter war, I’m told. I’m not sure who won that. Laurens won the ballgames.

DSCF1421A few more observations from the high school basketball beat:

It’s amazing how many people don’t know the team’s record. The better it is, the better the memory.

Winning or losing is often a simple matter of playing “our game.” As a general rule of thumb, the winners do it and the losers don’t. For some reason, every time I hear a coach say “our game,” I think of Our Gang, and the Little Rascals’ theme dances through my head, which is distracting if it’s not my last question.

Wah-WAH-wuh-WAH-wuh-wah-wuh-wah-wuh-WAH! Or, as Astro in The Jetsons would exclaim, uh, ruh-ROH.

Depicting music without notes is the adult equivalent of baby talk. It could also be the first sign of dementia, but I hope not.


DSCF1433At the last two games I covered, a referee walked up to chat while I was standing at the end of the court taking pictures. This never happens when I write about college games. Sometimes it would require the public-address system. Referees are not often cheered. They operate in hostile environments. I guess a guy with a camera is someone he feels he can trust. It’s a tough job. The ref never gets to play to the crowd. Showman refs — the late Lou Bello comes to mind — are now rustic memories. These guys would prefer to be invisible, but it’s just not possible.

When I’m taking notes and tweeting the score during timeouts, the forest is often difficult to separate from the trees.

A little clarity occasionally slips through.

Here’s what I wrote about Tuesday night’s games:

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’m moving along. Crazy of Natural Causes is on sale now. Forgive Us Our Trespasses will be out early next year. I’m, oh, two thirds of the way through a first draft of Cowboys Come Home, a modern western set in Texas after the end of World War II. The first two novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, are also available, along with the relics of my non-fiction years.

Examine my books here:


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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6 Responses to The Anthem, Gym Kids, Refs … the Usual

  1. Mike Paz says:

    Hey, Monte: I’m with ya…our anthem should be sung as hymn–NOT like a blind audition for The Voice”…and I’ve heard the phrase: “O’er the land of the Free” being changed to: “FOR” the land of the Free”; plus I have heard similar revisions to other parts of it. Look, if one can’t sing the lyrics and the musical talent it requires–JUST DON’T TRY TO SING IT. Correct me, if I’m wrong, Monte–I believe the anthem requires a vocal range of five octaves; attempting to sing it with less, an embarrassing failure is a certainty. Not every crowd will bail you out…in fact, booing will most likely be the response!!!

  2. Dave Ongie says:

    I was on the baseline shooting photos last night when a timeout was called, sending a silver-haired referee ambling over in my direction. After taking turns displeasing the fans on either side of the gymnasium with his previous two calls before the TO, I guess he figured the baseline was the only place he could go for some peace and quiet. Being a man without a country, so to speak, he walked up to me, smiled a thin smile and said, “Some nights this can be a lonesome way to make a buck.”
    Hope you have a great Christmas, Monte. As always, I greatly appreciate reading your writing in all its forms.

  3. Monte says:

    You, too, Dave. Miss seeing all my Tri-City pals.

  4. Monte says:

    Good to hear from you, Mike. Many versions of the anthem sound as if the singer is oblivious to the words he or she is singing.

  5. Bob Franks says:

    After looking at the pictures, I have to ask. Don’t white girls play basketball down there any more?

  6. Monte says:

    That was misleading, I think. As a general rule, I think, girls’ teams have more white players than boys.
    The reason most basketball players are black is that most basketball players are black. Go to a YMCA. Or a public court.
    On the other hand, baseball in the area is overwhelmingly white in composition. Same reason. More and more, the kids who play baseball are white.
    It reminds me of the time I saw the comic Jackie Mason, who wondered why no one complains that there aren’t enough Jewish calf ropers.
    As long as there is equal opportunity, people should be free to do what they want.

Comments are closed.