Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 3, 2016, 12:21 p.m.
If I had it to do over, I’d have worn an old pair of shoes. The rain was gone at K.C. Hanna Stadium in Laurens, but the new turf was squishy and so was the game.
It was a rough night all around in the county. Chapman pulled away late to defeat the Raiders, 49-33 – it was 33-28, Laurens, halfway through the third quarter – and soon news arrived from Greer that the Yellow Jackets had defeated Clinton, 21-7.
It was the usual for me. I talked to both coaches, offered some words of hope to a Raider lineman as he filed out the gate the same time I did, cursed a slowpoke with a Mississippi tag driving 20 miles an hour down West Main Street in Clinton, thanked the Lord when the decision to follow the slow Hyundai kept me from getting held up by a freight train, pulled in the garage, left groceries (non-perishable) in the truck, turned on the TV and the laptop, printed out the game stats, and wrote the best 450 or so words I could by midnight.
Then, fueled by coffee, I watched the Big Ten Network replay of Michigan State against Furman. A 28-13 loss by my alma mater to the 12th-ranked team in the country was the closest thing to victory this Friday brought.
This morning I continued my love affair with coffee, listened to “Saturday Morning Rewind” on WPCC-AM 1410 with Buddy Bridges, Gene Simmons, Clinton coach Andrew Webb, Presbyterian College coach Harold Nichols and some very special guests, all live from Whiteford’s Drive-In.
Nichols was available because he was back from Mount Pleasant, where Central Michigan had defeated the Blue Hose, 49-3, on Thursday night.
The enthusiasm was a bit forced Saturday morning. All they had left in the Whitman’s Sampler were dark chocolate — a tad bitter, but with the hope of sweetness next week — when Laurens hosts Irmo, Clinton visits Aiken, and Presbyterian crosses the mountains to Chattanooga.
(Chattanooga makes me think of Yosemite Sam, rearing on his horse, swinging his sword, and yelling, “The Yankees are in Chattanooga!” and then he roars off to find a baseball game going on.)
It’s always darkest just before the dawn. I don’t really think that’s true, but it can’t hurt to believe it.
As much as I try to be dispassionate – yes, I try to hold my professional reserve even though I’ve gotten to know all these coaches and many of these plays – last night was difficult to watch.
Laurens led Chapman, 33-28, until Chapman took the lead and dominated the fourth quarter. By game’s end, a star running back, D.Q. Floyd, was out with a concussion and the starting quarterback, Nathan Rutter, had wrecked his knee.
Chris Liner, the immensely likable head coach, likened the plot of his first two games to one of my novels. As he was saying this, I was thinking of The Twilight Zone.
“Fan” is short for “fanatic.” Fanatics are quite often manic-depressive by nature. A team wins to a chorus of hosannas. It loses to a deep, irritable rumble.
Two games and two losses into a season, a coach has to fight a nauseating feeling. We’re not good enough! We’ve got to get better! How?
He knows better than to panic. He knows he must stay the course. He knows he must teach his players to do what they do better.
Coaches hitch up their britches and go back to work. It’s what they know.
Here’s a brief video on the Chapman-Laurens game.
Please visit the KindleScout site and consider nominating my fifth novel, Cowboys Come Home, for publication. You’ll find sample chapters, a short synopsis and a Q&A. Take a look at it here.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is on Amazon sale at $2. Surely my work is worth that much of a gamble.
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
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