Spanning the Globe for the Constant Variety of TV Sports

Sonoma comes next, but that's another week. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Sonoma comes next, but that’s another week. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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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) …

By Monte Dutton

By Monte Dutton

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.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

(Monte Dutton sketch)

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.

Other Kings besides Le Bron. (John Clark photo)

Other Kings besides Le Bron. (John Clark photo)

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.

Big Papi in Atlanta a few years back. (Monte Dutton photo)

Big Papi in Atlanta a few years back. (Monte Dutton photo)

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.

(Photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

(Photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

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.

Sam Hornish Jr. and son celebrate in Iowa. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Sam Hornish Jr. and son celebrate in Iowa. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

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.

William Byron stands atop the NASCAR Truck world. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

William Byron stands atop the NASCAR Truck world. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

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.

Write these.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton.

Most of my books are available 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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