In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Trump

Keeping the lions at bay. (Monte Dutton photos)
Keeping the tigers at bay. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, February 28, 2016, 12:48 p.m.

This morning I heard that Donald Trump is again balking at the notion that he will support the Republican presidential nominee in the unlikely event it is not he.

Monte Dutton (Alex Howard photo)
Monte Dutton (Alex Howard photo)

The Donald doesn’t like the way he’s being treated. What this means is that, as soon as Trump elicits the necessary amount of fear and loathing from all the Reince Priebuses, he will probably sign “the pledge” … for the third time.

The man who has stood on a platform, behind a microphone, and let F-bombs, some of them compounded, fly, is now offended by the language of former Mexican president Vicente Fox.

The $*#@!>+@$ loser! Depictions of Trump’s language begin and end with dollar signs.

The leader in the presidential race is citing an audit as an excuse for withholding his tax forms. He recently said he thought he was regularly audited because he’s “a strong Christian.”

Lest we belly-laugh too obviously, his supporters, the “evangelicals,” warn us all not “to judge.” The Bible says we shall not judge.

Except that it doesn’t. The Biblical story of The Mote and the Beam is in Chapter Seven of the Gospel of Matthew, verses one through five. The moral lesson is to avoid hypocrisy and self-righteousness, not that anyone would ever expect such from Trump, but what the central passage (Verse One) says is, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Some would argue that it says don’t judge others, lest God judge you, but in the context of the proverb around it, what it basically means is “don’t throw rocks in your glass house.”

Or, don’t get offended at F-bombs if you hurl them yourself.

I no longer believe in the prominent voting bloc being identified as “evangelicals.” It seems to me that the “evangelicals” who support Trump are really just a part of a larger set, the “angries.” I don’t believe their love of Trump is related to godliness.

Then again, I’m judging.

I wrote a short story casting a character named Grump in a Star Trek spinoff. (Monte Dutton sketch)
I wrote a short story casting a character named Grump in a Star Trek spinoff. (Monte Dutton sketch)

One has to judge. One has to judge whether or not the woman applying to clean up the house is likely to steal something from it. One has to make a judgment over whether a candidate for president really wants to be dictator. One has to make a judgment over whether a man like Trump knows any other way.

If judgment is a vice, then heaven is having trouble keeping the condos filled.

If Jesus said what I think He said, and told a story I think He told, then it’s perfectly righteous to be offended at Trump’s hypocrisy, not to mention his immodesty and the passionate love he feels for himself. The IRS is attacking his “Christian beliefs.” Meanwhile, Trump is trying to find a camel that will go through the eye of a needle.

Trump recently retweeted this scripture:

“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”

It’s from gospel of Benito Mussolini.

Luckily, it can’t happen here. Trump is a lot more reasonable than he lets on. Hmm. Of whom have I heard this before?

All the people who wound up being maniacs.

Here’s the short story noted in the caption of the sketch: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/2015/12/30/the-master-of-the-deal/

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

Spring Can’t Come Soon Enough

The Blue Hose men didn't win, but I thought they looked cool warming up. (Monte Dutton photos)
The Blue Hose men didn’t win, but I thought they looked cool warming up. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 27, 2016, 2:05 p.m.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

This is my coldest time of the year. When there’s snow on the ground, I always get bundled up, but when I trudge out in late February for the season’s first ballgames, I underestimate. It’s warm and balmy when I leave the house, but then clouds whip by bringing chill wind.

Last year, when Presbyterian College played Wofford in baseball, I put some sausage in the bed of the truck because I thought it would freeze sooner than at home. Behind the plate, I wished I could start a fire with my scorecard.

DSCF2057The Blue Hose are playing someone now – Towson, I think – but I’m watching the women’s basketball version taking on Winthrop. Well, I’m watching a little. Mainly, I’m writing this blog.

Duh.

DSCF2052Doubleheaders are rare at Templeton Center, but the men are playing High Point afterwards. It’s a lovely day outside, and I’d likely be at the baseball game, but I’ve been watching the basketball teams all winter, and I thought I’d like to see their final home games.

Besides, I got a nice dose of baseball Friday night. Both kinds.

Laurens pitcher Jared Cvetko records a third out.
Laurens pitcher Jared Cvetko records a third out.

Laurens eked out a 19-2 verdict over Spartanburg Christian Academy in a game in which the Raiders got all the offense any team could need in four and a half innings. Then the Clinton Red Devils trotted out on the same field and no-hit the Emerald Vikings. Two pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts out of a possible 21 outs. Clinton started lefty whipsaw Tristan Smaltz, who faced 15 batters and struck out 12. Two walked and one reached on an error.

Clinton's Tristan Smaltz: 4 IP, 12 K's.
Clinton’s Tristan Smaltz: 4 IP, 12 K’s.

It’s a season-opening round robin hosted by the Raiders. I was on assignment. It was a long evening. I have no commitments today, and I felt more like driving four miles to PC than 12 to LDHS. Then I had to make the call of basketball over baseball, PC division, and I was sorely tempted to stay home and watch the Xfinity and Truck races from Atlanta. I’ll pay close attention to NASCAR tomorrow.

DSCF2054The Blue Hose currently lead, 22-12, in the women’s game. It appears likely they will improve to 16-11 overall, 12-6 in Big South Conference play. Small schools are prone to hyperbole. Presbyterian considers itself “a mid-major,” in spite of there being very few majors that are smaller, and it is a member of the Big South, which, in the greater scheme of the geographic region, isn’t particularly big.

By the way, word has arrived from Ed Prescott Field that the Red Devils have prevailed again, claiming a 7-1 decision over T.L. Hanna. Laurens is playing Greenwood even as I write.

Last night, Clinton head coach Sean McCarthy did not know his pitchers had twirled a no-hitter until I informed him. That’s called a scoop.

I didn't mention the Musical Chairs at halftime.
I didn’t mention the Musical Chairs at halftime.

6:56 p.m.

My timing was good. The Blue Hose women clobbered Winthrop, 77-44, and the men hung in there for a half, but I got little sleep last night and inexplicably got up early this morning, and I suspected what was coming, so I packed up my stuff and headed home at halftime.

High Point won the men’s game, 80-60, so either I smelled it coming or I jinxed the Hose. The baseball team beat Towson, though, 6-2. It was over before I left the Temp.

I felt a bit guilty.

One Busch, Kurt, starts on the Atlanta pole because the other, Kyle, had a car that failed to pass inspection.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
One Busch, Kurt, starts on the Atlanta pole because the other, Kyle, had a car that failed to pass inspection. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)

I saw an untidy ending in a Truck race, but it was tidy for John Hunter Nemechek to win. I expect he was about 10 or so when I had dinner with him and his father at the buffet of a Las Vegas casino. It wasn’t organized. I just bumped into them, and Joe said, “Hey, why don’t you join us?”

If you’re interested in my stories about the high school baseball games, here they are:

http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23035-laurens-overruns-spartanburg-christian-19-2

http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23033-two-red-devils-combine-for-opening-night-no-hitter

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

 

Another Head Ball Coach a Ways Up the Road

Butch Clark with three of his best: from left, Baylee Bragg, Matti Cantrell and C.J. Ginn. (Monte Dutton photo)
Butch Clark with three of his best: from left, Baylee Bragg, Matti Cantrell and C.J. Ginn. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 26, 2016, 11:41 a.m.

Thursday took me to Laurens District High School — by way of Aldi, two dozen eggs, some bratwurst, coffee and other items — to write about the Raiders’ softball team and how it’s going to finagle a fourth Region I-4A championship in six years.

When I got there, head coach Butch Clark was getting ready to drag the field and making it clear that someone had better fix that dadgone thing, and weld a piece on it, because, as of that moment, he was wrinkling more than he was smoothing.

Despite the feeling that his equipment — a golf cart dragging a flat, weighed-down, square of crisscrossing metal — left a little to be desired, not much bothers Coach Clark. He has put in most of his time in the teaching and coaching wars. In as much as veterans grizzle, Clark is grizzled. I reckon that makes him a likable bear.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutto

When I asked him how the Raiders’ preseason scrimmages had gone, he said, “Not too good,” leaned his head back and started laughing.

He has a way with sentences that wind up undermining the way they started.

“If the pitching settles down, we can be pretty competitive with anybody most of the time.”

“We’ve got a good handful of decent players, I think. We feel like we’re going to hit the ball pretty good.”

He’s the kind of fellow one talks to and comes away thinking, Wow, this is really good stuff, and then one transcribes the interview and wonders, What did this man just say?

Clark leaves a good bit between the lines. That’s what’s going to make it fun to watch his team play.

This is a man who will work with what he’s got, but even when it’s fixed, it likely won’t be to suit him.

What better definition of a coach is there?

Here’s my team preview at GoLaurens.com: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23027-clark-expects-raider-softball-team-to-fulfill-expectations

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

 

Dinglebert Trumperdinck

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 8:01 a.m.

This is a year only Dr. Seuss could possibly understand.

I know that Trump, that hopeless grump. I want to kick him in the rump. He tells me what I want to hear. He makes me want to drink some beer. Next thing you know, I’ll load my gun, but first I’d have to buy me one.

“I like old Trump,” someone said to me at a ballgame. “He tells it like it is.”

Buy a guitar. It'll help. (John Clark photo)
Buy a guitar. It’ll help. (John Clark photo)

I like Trump, too, but only when I watch him for fun. The Republican presidential race is hilarious. It reminds me of the old TV show Dragnet. As a drama, Dragnet was predictable and stilted. As a comedy, it was marvelous. One of my favorite guilty pleasures was watching Joe Friday rise in righteous indignation.

I may not like you, and I may hate everything you stand for, but it’s my sworn constitutional duty to protect scum like you from the snakes you call friends!

Whoa. There were times in my youth when I watched this show while impaired.

It’s more difficult, at this stage of life, to watch my TV and appreciate the humor of a man who eventually insults everyone who makes even the frailest attempt at standing up to him.

Ormond Beach, Fla. (Monte Dutton photo)
Ormond Beach, Fla. (Monte Dutton photo)

America wants Trump. Trump is a bully, as much as whoever kicked sand in Charles Atlas’s face. Everyone else is Atlas as the “97-pound weakling.” Charlie needs to muscle up.

The man who tells it like it is can’t go five words without lying. Meanwhile, he baits another candidate for lying. His best defense is a good offense. I have a sister who used to pull that. She was five.

Barack Obama is a Kenyan. Ted Cruz is a Canadian. Jeb Bush is weak. His brother is a liar. Obamacare is horrible. I’ll cover everybody. It’ll be great. Trust me. I’ll kick some Chinese ass, and torture me some Muslims, and round up all the Mexicans and hurl them over my wall with coal-fired catapults.

I’ll do it! Me! Donald Trump. Me, me, me! I am the greatest, Howard Cosell! Elect me and I’ll kick some ass! Just make sure it’s not yours, buddy, ’cause I’ll be watching you.

Imagine Joe McCarthy with a sense of humor. In other words, Ted Cruz without one.

All of this is so funny! Why in hell am I crying?

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. If the blog above angered you, no worries. If you hate that blog, chances are you’re not going to like my novels, either. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read, but if this blog made you crazy, don’t sweat it, man.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications..

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

The Roller Coaster in Daytona Beach

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives to victory in the first of two Can-Am Duel races. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives to victory in the first of two Can-Am Duel races. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 19, 2016, 10:35 a.m.

Sure. I watched the Can-Am Duel, which was dual because there were two, as there have been since there was a Daytona 500, which led to the commonly held opinion that there is a town called simply Daytona, which there is not. It’s Daytona Beach, though, as for that, it’s unimportant personally because I am not there, and if I still went, the odds are I would be in Ormond Beach, and there’s no issue there over there not being an Ormond.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

With the South Carolina Republican Primary coming up, I kept having to answer the phone during the races. Oh, I answer, because the only time my “land line” rings is either my mother or someone wanting me to answer a questionnaire that ends up being a request for money, of which I don’t have that much presently. How do they get results to polls, by the way? Everyone I know hangs up.

To make a long story short, they got my position right.

The parking lot. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The parking lot.
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

As is the case an alarming number of times, I digress.

I already wrote, about another race, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would probably win it if he’s around at the end. In the first Duel, I was right prematurely. What I wanted from the race was for Earnhardt to have to show what he has. He did. It’s a lot. He’s the clear favorite in the Daytona 500. In terms of this particular sweepstakes, the best jockey is riding the best horse. He’s got to guard against getting his trusty steed pinched into the rail.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Kyle Busch, not exactly a big surprise, either, won the latter race by a piece of paper. Matt Kenseth, Busch’s teammate, had to give up the lead so that he could use the turbulence of riding around another car to get the paper to fly off the nose of his Toyota and stop unduly heating up its innards.

This set in motion a series of events. Busch won, and Kenseth’s car got destroyed and, as a result, it will not start on the front row of the Daytona 500.

Both races provided pertinent information regarding the likely outcome of NASCAR’s most prestigious race. At this point, with the actual running of the qualifying races little more than a formality, the best that could be expected was valuable information, which we got.

The second Duel even had a dual duel of its own.

The Camping World Truck Series race is tonight. I’m thinking of having a safety harness installed in my easy chair. It’s probably already too late to get that done. I guess I’ll clench my teeth again.

Xfinity Series practice. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to watch the opening scenes of Days of Thunder. Speedweeks is a roller coaster. The ride starts out with gentle ups and downs, just to get the squealing cords cleared out vocally. Now it’s gears grinding, pulling everyone up a ponderous grade. From here on lie free falls, loops that turn us upside down, and such pure speed, at long intervals, that, after a while, it seems as if a parking lot, perfectly aligned, is going nearly 200 miles an hour.

Amazingly, this formation flying will seem boring. It’s too much of a good thing, or, perhaps, too good of a much thing.

The ending will be whiz-bang, though. It will be swell, a humdinger and a ripsnorter. What few kids are watching will find it turnt, based and/or lit, terms that can be translated as “stoned” but also refer to most everything that feels good. Many are not about that life.

NASCAR, I mean.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I got a little news on Thursday. A release date will be announced in a few weeks. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

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

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

 

The Vagaries of Basketball and Other Sports

Quick summary of the night: Ladarius Williams missed this shot. (Monte Dutton photos)
Quick summary of the night: Ladarius Williams missed this shot. (Monte Dutton photos)
Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, February 18, 2016, 9:55 a.m.

When all the laughter died in sorrow …

It’s the name of a book I read when I was in school. I read a lot then. Still do. The title stuck with me and emerges when the agony of defeat supersedes the thrill of victory.

Pause for a public-service announcement: The best way to learn how to write is to read.

Gaffney, streaking away.
Gaffney, streaking away.

Gaffney (13-11) won the first-round 4A playoff game in Laurens, 79-57, and according to M*A*S*H, suicide is supposed to be painless. It’s true that the Raiders were marvelously self-destructive.

The pain, stretched beyond the immediate, is also about the stern test that will be rebuilding a team that is losing an All-State choice, Ladarius Williams, and three who made All-Region I-4A (Williams, Ty Madden and Toby Jackson). Seniors scored 56 of Laurens’ 57 points Wednesday night.

Major bummer.
Major bummer.

As head coach Ben Sinclair said afterward, “It’s frustrating we couldn’t get the job done. The guys had a good season. They worked hard this year, but the unfortunate thing about our sport is that you get sized up by how you play in the tournament.”

No room to breathe.
No room to breathe.

It’s perfectly natural for fans who have not gone out on the floor and practiced every day, and who have not spent long hours watching video and sizing up the opposition, to be unable to understand what was going on. The players knew how important the game was. They knew, almost all of them, that their high school careers could end suddenly and undoubtedly would end soon.

How did it happen? How did Gaffney, with only four seniors on the team, manage to upend the bigger and heretofore more successful Raiders?

It happens, and when it happens, it’s not from lack of effort. Last night, for instance, my eye zeroed in on another senior, E’Nicholas Leake, streaking around the floor, perhaps with more urgency than plan, but surely with superb effort.

This one went in.
Grabbing a rebound.

He cared. They all cared. For whatever reason, they couldn’t do anything about it. They had fits and starts, but the engine never ran smoothly for long.

Many years ago, when I was more intimately involved in contests of athletic teamwork, the best I could figure was that a kid tells himself he’d better be ready, and for some incredible reason that only shows up in the young … himself just doesn’t buy it. This theory of mine was itself cooked up in adolescence, so it obviously bears little validity, but more than 40 years have passed, and through thousands of ballgames and hundreds of stock car races, I haven’t been able to improve upon it.

Fortunately, it’s why they play the games.

DSCF2012

Here’s what I wrote at GoLaurens.com: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/22972

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

Trying to Reason with a New Season

(Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Getty Images for NASCAR)
Monte Dutton (Alex Howard photo)
Monte Dutton (Alex Howard photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, February 16, 2016, 11:54 a.m.

So far I’ve written a NASCAR column (it will appear later in the week, as if by magic, or even a website) and the first three paragraphs of a chapter, and I don’t quite feel ready to write that chapter’s final 99 percent, so I decided to turn to a task of unplanned destination.

This.

Lots of things are on my mind. Just not a lot on any one of them, at this particular point in time. Wouldn’t be prudent. Wait. Let me regain my balance. Members of the Bush family are orbiting around the state and exerting a gravitational pull on my mind.

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water …

Ah, as those who would hope to limit my First Amendment right would tweet, stick to racing.

Okay. But not because you want me to. And I can’t wait to see that next photo of a casserole.

Chase Elliott rolls in. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott rolls in. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
I like Junior if he's around. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing)
I like Junior if he’s around. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing)

Who’s going to win the Daytona 500? Oh, whoever stays out of trouble, and, probably, Dale Earnhardt Jr. if he’s one of them. In terms of the championship, the statistics suggest it will have little to do with what happens afterward. It means a lot in prestige and money, but in the latter regard, NASCAR will no longer tell us how much it is.

Once it was common for NASCAR to brag about money. Maybe they’re hiding it because it’s much more practical than hiding the winner of the race, it being on TV and all.

Sigh. I sigh a lot.

It would be nice to see that laugh again. (John Clark photo)
It would be nice to see that laugh again. (John Clark photo)

The Greek drama is Tony Stewart. The Greek comedy is everything else.

Only NASCAR could reduce the seating capacity of its most famous track and call it Daytona Rising. Only NASCAR could proclaim its new palace for the 21st Century the World’s First Motorsports Stadium, conveniently dismissing the world’s previous hundred thousand.

What about that cozy little speedrome in, aptly, Rome, where they raced chariots? Oh, yeah. Motorsports. They just had horsepower.

Michael Waltrip (John Clark photo)
Michael Waltrip (John Clark photo)

When that caution clock starts to wind down in the Camping World Truck Series, the theme of “Final Jeopardy” should play on TV. Then, if it expires, Michael Waltrip should say, “Every time the clock runs out, an angel gets its wings.”

The world has changed everywhere, not just in NASCAR. A long time ago, when men were men and beauty queens were nervous, and corporations spoke for racers and not vice-versa, when sportswriters started drinking beer before the gamer was done, and it wasn’t some high-dollar import, either, and a hard charger could lap the field without them fools in the tower sprinkling stardust and calling it debris, and letting everybody catch up, and it was harder to gain a lap that it was to lose one, and … and … and …

The last thing I remember, I was reading about Rip Van Winkle. Thank God I woke up.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

 

Across the Lake

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 13, 2016, 12:47 p.m.

DSCF1970

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

Those of us who grew up in Laurens County are accustomed to going “across the lake,” that being Greenwood, which borders that county and this. This whole week has been similar. I get up, play a little guitar, write a blog, write some fiction, shave and shower, and head off to write about basketball games. The only aspect of this one that was any different was that, on Monday night, I went to watch basketball just for the hell of it.

DSCF2004Friday night was more than that. Laurens District 55 High School boys’ coach Ben Sinclair has attached primo significance to doing well enough in the Region I-4A season to play a home playoff game. The 87-58 victory over Greenwood means that, for the first time in at least 16 seasons, the Raiders will be at home when they take on Gaffney Wednesday night.

Chris Statom (4) over Jabious Rouse (23)
Chris Statom (4) over Jabious Rouse (23)

I mean, in the playoffs. I suppose they may have played Gaffney at home in a regular-season game, and you know me. I’d hate to be inaccurate, or incomplete, or tardy without written permission.

Ladarius Williams and Greenwood's Kemarion Williams.
Ladarius Williams and Greenwood’s Kemarion Williams.

On the way over, of course, I had priorities of my own. I had intended to stop at Lee’s Barbeque in suburban Waterloo, but I got carried away updating a fiction outline, and by the time I drove by Lee’s, I did so sorrowfully because I like to get to the gym early and get everything squared away, and I only had time enough to settle for Zaxby’s.

Toby Jackson (20), Dre Yarbrough (2)
Toby Jackson (20), Dre Yarbrough (2)

By the way, do you like those crashes in NASCAR, kids? Zaxby’s pays for a lot of those wrecks, and fixing those wrecks costs money, so I enjoyed some wings with hot mustard sauce, which is at least reminiscent of South Carolina barbecue sauce like they’ve got at Lee’s, and it was the best I could do.

DSCF1991My first job out of college was at the Greenwood Index-Journal. At the time, I was fond of calling it the Index-Finger. Unfortunately, no one who was in Greenwood back then is still there. A few survive.

DSCF1978It wasn’t a perfect trip. The Laurens girls fell, 56-34, and their recent exploits have unfortunately coupled limiting their turnovers, which were once almost unlimited, with reducing their shooting percentage to depths I once considered impossible. Last night the Raiders collectively hoisted up 66 prayers, 10 of which were answered. My count was 66. The scorebook handled the easier task.

Bre Nance (12), Jadasia Bennett (15), Tanesha Pinson (24)
Bre Nance (12), Jadasia Bennett (15), Tanesha Pinson (24)

This year I have developed a greater appreciation for women’s basketball. They play hard, and they don’t sulk as much as boys, even though they have every justification. Laurens finished the season with 11 victories and 13 defeats, and they were 5-9 in the region. I can’t say it hasn’t been fun watching them. They once committed 48 turnovers in 32 minutes. They defeated, by 14 points, the same team that had defeated them, in the same season, by 28.

They are delightfully zany.

DSCF1980I have enjoyed my postgame conversations with LDHS head coach Yoneko Allen, who is disarmingly honest and has a good sense of humor, which, I guess, her particular job encourages and quite possibly requires.

As I general rule, I keep my statistics on a legal pad by tallying. For the Raider girls, I could use an abacus, or rather, a set of abaci. Wouldn’t that make a good press-row photograph? It would have to be taken before the men in the white jackets arrive.

DSCF1981

The main event was Senior Night, but Laurens excels in seniority with 10, and their lead became a rapidly expanding universe. It was 23-7 at the end of the first quarter.

DSCF1997Greenwood, like Greenville earlier in the week, is an historic place to visit in terms of sports. My year at the Index-Journal was the last in which J.W. “Pinky” Babb coached the GHS football team. He was a stoic, proud, terse man. I liked him. I think he liked me. I just couldn’t get much in the way of words out of him. He made a writer work as hard as a ballplayer.

I walked around in the lobby, reading the plaques of all the members of the athletic hall of fame. There were names I’ve heard all my life: Clemson’s Harvey White and Lowndes Shingler, both of whom were before my time but not my daddy’s; but also Robert Anders, whom I knew at Furman; and Willis Burkett, who succeeded Babb and was a friendly acquaintance for many years after I left Greenwood; and a bunch more that I recognized then and can’t remember now. The latest Greenwood star to rise is the Carolina Panthers’ Josh Norman.

Greenwood-Laurens is a rivalry that, I suspect, means more on this side of Lake Greenwood than the other, and more happiness accompanied the Raiders’ ride home, I suspect, than the dismay felt in Greenwood. The Eagles finished up 9-11 overall and 6-8 in the region. Laurens has a shot to build on 17-7 and 11-3.

By all appearances, Laurens is peaking at the right time. The scoring is balanced. The bench is deep. The shooters are hitting. The inside players are hitting the boards. Greenwood’s defense might as well have been a twilight zone. The home fans didn’t have their popcorn finished in time to have a chance to cheer. Some probably got more popcorn. Some probably went home.

What the Raiders can ill afford is to be satisfied with just being there. That home game on Wednesday night isn’t going to be nearly as important if they don’t win it.

Here’s what I wrote at GoLaurens.com: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/22935-raiders-nail-down-home-playoff-game-by-crushing-greenwood

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

 

No Big Winner, No Big Loser

"Timeout, ref! Timeout!" (Monte Dutton photos)
“Timeout, ref! Timeout!” (Monte Dutton photos)
Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 12, 2016, 12:13 p.m.

For the last two seasons, I have driven up to G.B. Hodge Center on the campus of the University of South Carolina Upstate to write about the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles’ game with the Spartans for the Fort Myers, Florida, News-Press.

Christian Terrell (11), Mark-Eddy Norelia (25)
Christian Terrell (11), Mark-Eddy Norelia (25)

Until about this time in 2015, I had not gone to a basketball game at USCU since it was USCS (Spartanburg), coached by Jerry Waters, named the Rifles, and playing in the NAIA, and while now USCU is NCAA Division I, Atlantic Sun Conference, and coached by Eddie Payne, who is in his 14th year with the Spartans and 31st overall, its home games are still at the Hodge Center, which holds 837.

Deion Holmes
Deion Holmes

Among the few, the proud, the NCAA Division I schools with basketball arenas that hold less than 1,000, Hodge Center is a really great place to watch. It should come as no surprise that all of the 837 seats are good ones. Its crowds are raucous during most years, when the Spartans are not young, 8-19, and 2-7 (in the Atlantic Sun). Florida Gulf Coast won the game, 71-64, after winning on its home floor, 85-56, on January 16. Hodge has been renovated, and among its glistening additions are huge scoreboards with video replay boards behind each end line. It’s reasonably akin to watching the game live and on TV at the same time, at least for those with wandering eyes, and in this age of tiny phones and social media, who does not have wandering eyes?

Wandering, darting eyes.

DSCF1885

Payne is a good coach whose creditable record proves it. I expect he won’t have a losing team next year. The talent is there, but when the season began, the cupboard was bare.

FGCU's Zach Johnson, with USCU coach Eddie Payne in the background.
FGCU’s Zach Johnson, with USCU coach Eddie Payne in the background.

FGCU led most of the way. According to the stat sheet, the Eagles led for 23 minutes, 57 seconds, the teams were tied for 10:35, and the Spartans led for 5:28, so, for most of the game, FGCU (16-11, 6-4) was in jeopardy, slightly in doubt, but likely to win, which it did. An 11-2 run in the former half and a 15-0 stretch in the latter were just too much for the Spartans to surmount.

The biggest surprise came afterwards when I asked to interview a player named Marc-Eddy Norelia, a 6-8 redshirt junior from Orlando who collected 22 points and nine rebounds. When I make the upstate high school rounds, I seldom come across anyone named Marc, Eddy, or Norelia, and as I talked with Payne, I wondered what Norelia would be like.

DSCF1882He was, like, the most articulate person with whom I’ve chatted this year. He should coach, and I should be the beat reporter. I chose these Norelia comments for the story I sent to Fort Myers:

“I think that just had to do with the fact that we were turning the ball over. I think Coach (Joe Dooley) said we had 17 turnovers. That’s the first part of the problem, and I’ll say our inability to finish plays was the second.

“We didn’t hit our free throws, so that was the third. We had an opportunity to do a lot better.”

I would have mined my iPhone for more, but, just as I was wrapping up my story, all the lights went out in the gym. I used a little penlight on my key ring to consult my trusty legal pad for a few more details.

DSCF1881

FGCU’s 11 missed free throws (out of 25) helped keep the Spartans (16-20) in it.

USCU's Michael Buchanan III
USCU’s Michael Buchanan III

Payne said, “Our energy and competitiveness were better tonight. In our bad stretches, I think we had some young kids who were fatigued, who kind of caved a little bit, yielded to that fatigue. When they went to a zone, we didn’t have very good poise. We didn’t have patience, and we didn’t get quality shots.”

“We couldn’t stand our own prosperity,” Dooley said. “When we did get ahead a little bit, they made some plays and made some shots. We were up 11, made a couple bad possessions, took some bad shots and they were right back in it.”

Both coaches said FGCU couldn’t put USCU away, but one took small consolation.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

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

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

 

All the Bright, Young Raiders in Their Green and Red

Kezario Whitmore (1) goes for a steal. (Monte Dutton photos)
Kezario Whitmore (1) goes for a steal. (Monte Dutton photos)
Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 10, 2016, 10:17 a.m.

The high school basketball merry-go-round took me to Greenville High School’s James A. “Slick” Moore Gymnasium, and it’s not often one looks up in rafters to discover the football team there won the state championship in 1917.

Ladarius Williams
Ladarius Williams

Into this bastion of history arrived the Laurens Raiders, seeking to nail down a 4A home playoff game for the first time in at least 15 years, according to head coach Ben Sinclair.

Toby Jackson
Toby Jackson

It wasn’t easy. Laurens (16-7, 10-3 region) trailed by four entering the fourth quarter.

The best moment was probably the last one. The last player at the end of the LDHS bench, Leonard Williams, found himself wide open, because it was the time of a game when the outcome is decided, and it’s not unusual for the winning team just to let the clock expire.

Chris Statom (right) scored 21 points.
Chris Statom (right) scored 21 points.

It’s unusual, however, for a kid who hasn’t scored all year — I’m not positive about that, but you get the point — to have the ball in his hand, a layup in front of him and time to do it.

Charlie Franks (34) kept Greenville in the game with five three-pointers and 23 points.
Charlie Franks (34) kept Greenville in the game with five three-pointers and 23 points.

He did. The final score was 73-61. The Raiders wearing green outscored the Red Raiders (8-13, 6-7) by 16 (26-10) in the fourth quarter, and now it’s on to the other “green,” Greenwood, for the final regular-season contest.

It’s a little confusing. The Raiders wearing green defeated Greenville, the Red Raiders, and next they play Greenwood, which wears black and goes by Eagles.

Not only that, but another outcome of Tuesday night was the Hillcrest Rams upsetting the Westside Rams, thus creating a small opening for the Raiders, Laurens variety, to ram the Rams, whether on the crest of a hill or the west side of Anderson.

Did you know that Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln? And that Lincoln’s was named Kennedy?

DSCF1947

The Red Raiders wore pink. It worked.
The Red Raiders wore pink. It worked.

Earlier, by the way, Greenville (23-1, 12-1) had slipped past the Raider girls (11-12, 5-8) by a margin of 83-38, stretching like saltwater taffy a halftime lead of 11 by scoring 55 second-half points. All 12 players on the GHS roster scored at least three points.

Enough about that. For additional details about both games, read my story at GoLaurens.com: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/22910-laurens-boys-pull-away-late-to-thwart-greenville-73-61

The late “Slick” Moore’s memorial gymnasium is 45.1 miles from my house. So that the folks back home could quench their thirst for details about the game, I used the reliable McDonald’s wi-fi to ship some photos and a short account of the games to the home office, which is somewhere accessible by email. Then I drove the remaining 42.1 miles or so home and rewrote the story to reward those who like such additional items as quotations.

Whitmore
Whitmore

Naturally, Region I being much like Hollywood, the final regular-season opponent, Greenwood, and Laurens, to borrow from Keith Jackson, “just do not like each other.”

So, obviously, “whoa, Nellie.” Many elbows were swung in anger when the teams met earlier this year in the otherwise friendly confines of the Raider gym.

I’ll drive over there, armed with my cheap and trusty camera and clipboard, and, with a little luck, get some barbecue on the way while, at the game, scraps will be avoided.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

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

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.