The Ty That Binds

Kezario Whitmore (Monte Dutton photos)

Kezario Whitmore
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, January 30, 2016, 1:37 p.m.

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

Last night I was driving home from Anderson, pleased that the trip had been worth it because I’d had something to write. Laurens had upset third-ranked Westside, 69-64, for its sixth Region I-4A win in a row.

Westside High School is about 70 miles away. The game was big news. I didn’t want people to have to wait to hear about it. I drove to McDonald’s, where the wi-fi is generally reliable, edited the photos I’d taken, and filed a bare-bones story without quotes. Then I drove home, got out the laptop again, and took my time, trying to do the games — Westside won the girls’ game, 61-39 — justice.

Ladarius Williams (23)

Ladarius Williams (23)

In the business, it’s called “a write-through.”

Westside, Laurens. Laurens, Westside.

Westside, Laurens. Laurens, Westside.

I’m almost never able to sleep after writing assignments. It took Stephen Colbert and most of Seth Meyers to make me sleepy, and the mug of coffee I’d sipped while writing about the Raiders didn’t help.

As I often do at such moments of introspection, a brace of Tom T. Hall lyrics occurred to me. They’re from a song called “Spokane Motel Blues”:

Well, Hill and Bare and Billy Joe, they’re gambling / And old T.P.’s frying crappie all night long / They’re down at Tootsie’s eating chili / I’m stuck in Spokane writing songs.

DSCF1855Yet I didn’t feel the way Tom T. did in that motel room. I was happy as a clam riding home, on the Interstates because my iPhone had tipped me off that the long way was the quickest. The stories don’t get better from high school basketball to Speedweeks in Daytona Beach. The demand for them does.

Laurens' Ty Madden.

Laurens’ Ty Madden.

The Laurens District 55 High School Raiders (13-6, 7-2 region) are red-hot because all cylinders are firing.

After the game, I talked for a moment with Ty Madden, who has awakened. He had scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Westside (16-3, 8-1) had been stripped of its aura of invincibility. I said to Madden that it was good to have him back, and he said it was good to be back.

I don’t know what happened, but three weeks ago, he had become almost a nonentity. He wasn’t playing much, and when he did, he didn’t play well. He looked preoccupied. Every move looked as if he’d thought, well, might as well, before he made it. A thoughtless cross-court pass would be intercepted and slammed at the other end.

DSCF1837I don’t go to practice. I don’t ride the bus. I just watch them play, and I’ve got enough sense to know that what I see is only a small percentage of what goes on within a team.

I’ve watched Ben Sinclair, the Laurens head coach, shake his head. I’ve watched him put both hands on Madden’s shoulders and talk quietly before putting him in games.

DSCF1362The prodigy has returned. The team has jelled. It’s exciting to watch.

Madden has a considerable basketball intellect when he chooses to use it. He is a savvy player. Last night I found myself watching him being subtle and sneaky. Other players dribble into the lane, waving with the off hand as if learning to swim the breast stroke. Sometimes the officials call them for pushing off. Madden ambles into the lane, and when the defender gets too close, he fires a quick elbow into the ribs, just a flick, too fast for the refs’ whistle reflexes.

Camera magnet

Camera magnet

He seldom seems to be moving rapidly, but part of it is smoothness. He glides on the floor like Henry Aaron in the outfield. When basketball season started, he had his head on straight. Then, for a couple of weeks, it was spinning, or maybe it was Sinclair’s. Maybe it was both.

What’s important, though, is that Madden is back, and when he’s back, it has a unifying effect. The moment he starts playing well is the moment when the overall image of the crossword puzzle that is a basketball team starts to take shape.

Three weeks ago, Laurens had an athletic team. Now it’s a basketball team.

Here’s the “write-through”:

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)

The editing process is complete, and I’ll let you know when Forgive Us Our Trespasses is available for download from Kindle Publishing. It’s a tale of crime and corruption, young and old, good and bad, cops and robbers, etc.

Meanwhile, Crazy of Natural Causes, set in Kentucky and concerning the reinvention of a football coach, was published late last summer, and, if you haven’t read it, I’d appreciate it if you’d give it a look here:

My second novel, The Intangibles (2013), is about a high school football coach and his players trying to cope with rapid change in the 1960s South.

The first, The Audacity of Dope (2011), is about a pot-smoking folksinger who wants no part of being a national hero. The accidental hero learns how to be a real one.

My short stories, book reviews, and essays are here:

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton. I’m a tad more irreverent @wastedpilgrim and a little more literary @hmdutton. I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Um, I think that’s it. Oh, yeah. Google+. I’m on there, too.

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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