Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 9:45 a.m.
Maybe these summertime seven-on-sevens are historical rather than newfangled. Perhaps, boys got together in some meadow, recently having cut and baled the hay off it, and started throwing the old pigskin — an actual pigskin, mind you, or, maybe, a bladder — around. Rules gradually evolved, and the boys would come back out after supper and play a refreshing game of pitch-and-catch before the sun went down.
Then, at some point, a sturdy lad leaned into the huddle, and said those fateful words: “Hey, I think it sure would surprise them old boys if we commenced to beating the hell out of them.”
So began the decline of a pastoral society.
But the more times change … the tough get going!
There are limits, however, and the South Carolina High School League won’t allow football players to run into each other again until August, so being the resourceful lads that most coaches are, the game is back to the meadow, in this case, a bunch of shortened fields lined crosswise to enable the convergence of 10 high-school-representing teams of pitchers and catchers arriving early not for spring training but to peer at the distant horizon of football season.
Seven-on-seven scrimmages are to football what school figures are to ice skating. More sweaty. Less pretty. Not a precise analogy.
I’ve been to two of these showcases recently, and, since there might be eight teams playing at the same time — well, two at a time on various fields — it’s not a practical venue for record-keeping.
Oh, I had a notepad. One with scribbles such as these:
Why Spbg have 2 tms?
Get file pics of coaches.
How u make this wrk w/pads?
In a way, it took me back to the playground, playing touch football at recess. Quarterback stands, holding the ball aloft with one hand and waving for his receivers to go right or left with the other. Rushers have to count to three — “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-threeeee!” — before they can rush.
Of course, these well-drilled high school teams are infinitely more organized.
Here’s my GoLaurens/GoClinton story on the morning.
Another observation was sympathy for the poor center. Most teams brought a center just to stand out there and snap the ball over and over. Other linemen didn’t have to be there. A few were over on the sideline, laughing at the center.
Once upon a time, when men were men and I was a boy, I played center, and I stood there on the CHS sideline Tuesday and thought about how much that would have pissed me off.
Of course, we didn’t have seven-on-sevens back in my day. We played catch out in the meadow after the hay was stacked in the barn.
Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, June 26, 2016, 12:07 p.m.
The late Dudley Moore asked, “Isn’t fun the greatest thing you can have?”
The late David Poole often said, “Fun. You just can’t beat fun.”
The late Jimmy Dutton often folded his arms and said, “Chaps love to play.”
Saturday was fun, or did most of the fun spill over into Sunday? It was late-night Saturday fun for that portion of the public that wasn’t out toasting a Britain rid of its shackles, or drowning the tears of the EU’s decline.
A few may have been drinking for some other reason.
Coastal Carolina’s baseball team surged into the finals of the College World Series. It must have something to do with climate change. The oceans are rising all the way to Omaha.
In a sense. Hyperbole. Almost rhymes with calliope. But not quite. Any rhyme with hyperbole is exaggerated.
The rising oceans also washed in Coastal Carolina’s uniforms from the 1970s. Teal pullovers. I remember them from the Sears catalogue. The Chanticleers. Chants for short. Imagine if the fans turned to Gregorian chants between innings. It wouldn’t be that different from that soccer drone.
Coastal Carolina eliminated Texas Christian, which wears the regal purple, but at least it buttons up. About all I mastered about the game was the uniforms because my attention was divided between the Chants rising, the Rangers routing (the Red Sox) and the Trucks fighting in Madison, Illinois. I also closed in on finishing a novel (reading, not writing, that was earlier in the day), played the guitar a little, tweeted slyly, and drank coffee way later than I’d planned.
It was all worth it, though. Two Truck drivers ostensibly across the river from Saint Louis to race, having failed that in concert with each other, compounded matters by having the most unsatisfying fight since Bonecrusher Smith retired. After the initial pratfall — “I say, if I can wrest that foot loose of the pavement, in theory, it would cause my nemesis to fall untidily,” said Master Townley — the two followed the “one-two-three, one-two-three” ballroom moves they had been forced to learn after the daily riding sessions on their ponies.
“Spencer, old sport, place your hand on my shoulder.”
“Ah! In so doing shall I blunt your feeble attempts at aggression.”
“Lest I force you into submission with my fists of iron!”
“Nonsense, old chum, I have you in check. Now pivot smartly and follow me … 1-2-3, 1-2-3 …”
“By George, I think I’ve got it. Tally-ho and all that.”
This morning, a few news outlets even reported this straight, but the announcers were smirking.
When a couple drunks would start duking it out in front of the Talladega Superspeedway press box, Larry Woody used to speculate that perhaps they were fighting over the relative merits of Shakespeare and Chaucer.
“Why, you SOB, Chaucer couldn’t carry Shakespeare’s jockstrap!”
Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, June 24, 2016, 10:34 a.m.
Great Britain broke off from Europe, which, geographically, it already was, or else Donald Trump would be boasting that he’d build an ocean around it and make the Brits pay for it.
He’s over there to pimp a golf course, being a respected world leader.
Scotland has immediately decided it wants out, not from Europe, but from Great Britain, at which point it would become less Great. Perhaps just Britain would work.
Tensions rise. Continental powers break off relations with Great Britain. They all start boosting the military. The English cross the Channel and invade Normandy. The English war machine races across Europe. A new British Empire rises.
They’re back where they started.
It just occurred to me that a financial analyst on Wall Street, talking about “Brexit,” sounds almost exactly like a man in West Virginia talking about his house getting washed away. It takes clothes and dialect to tell them apart, but it’s easier to keep them apart.
Here I sit in my home, feeling distant and not particularly informed. The economy’s tanking. Fortunately, I don’t have that much money to lose. Lucky me! If I went completely bust, it would be perfect.
Next thing you know, people will stop reading books.
Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 12:02 p.m.
Sometimes I’m reminded that I’m getting old.
In fact, the reminder occurs fairly often.
I was tightly scheduled on Tuesday. After spending most of my time holed up at the house finishing a manuscript for a solid week, I needed to get out, and I was looking forward to it. I write about life, not to mention NASCAR and local sports, and to write about life, it only makes sense that I should experience it. It’s a prerequisite.
I drove to Laurens District High School to write about summertime football scrimmages that do not involve contact, which isn’t allowed until August, give or take a few days at the end of July. What is allowed is what is known as seven-on-seven, in which high schools compete in intense games of catch. Nine schools, Clinton and Laurens among them, played catch in the heat of the day, and I took pictures and notes about it.
I’d never watched seven-on-seven before. I’d heard of it.
What impressed me the most was the heat, not the heat of competition but the heat of the sun. Ninety degrees seemed hotter than it used to.
Nine teams, on three fields, one a decent hike away, are difficult to follow, even when one is concentrating on two of them. Naturally, they never played each other, probably because they open the season against each other and that is soon enough.
The gist of my story, which I raced home to write, was that Laurens and Clinton both looked about as good as football teams can look when they are not running into each other. The reason I was racing was that I had a long way to go and a short time to get there.
Eastbound, watch ol’ Bandit run …
I also wrote a Bleacher Report column, which I usually write on Sunday or Monday because those are the days after most NASCAR races, but this one I wrote on Tuesday because the Sprint Cup Series didn’t have a race on Father’s Day weekend and I was looking ahead to the next one on a road course in California next Sunday.
This weekly column requires layout, choosing photographs, concocting some kind of pertinent chart, and inserting tweets and videos. In other words, it takes a while.
I also felt a bit impaired by the sun, which compelled me to drink all the cold water in the refrigerator and turn to Diet Pepsi when the cold water ran out.
I put my shoes back on, grabbed a camera, drove to the ATM because I needed more than two dollars in my wallet, and headed to Newberry to write a feature on the three Clinton High alums now playing American Legion baseball for Chapin-Newberry Post 193/24, which plays its games at Newberry College.
I happened upon a great story about a heartbreaking game. Wilmington, N.C., won, 7-5, but the players from Clinton and Joanna (our principal suburb) performed significantly and effectively. Chandler Todd played catcher. Peyton Spangler was at short. Tristan Smaltz pitched in relief and held a line that got mainly crossed after his exit. He had pitched a complete game, and won, in Asheboro, N.C., three days earlier.
The game got decided by Todd, the distance to the outfield wall, and the Wilmington left fielder located between Todd and the wall.
With the bases loaded, two out and his pinstriped team two runs down, Todd hit the ball smashingly hard but agonizingly short. The wall was 380 feet away. The outfield was positioned deep in deference to a two-run lead. Beneath the professional level, bats are made of metal, not wood. Somehow, the ball, coming off Todd’s bat, sounded more like a rifle shot than a “plink,” which is normally the sound of metal hitting stitched hide. Todd’s shot apparently wounded the ball.
It traveled 99.73684211 percent far enough, which my phone assures me is the percentage of 379 applied to 380.
In other words, the left fielder snagged it with his glove positioned one foot away from the top of the wall. He didn’t have to leap. He didn’t get there fast enough. The ball could have eaten him up but decided not to chew.
The sportswriter of yore sometimes referred to an outstanding football kicker as having “an educated toe.” Chandler Todd’s bat needs to go to class. It lacks education.
Meanwhile, I felt mildly woozy while watching this awe-inspiring sphere tracking through the air like a heat-seeking missile. Who knew the wall was hot?
I trudged around, interviewing the three young men from Clinton High School and their head coach, Daniel Gregory, who, by the way, is now reading one of my books (as you should, too). I trudged back to my truck and drove to the nearby convenience store, where I pumped fuel in my truck in the form of gasoline and fuel in myself via mixed nuts and Diet Dr. Pepper, and both forms were sufficient to get me home.
Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 20, 2016, 9:45 a.m.
Wow. I’m a bit overwhelmed.
I can’t come close to quantifying all that happened in my living room. By extension, it was, oh, from Oakland, Plum (Pennsylvania), Newton (Iowa), Omaha, Boston, Le Mans (France) …
The grass didn’t need mowing (later this week, I expect). I had clean clothes, though I seldom wore them (the clean ones). My guitar(s) could use new strings.
I had just completed the first draft of a manuscript for my next novel. I was in need of relaxation. Damn it. I’d been passionate all week. I needed to unwind.
Forget about your cares / It is time to relax / At the Junction. — Theme from Petticoat Junction
Apparently, it was hot outside. I suspect it might have been. I went through a drive-through.
Dustin Johnson, the big galoot, won the United States Open. He’s a South Carolinian, born in Columbia, college at Coastal Carolina, now lives occasionally and officially in Myrtle Beach. He has heretofore been noted for superhuman skills and a frail psyche in the major championships of golf. On Sunday, Johnson kept his wits while, all about him, other golfers were losing theirs. He played against type. For the past few years, I’ve been rooting for him against type. He kicked some type ass.
Then there was the basketball game. Game Seven of the NBA Playoffs. A stereotypical battle between the bruising East (Cleveland Cavaliers) and the graceful West (Golden State Warriors), descended from Lakers against Celtics. None of the first six games had been close. The seventh was. The fiercely aggressive Cavs from the long-derided Rust Belt city came from two down to win three straight for the title. So was the great LeBron James defined forever.
It’s sort of rewarding to watch a great sporting event without a heavy rooting interest. Often it takes a rooting interest to watch passionately, but watching dispassionately, caring about the outcome but not obsessed by it, can be just as enjoyable and more relaxing.
The difference might be whether one curses at the TV or not. I sounded more like Jed Clampett. I be dogged. Hoo, doggie. No exclamation points. Oil. Black gold. Texas tea.
(I wrote the words above with the full knowledge that those old enough to remember The Beverly Hillbillies are outnumbered by those who don’t. On the other hand, there’s TV Land.)
Do you remember having a mistaken opinion about what a word means when you were a kid? For some reason, I once thought Chanticleer had something to do with Christmas. The reason I learned what it means was probably the existence of it as a nickname at Coastal Carolina University, which, as a fellow state school, synonymized (spontaneous word invention) Gamecock.
Whatever. One Chanticleer won the U.S. Open, and a coop full of them won its first game at the College World Series. Admittedly, I only saw the final inning of CCU’s 2-1 victory over Florida. My schedule proved too crowded. If I’d had two more sports, college baseball and hemispherical soccer, to switch back and forth from, I’d have a splint on my right thumb now.
For passion, I had a pair of Red Sox victories over the Seattle Mariners at Fenway on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, the night they lost, David Ortiz hit his 521st home run, tying him not only with the wondrous Ted Williams but also with Willie McCovey (another favorite of mine) and Frank Thomas. Ted was my dad’s greatest hero, him and Johnny U. I doubt Jimmy Dutton turned over in his grave, but he definitely noticed. I never saw Williams play, but he’s the reason I’m a Boston fan in baseball. My dad handed him down to me, and I adopted his successor, Carl Yastrzemski, in left field.
The Colts left Baltimore, and Unitas died too young, but Fenway Park is still a constant, better than ever. Yaz was even in the TV booth for an inning not too long ago.
Le Mans. I’ve never been within an ocean of the race, but I have a story that relates to it. The late Chris Economaki was the greatest all-around authority on auto racing I’ve ever known. I don’t think Chris would make a strenuous objection to the notion that he was not without an ego.
One day in Daytona Beach, Ken Willis, the irreverent and wisecracking scribe of the local daily there, and I were trading irreverences, when, all of a sudden, he asked me if I knew what year Fireball Roberts ran the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I said that I thought maybe it was 1962 but pointed to Economaki and said, “Ask Chris. He’ll know.”
Willis said, “Hey, Chris, what year did Fireball run Le Mans?” Willis pronounced it with the “s” on the end.
Apparently, Chris didn’t know the answer, which he could not possibly admit, so he stood up out of his chair, said, very loudly, “It’s le-MAH!” and walked swiftly out of the room.
Miraculously, by the way, 1962 was indeed the year Daytona Beach’s own Fireball Roberts competed at Le Mans.
I miss Chris. He watched me play music twice in the Poconos, offering his acerbic reviews between songs.
Anyway, a Toyota dominated the race and broke down with three minutes remaining. It was sort of the most dramatic ending since the one Hollywood and Steve McQueen staged 46 years ago for the movie Le Mans. Porsche won. The new Ford GT won its class. Most of my time watching the race was spent in reverie, fascinated at the spectacle of all those magnificent machines roaring around and occasionally sending up roostertails that had nothing to do with Chanticleers or Christmas.
A substitute teacher won the Xfinity Series race in Iowa, where, of course, if you build it, they will come. Okay. Sam Hornish Jr. is also an Indianapolis 500 winner, but his NASCAR career never hit the heights and eventually tumbled into the skids, and winning the race might not really make much difference at this point in his career, other than being laudable and, as people always say when they’re trying to get you to do something, “it looks good on your resume.” Sam Hornish and I have approximately the same need for a resume at this stage in our lives.
So, yeah, I’m glad he won.
On Friday night, I also watched the Trucks race at the Track of Dreams. In summary, this kid William Byron is really something. He’s the hottest Roman candle out there below the high-dollar fireworks of the Sprint Cup Series.
The poor Atlanta Braves. They swept the New York Mets on a weekend when I didn’t even notice.
What do I do for an encore? Oh, work on some fiction. Go see some high school players pitching and catching. Catch a little Legion ball.
Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, June 19, 2016, 10:44 a.m.
Like all users of social media, I am the unfortunate repository of great deposits of useless information. Recently I stumbled upon a story noting that the intensity of the grip of young people has declined 30 percent over the past 30 years.
This, of course, would explain the rash of baseball bats flying into grandstands in recent years. I thought it somehow must be the gloves. I thought maybe The Big Guy mistakenly put on his sliding gloves instead of his batting gloves or his driving gloves or his riding gloves.
I’m sure my hands have weakened — of course, I’m a Dustin Johnson drive past being young anywhere but at heart, and my doctor might quibble with that if I made the mistake of asking him — but I’m satisfied my fingers are in the pink. They got a workout on Saturday and not just at this keyboard.
I had a classic First World problem. Fox Sports turned me into an easy-chair Sherlock Holmes.
The United States Open golf tournament, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and various NASCAR activities in Iowa moved around the Fox family of channels like military families. The program guide didn’t help. Thursday’s rain delay of the Open in Pennsylvania caused dominoes to fall around the globe in general and my living room in particular.
Fox. Fox Sports 1. Fox Sports 2. Fox Business. Michael J. Fox. John Fox. Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. David Pearson, the Silver Fox. Little Foxes. Foxy Brown.
It’s still going on. I just looked up and poker was on Fox Sports 1. Back to Fox network. Eureka! I have found the golf! I feel like Meriwether Lewis. Or Old Tom Morris.
Just to let you know I’ve done my research here, let the record note that Foxy Brown is both a 1974 film and a rapper. She may be hosting the NHRA later if it rains at Oakmont.
Imagine if the remote control had never been invented. Imagine if I had to keep getting up and down, changing the channel.
Of course, it defies belief that the great scientists who took off enough time away from making laundry detergents perpetually “new and improved” to invent cable, satellite, high-def, cool names for prescription medications, and some advances I skipped right over or never noticed, would never have invented the remote control.
The world would be simpler, and handshakes would be firmer.
Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 16, 2016, 10:29 a.m.
The United States Open is on Fox Sports 1. Most of the time, NASCAR is on Fox Sports 1, for a few more weeks, anyway. I believe there are other sports there: soccer, for sure, and whatever that form of fighting is where they can kick as well as box. I don’t usually watch that channel except when there’s racing on.
But I’m watching golf today, or, at least, the channel is on. I’m sort of half watching while I write this. It’s raining. Joe Buck is promising to let me know exactly how long the delay has been when “the first golfer puts a ball in play.” Bated is my breath.
It rains a lot on Fox Sports 1. As far as I know, that seldom happens with that kind of no-holds-barred fighting. From my self-censored view, it seems like the channel should be Fox Sports & Rain 1. I have a skewed view of the true essence of the channel.
I’d have to say golf does a better job than NASCAR with rain delays. Sure, an attractive, curvaceous woman just spent a couple minutes on what the golfers are tweeting. Fox, in general, puts a lot of beautiful women on TV. It seems that women who bear no similarity to Jessica Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) have little chance for employment at Fox.
It’s probably just a coincidence.
Imagine Michael Waltrip at The Open Championship. I bet he’d give it a try.
All NASCAR has over golf on Fox Sports 1 is the Air Titan. Perhaps I’m prejudiced. Perhaps there are millions who enjoy endless discussions of special color schemes, and the valuable collectibles based on them, and replays of the same race a year earlier shown so that maybe, just maybe, some fans will linger a while until they figure out the race they’re watching is not live and in person. One tipoff is when Jeff Gordon, seconds earlier wearing a suit and tie, takes the lead.
Paul Azinger just said the rough is very penal. I expect most watching golf nod obligingly. NASCAR fans would be snickering. It’s penal. Not penile. Not a very apt use of either one, by the way.
Now they’re getting ready to play again. Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are chatting amiably at the tee box. Jordan Spieth is chuckling alone. Andrew Landry is three under through 11. As best I can tell from Wikipedia, he is unrelated to Tom, though he is from Nederland, Texas.
Landry, who is undoubtedly related to someone, just moved two shots free of the field on No. 12. Bryson James Aldrich DeChambeau, who may have the best golfer’s name ever bestowed in Modesto, California, is getting lots of air time in his scarlet attire. With the bright Gatsby cap, he reminds me of the late Payne Stewart, though conspicuously sans the knickers.
Is Sunday Father’s Day? It is. It’s a fine weekend for a major golf championship. Father’s Day tends to miss me as I neither am one or have one. NASCAR racing used to keep my mind off it. For some reason, the stock cars are taking this one off, that is, except for Truck and Xfinity races in Iowa.
Golf almost doesn’t exist for me except in the major championships, for which I cultivate strong interest. Hockey’s that way, too. I love the playoffs but seldom watch regular-season games for more than a few minutes at a stretch. Maybe it’s a consequence of age. Maybe it’s a consequence of having things to do. I must limit my indulgences.
I used to play golf, though seldom well. Every golfer occasionally plays well, as in, oh, one shot in three. The worst shot at Oakmont will be similar to many of mine. Maybe that’s why I like the major championships. I can relate.
I gave up playing golf when I took up playing guitar. I don’t play it well, either, but only rarely do I strum and miss.
Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 9:18 a.m.
I probably should dive back into the 1940s right now. I’m in the final chapter of what will be my fifth novel, a western set in Texas at the end of World War II.
I often use these morning blogs as a warm-up for working on something else. Other warm-ups include coffee, breakfast and CBS This Morning.
By gosh, I could use an old movie right now. Van Heflin’s about to star as Tennessee Johnson on TCM. The present has got me bummed.
It’s not that I can’t find my interest. I can’t find my passion.
Other things are going on. The Golden State Warriors are heading to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers in Game 6 of the NBA finals. The Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox, tied for first place in the American League East, begin a three-game series at Fenway Park.
Joey Logano won the NASCAR race in Michigan. IndyCars got postponed all the way to August in Texas. Coastal Carolina made the College World Series. Clemson and South Carolina didn’t.
The United States Open is coming up at a golf course called Oakmont, in Pennsylvania. I just saw a news item claiming that the rough is “horrifying.”
No rough is horrifying. Orlando is horrifying. The rough at Oakmont was horrifying last week. Now it’s not even “scary.” It’s been downgraded to “pesky.”
I’ve been downgraded to “glum.”
Jessica posted more beautiful photos of her lovely Thomas, my latest great-nephew. I needed some beauty.
NASCAR isn’t anywhere. The road race in California is June 26.
As John Denver sang:
There’s a truck out on the four lane / A mile or more away / The whining of his wheels just makes it colder.
The high is forecast for 92. Somehow it still feels cold.
Sorry. This is all I got.
The Southern childhood noted above contributed to my second novel, The Intangibles.
Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 4, 2016, 9:58 a.m.
Everyone feels the need to write about Muhammad Ali. Everyone feels as if he has something to say or write that no one else has.
In a way, as I piddle around the house aimlessly, stirring Sweet ‘N’ Low into a coffee mug, strumming my guitar for a while, and watching the calm morning chatter of CBS This Morning, Ali’s death makes me think of my response when someone asks, “What if Jesus came back today?”
The same thing. He’d throw the moneychangers out of the temple, and they’d make Him pay.
Ali never claimed to be holy, but that’s the way he will seem in death because no one ever knows the extent of the love people have for him or her while he or she is alive.
When I first heard of Ali, he was known as Cassius Clay, and my father and the men who played poker with him in the breezeway of our house talked about him all the time. They despised him. They adored another man — I soon gathered they were both boxers — named Sonny Liston, which, in retrospect, seems absurd, now that I am no longer six years old and know that Liston was about as disreputable a man as ever walked the sporting stage or stalked the boxing ring.
It was 1964. It was the same town in which I live now. Most of those men playing poker have died. A few moved out of town, so I don’t know whether or not they have survived. If Ali didn’t outlive them all, he certainly outlived their hate.
They all loved Sonny Liston because they thought he was going to destroy that uppity Negro, Cassius Clay, and when he didn’t, that’s when they all turned on Liston, along with most of the world, and said it was all fixed.
Much has changed, but much has not.
When Cassius Clay announced that he was now Muhammad Ali, and that he had converted to Islam, the emphasis was on the Black, not the Muslim. When Ali defied the military draft, he officially became the most uppity Negro ever in the opinion of my father and his friends. If they had found a bottle — and they liked bottles — and a genie had popped out instead of a shot of bourbon, they would have wished for a white man to knock out Muhammad Ali, and if the genie had said, “Guys, that ain’t happening,” they would have wished for a black man, or a Puerto Rican, or a Sherpa guide from the Himalayas, or an alien from outer space.
Even I liked Joe Frazier, in part, because he was born in South Carolina, and kids are often by nature provincial, but my earliest memories of Ali are ones of bafflement. I couldn’t understand why people hated him so. I thought he was kind of funny, sparring with that Howard Cosell and all his big words. I never stopped admiring Frazier, a man of dogged determination who cared nothing for politics. Frazier was guilty by association. He had the misfortune of being a black man beloved by whites, and that wasn’t his fault. That was Ali’s fault, which is not to say that Ali did anything more than what would today be called boosting his brand.
If everyone had a brand like Muhammad Ali, I wouldn’t abhor the term.
The world has changed. It just hasn’t gotten any better. It’s not equally wicked. It’s equivalently wicked. If Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali today, the powers that be would probably find another way to strip him of his title. The problem today would be less the Black and more the Muslim.
I almost wish Muhammad Ali was 22 again. He’d give Donald Trump his money’s worth.
I never met him, or Frazier. Once I watched Larry Holmes fight Gerry Cooney on closed circuit, but that’s because I was working at a newspaper and the promoter gave me a free ticket.
What a joke that was.
I don’t even follow boxing anymore, and the reason is disillusionment. Ali was the King of the World. He traveled it and brought all of God’s children — a footnote: Christians and Muslims worship the same God — together. He wasn’t going to become the old punch-drunk lug, greeting people at the front door of an Atlantic City casino.
Then he did. The brightest, funniest, cleverest man on the planet took too many punches, and once I saw that, I lost all interest in boxing.
I was at a Broadway play in 1978, taking a drama course that took me, in a span of a month, to every Broadway play I’ve ever seen, and it was the night Ali lost to Leon Spinks. I was watching Lynn Redgrave star in St. Joan. After the play, John Clark, Redgrave’s husband and director of the play, came out onstage at the end of the encore but before the patrons were filing out, to tell us that Ali had lost the fight.
That’s how big he was, even near the end.
The growth of my admiration for Ali perfectly accompanied the growth in my maturity, education, and understanding of the world around me.
I’m not sure whether or not Ali made the world a better place. I’m sure he tried. It was just too tall an order for a man of this earth, however wise. Or it could be that the world tumbled back into ruination because he was no longer up to keeping his finger on its pulse.
The dream was American, but the tragedy was Greek.
The Southern childhood noted above contributed to my second novel, The Intangibles.
Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 1, 2016, 10:47 a.m.
June, already. It’s a myth that time is precise and constant. It gets faster as a man ages. Most likely, a woman, too, but I can’t say.
In spite of the celerity of the year, much has occurred.
The country is going off the rails.
I’ve gotten two more books — a novel called Forgive Us Our Trespasses and a collection of short stories titled Longer Songs — published, and I’m hopeful of having a western novel out, or at least the manuscript completed, by the end of the summer. A print version of last year’s Crazy of Natural Causes is out, too.
The good news: I’m writing. The bad news: People stopped reading. A lot of them won’t even click on this. They’ll reply to the slug. They read and write in small doses.
I’ve enjoyed the year, anyway. High school baseball was fun. I had the privilege of writing about three winning teams: Clinton, Laurens, and Laurens Academy. Basketball was fun, too, though not as successful.
I’ve attended minor-league games in Birmingham, Memphis and Columbia. I’ve played music onstage in Texas. I’ve observed another anniversary of my birth. So far, the Red Sox are playing great. Furman University and Presbyterian College had encouraging, if not quite winning, baseball seasons. The Panthers lost the Super Bowl. Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 with 18 inches to spare. Martin Truex Jr. won the Coca-Cola 600 with what might as well have been 18 miles to spare.
I’m pumped about the NBA Finals. I’m juiced about the Sox. I’m amped about my books.
I’m bummed about my country.
Spring isn’t officially over yet, though the rising temperatures suggest otherwise, but already the thoughts around here turn to football. It begins with Laurens visiting Clinton, and with the aforementioned speed of the year, it’ll be here so fast I’ll feel dizzy that night.
Sports is especially comforting because, in sports, sometimes things actually work.