Another Sunday from a Distance

Chase Elliott leads the field at the start of the Daytona 500 (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, February 27, 2017, 8:30 a.m.

Four years have passed. I still pay close attention to NASCAR. It’s not the same as being there. I try. Until, well, now, I wrote a Bleacher Report column each Monday morning during the season. That web site, like many others, is cutting back on NASCAR coverage, either that or they wanted a younger perspective and were nice enough not to tell me that.

No more race tracks in my background. I can’t afford it.

So this is where I stand. I write NASCAR blogs in hopes that they will persuade you to buy one of my novels, which is one of the strangest and least successful marketing programs known to man. It doesn’t match the grand scale of, say, Nature’s Bakery.

Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500. He is a familiar face. He deserved it. He is a fine restrictor-plate racer who somehow managed not to win the first 63 such races of his career. He was due. He was overdue.

Beyond that, I watched the Truck race on Friday night. I was writing about a basketball game when the Xfinity race was being run. A reply of that crashfest is on TV right now.

Chase Elliott (r) captured the pole position for the Daytona 500. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualified 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

As best I recall, a driver named Ali Baba won the Truck race, and Reed Ryan won Xfinity. OK, it’s Ryan Reed. He’s pretty familiar, though I’ve never met him or anyone else who has come along since January 4, 2013. He won the same race the year before last. It just seems as if every young driver is named either Ryan or something – Cade, Cal, Case, Chase, Cody, Cole – that begins with a “C.” There are a few stray Brendans, Ians, Jonathans, Nicks and Seans running around ovals at various rates of speed.

The Trucks winner is really named Kaz Grala. I once enjoyed kaz grala, a sweet confection, after a souvlaki plate at a restaurant in one of the boroughs of New York.

So I’m a fan.

If I was there, of course, I would know much more about Kaz Grala, not to mention all the other bright, young comets just starting to burn across the night sky. Lots of races are going to burn across the night sky, too, because out of all the bright appeal inherent in NASCAR’s bold new changes, one talking point isn’t making the races shorter. The Daytona 500 lasted as long as a 14-inning baseball game between the Red Sox and Yankees, and anything longer than that qualifies in some backward societies as infinity.

I watch the races and the ballgames, anyway. No telling how many prizes I could have won had I used this time more wisely.

The circus moves on to Atlanta while I have a home race every week.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

Down Go the Devils

The Red Devil faithful turned out. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, February 26, 2017, 9:02 a.m.

It’s still vivid in my mind this morning. The glitter of a large arena. A throng of fans, more rowdy than usual because they’re small-town folks come to the city, and their hopes are up because they are anticipating another big victory and a nice meal at some restaurant Clinton doesn’t have.

By Monte Dutton

Twenty-one and four. The Red Devils finished 21-4. They made it to the Class 3A upstate finals, which remains the furthest they have ever been. When first they laid eyes on the Southside Tigers, it was, Wait a minute. Is this a PC game? Nope, nope, here come the Red Devils. That must be a high school team.

They should have waited for Dorman-Gaffney. They’d have thought they stumbled into the Pac-12.

First it was the shoulder. Later it was the knee.

Southside (26-1) won, 71-43. Inside, the Tigers were both tall and thick. Clinton was lanky and slender. The Red Devils’ All-State forward, Jalen Carter, had a first half like a boxer’s first round. Twice he crashed to the Bon Secours (Ironically Titled) Wellness Arena floor, only to be partially revived by the trainers. When the game was long over, I was at the end of a hall, underneath the stands, watching Carter limp to the bus, ice bags wrapped around his knee.

Hoosiers doesn’t happen every year.

Tymori Tribble

The game was sunset at the end of a glorious day. Southside’s Tigers loped off gracefully into the distance, disappearing with the sun over a boys’ basketball season’s far horizon.

The Red Devils, under first-year head coach Eddie Romines, were a splendid engine of improbable cohesion that finally threw a rod after a Ferrari pulled up at a red light.

V-r-r-r-room.

During the glorious 14-game win streak that encompassed the year to date up until Saturday, it was not uncommon for the Red Devils, with their boundless enthusiasm and clever risk-taking, to face second-half deficits. This time, though, it wasn’t manageable. Southside led by 20 points at the end of three quarters.

Clinton’s Zay Hurley and Southside’s Taymon Leamon.

It wasn’t particularly painful. They didn’t lose on a three-pointer at the buzzer. Southside let them down easy. They got figurative shots of novocaine. They trudged out to the bus, even those who weren’t limping, and rode on back down the road to reality.

This is pure speculation, but they might have felt like General Custer if he had lived.

It took me a while. I sat out on press row, typing a story and editing photos as the Wade Hampton and Dorman girls cavorted earnestly about. When the former put the latter to bed in Class 5A, I did the same with my day’s work. I watched half of Dorman’s victory in the boys’ game after my laptop decided it was an appropriate time to download 238 Microsoft updates before it would cut off.

Getting that laptop to shut down was not unlike the way the Red Devils’ season ended. There wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Be Prepared

Lewisville defeated Calhoun Falls. (Monte Dutton photos)

Greenville, South Carolina, Saturday, February 25, 2017, 12:26 p.m.

The girls’ basketball team from Estill is playing Lamar. Estill is about to win. Both towns are a long way from Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Somehow they are playing for an upstate championship. I don’t know why.

Estill just won, 47-40.

By Monte Dutton

I know why Clinton and Southside are playing on this court at 3:30. Both are conclusively upstate. Southside – a high school, not a town – is just a few miles away. I went there one time to write a football season preview. The last time I wrote about a basketball game there, I suspect it was a different gym.

As you may have surmised, the Southside-Clinton game is the reason for my presence.

I am safely in the building, which I last visited for a hockey game. I haven’t seen a basketball game here since I watched Furman play Clemson slightly less many years ago than when this building, originally the Bi-Lo Center, opened.

Lewisville and Calhoun Falls just ran onto the floor. They are boys. This already have I ascertained.

Between now and 3:30, it is my task to find out what I have to do. I know I have to write about the game and take a few photos. What I don’t know is whether or not there are rosters and if there are statistics other than those in the scorebook. If I need to keep up with field-goal attempts, rebounds and assists, I will do so.

The high school reporter, like the Boy Scout, must be prepared.

The Flashes need new batteries. Lewisville is running away. Final score: Lions 71, Calhoun Falls 48.

Next up, and the games are running behind as upstate finals are prone to do, is the Class 3A girls finals between the familiar schools, Newberry and Seneca. The Bulldogs are 25 miles away, and the Bobcats have played the Red Devils in many sports on many occasions in playoff games over the years. I last visited Newberry football season. I last visited Seneca for the 2016 heartbreak of the year, a season-ending baseball game Clinton lost, 2-1.

I haven’t learned about a procedure, if any, for post-game interviews, this being a large and fancy facility soon to host a conference tournament and NCAA regionals. It isn’t the home of the Southeastern Conference today, so I reckon my postgame work will be about the same as if I was writing about the middle-school rivalry between Clinton White and Clinton Red.

Wayne Green, an old Clinton High teammate, and I chatted for a few minutes before the basketball game. Wayne is the football coach at Berea now. We talked about old times and our coach, and he told me about the Berea basketball team and I did the same about Clinton. What he said left me worried, but I worry easily.

One of many little-known facts about me is that I like the Chicago Blackhawks. When I got home, rather than get myself all concerned by watching something like the news, I watched the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-3. Just let the record note that Jonathan Toews rules.

I’ve got a Powerball ticket for tonight. But it’s too late. Days like Tuesday don’t repeat themselves immediately.

*Paraphrased from an old country song.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

In Everything but the Money

(Monte Dutton photos)
By Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 10:45 a.m.

Some days are great. Some are awful. Some gotta win. Some gotta lose. Sometimes Goodtime Charlie’s got the blues.*

I wish they’d had a Powerball on Tuesday.

What they had Tuesday night was a basketball game matching the visiting Berea Bulldogs against the Clinton Red Devils. I was part of the loudest crowd I have ever seen watching a basketball game at Clinton High. I’m not the authority on the subject, but I’ve been to lots of games over the past four years. I went to every game when I was in school, but that was more than 40 years ago.

It was the Upstate Class 3A boys’ semifinal. The Red Devils haven’t lost since the year changed, but early, when Berea led, 21-11, I was starting to dawdle into “well, it was a great season, anyway” mode.

Fortunately, the local ball team had more intensity and determination than I. It’s a consequence of age.

Kiah Young (5) and Tymori Tribble.

A senior guard named Tymori Tribble hoisted the team on his shoulders. In their darkest hour, he shed light. Tribble scored 24 points, and, at times, made the Bulldogs look like the Washington Generals. He wasn’t alone. A Clinton team beaten badly on the boards and from beyond the three-point line in the first half turned into a boards-crashing, fast-breaking, ball-hawking, wide-open-layup-on-the-other-end band of insurgents.

Clinton (21-3) 70, Berea (21-6) 62. The Red Devils next play in Greenville, at a posh location called Bon Secours Wellness Arena, where Southside, a Greenville school, will be the opponent and plenty of good seats will be available. The winner will advance to another posh arena in Columbia.

Few saw this season coming, and I don’t even know anyone named Few anymore.

The head coach wasn’t even supposed to be the head coach. When Tosh Corley, who was standing in for Todd Frazier, stepped down, the new coach was Jim Still. Then Jim took a job in administration back in Greenwood, and Eddie Romines became coach. Jim, by the way, has taken an avid interest in the team he never actually coached, and was there Tuesday night to enjoy the latest great victory with everyone else.

Eddie Romines

Clinton High School has a spacious gym, at least compared with its peers, and it was about 80 percent full. The students were delirious, almost like they were in the audience of The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles showed up. The screams were at a lower pitch. I was a section over, screaming gruffly as old folks do. Now, I wasn’t on assignment. I just scribbled a note here and there for the purposes of this document. I snapped the occasional picture.

On Saturday, I will be on assignment in Greenville – the last time I experienced what the 11 o’clock news always calls “The Well” was a minor league hockey game three years ago – and I will return to the professional reserve of the journalist.

Instead of “Good Goddamighty, ref, he damn near knocked him down!” it will be “Huh. That was an odd call.”

But that’s not all.

Furman, my alma mater, visited Presbyterian College. Not the whole school. Just the baseball team.

I have attended many Presbyterian baseball games. At most of them, I have miscalculated the weather. As the afternoon wears on in February and March, a chill wind often howls. Tuesday was an exception. Even though the day became increasingly overcast as the innings wore on, I took off my Clinton High School hoodie to reveal a Furman sports shirt.

The only time I ever root against the Blue Hose is when they are playing the Paladins. Late last year, the two schools opened basketball season, and PC won, 73-71. Since that time, Furman has won 20 games and PC four. I don’t think my presence made the Paladins play worse, so I can only conclude that Furman had no idea how good it was and Presbyterian was blissfully unaware of how bad.

The Paladins won the baseball game, 6-0. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hope Presbyterian beats Wofford this afternoon.

Ken Pettus, an old friend, and I chatted for a few minutes at the baseball game. He was standing beyond the Furman dugout, watching the game in the way of associate directors of athletics. I once watched Ken play for Newberry against PC.

Wayne Green, an old Clinton High teammate, and I chatted for a few minutes before the basketball game. Wayne is the football coach at Berea now. We talked about old times and our coach, and he told me about the Berea basketball team and I did the same about Clinton. What he said left me worried, but I worry easily.

One of many little-known facts about me is that I like the Chicago Blackhawks. When I got home, rather than get myself all concerned by watching something like the news, I watched the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-3. Just let the record note that Jonathan Toews rules.

I’ve got a Powerball ticket for tonight. But it’s too late. Days like Tuesday don’t repeat themselves immediately.

*Paraphrased from an old country song.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Clinton’s Basketball Keeps on Bouncing

I didn’t know my cell could make a person disintegrate if he walked in front of my panorama. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 18, 2017, 10:15 a.m.

The Clinton High boys’ basketball team cultivated a magnetic attachment to a 10-point lead in Friday night’s second-round victory over Pendleton, or, as people are wont to synonymize, “you know, up next to Clemson.”

The Red Devils just missed. The final score was 53-42.

Other than that, the crowd in round two was larger. Both games so far have been at home, and so will the third, Tuesday against Berea (21-5), thanks to the Bulldogs’ 84-82, triple-overtime victory at Chester.

Bulldogs also typify Pendleton. Clinton (20-3) was better. Pendleton was game. It’s the definition of a second-round playoff game.

By Monte Dutton

I didn’t have to write the shot-by-shot, so I spent most of the night high in the grandstands, hollering “traveling!” like everyone else. I had a notepad but didn’t have to scribble things like “third straight TO” but, instead, things like “C repels a 10-pt. lead.” Hence, the opening graph.

The lads representing our town and surrounding rural burgs are breathtaking to watch. I don’t use that term lightly. Several times passes took my breath away. Sometimes a turnover ensued before I caught it. It is a team that can send an entire crowd into paroxysms of delight. The Red Devils teach a course in cell-phone avoidance. There’s no time to tweet.

Pendleton’s chief culprit on Friday night was a love of the three-pointer that was mostly unrequited by the basket most of them missed. When I was growing up, a long pass to the far end of the court, resulting in a layup, was known as “a snowbird.” By now, I’m sure politicians from one side or the other have turned that into a derogatory term for something, but Clinton had three of them in a row after Pendleton three-pointers clanked.

One more victory puts the Red Devils into the Class 3A upstate finals. What are the prospects? It would have been nice to see Clinton put the teams it has beaten away more effortlessly, and now it’s unlikely to get another chance.

What tilts in the Red Devils’ favor is their cohesiveness. They are, to a man, unselfish. They have bought into the notion. At times, they get a bit too fancy, but that’s the old-timer coming out in me. In the stands, not keeping up with numbers, I was sure Jalen Carter, the team’s all-state selection, had more than 20 points. He scored 15. Zay Hurley added 14.

Three of them – Carter, Donte Reeder and Tymori Tribble – are among the nicer kids I know, and I’m sure the only reason I can’t attest to more is that I don’t happen to know them as well.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

The Bounce of This Ball Is Truer

I couldn’t duplicate this photo if I tried because I don’t know how it happened. The place looks quite a bit larger when it isn’t skewed. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 9:57 a.m.

The gym wasn’t full, but it’s a large gym. The first round of the Class 3A boys’ basketball playoffs matched Clinton, the top seed from Region 3, against Indian Land, the fourth seed from Region 4. More will undoubtedly show up on Friday, when Pendleton visits for round two.

By Monte Dutton

The Red Devils (19-3, 10-0 region) led by as many as 20 points but twice allowed the Warriors (6-16, 3-5) to creep to within six. Meanwhile, Pendleton was dismissing Emerald, 72-64. In the second round, the brackets shift, which, without delving into specifics, is why Indian Land arrived in Clinton from the east and Pendleton will sweep in from the northwest.

Exciting to watch is this surprising Clinton team, coached by Eddie Romines for the first time. I’m not but a few years older than Eddie. When we were growing up, I’d estimate that 90 percent of the times I saw him, he was shooting baskets and scaring up pickup games at the Clinton Family YMCA. When Clinton promoted him to head boys’ coach this year, I knew the choice was dedicated to the game. Eddie is a mild-mannered fellow right up to about the time the opening tip-off is tossed. It’s unusual for an opening toss-off to be tipped.

Jalen Carter

On Tuesday night, I wasn’t writing about the game on deadline, but I did hang out at the scorer’s table for a while when the teams were warming up. I was talking to Buddy Bridges about the late Dick Vaughan, and to John Gardner about it being impossible for one man to operate the whole scoreboard while keeping the score right and making sure the clock was running when it was supposed to be and not when it wasn’t. Eddie walked by and, not surprisingly, I said something profound like, “Hey, Eddie.”

He walked about five yards, when it apparently occurred to him that I had spoken in his direction. He reversed his course, “about face,” and came back to shake hands and hear me say he didn’t have to do it because I knew he had a ballgame and was tense the way coaches get before them.

And, besides, this was the playoffs, and playoffs are thoroughly dangerous affairs.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a Clinton basketball team that was this much fun to watch. I probably missed a few possibilities while I was off watching cars go around and around.

Every player Clinton puts on the floor is athletic. It’s a ball-hawking team, one that takes chances on defense and monitors the passing lanes like U-boats preying on an Allied convoy. On offense, the Red Devils are fast-paced and unselfish. Last night, four scored in double figures: Jalen Carter 19, Kiah Young 18, Zay Hurley 17 and Tymori Tribble 15.

Indian Land was outmanned but bold in the “we got nothing to lose” mold. The Warriors committed 32 fouls. Four fouled out. Thirty-one of Clinton’s 80 points were free throws. They had free shots at 51.

When it was over, I milled around, chatting to Donte Reeder about playing football next year at Alderson Broaddus, and kidding Tribble about committing consecutive turnovers, the former on a 10-second violation and the latter on a five. It was a brief lapse. I think the hectic pace might have gotten the referee’s adrenaline flowing and his approximation of a second accelerating.

Eddie was saying the effort was good but the man-to-man defense fallible when I walked by. I figured I could write this without an in-depth interview.

I watched the game from about 10 rows up, surrounded by people I’ve known for at least three decades and, in most cases, all my life.

This is a football state, and Clinton is a football town. Basketball has a hard time going up unless football is going down. At the moment, football is edging back up but isn’t there yet, and by there, in these parts, it means competing for state championships.

If there is a void, then baseball a spring ago and basketball at present have filled it.

Folks are starting to notice this little team that plays a different kind of ball.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

When I Get Across the Desert, I’ll Look for an Oasis

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, February 12, 2016, 5:42 p.m.

This is really a question I ought to be able to answer, but I don’t live and die on the minutiae as much as I used to, and, surprisingly, I couldn’t find much by googling and the like. Sometimes I bing. Sometimes I just type a phrase where the web address goes. Sometimes I just don’t go through the trouble so that, if I’m lucky, I can fall for some fake news.

By Monte Dutton

Why is the Daytona 500 three weeks after the Super Bowl? Am I alone in watching the end of the NFL’s day of commercials with a football game scattered about, and thinking to myself, Self, now it’s time for racing!

Three weeks. I can write 20,000 words in a novel in three weeks. I can read a novel and write a review. I can write a song, though, apparently, not memorize it. I can watch a zillion old movies. Take a weekend trip.

Still, it’s almost dark, and the Daytona 500 is still two weeks away.

Nothing against Honeysuckle Rose – I hadn’t watched it in a while – but I wish I had an ARCA 200 or something. As my father used to say when he picked me up at the Broadway Theatre and took a little nip from the half pint under the seat, “I need a little something to knock the chill off.”

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

With the official start of the season still two weeks away – yes, I know, there’s a Clash, no, wait, it’s an Unlimited, perversely, it seems, because the field is limited – I feel like I’m staggering into it the way I stagger into this house late at night since the garage light burned out.

In February, there’s always a bit of a draft in the Daytona Beach air. (John Clark photo)

I’m vaguely aware that the mad scientists at the NASCAR R&D castle have issued some new alchemy to turn the racing into gold. The format has been changed in many ways, which, at this point, is about as predictable as a line outside Cameron Indoor Stadium on the day the Tar Heels visit.

At the moment, it seems as if more baseball players are warming up than racing drivers.

I wanted to pivot to racing, and pivoting is about as difficult for me as it is for President Trump. It’s all he can do to avoid being whistled for traveling.

Jimmie Johnson (John Clark photo)

It all seemed so orderly. Commiserate the death of football. Cheer up for racing. Grow happy when baseball starts, too. Get all the other writing – the stuff I make up – done in regular business hours so I can devote my full attention to the stock car races and Red Sox Baseball on NESN.

Hell, last year, it was probably a month before I got annoyed at Darrell Waltrip.

They’ve put segments in all the races, which means every race is like the All-Star Race, so what in hell is the All-Star Race going to be? Two segments racing backwards, and let them go frontwards but with the cars on fire for the final 10?

I read the stories. I tried to watch the cheerleaders talk about it on TV. I haven’t concentrated, though. It generally just makes me more pissed off. When the season gets here – if the season gets here – I’ll hear it explained so many times, it’ll remind me of those awful power-point presentations at the office, when I had an office.

Maybe keeping the slate relatively blank isn’t a bad plan. I can go in fresh.

No, I can’t. I’m going to hate it. Maybe I won’t hate it as much. Maybe I’ll watch the 500 and think, Well, it’s not that bad. It’s still mostly racing. Maybe I won’t give it a chance, but I’ll try to give it a chance. I’m human. It’s all I can promise.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

There Were Commercials?

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, February 6, 2017, 1:03 p.m.

Football began in the heat of summer, watching high-school teams play seven-on-seven games of catch.

It ended last night with New England’s 34-28 verdict over Atlanta in Super Bowl LI. LI is the Roman numeral for 51. It takes a big event to rate a Roman numeral. It’s not Game VII of the World Series. Nor is it Week XIX at the local dirt track, or Race VIII of the NASCAR, uh, playoffs (nee Chase).

By Monte Dutton

This game was unprecedented because (a.) it took overtime to settle, (b.) the Falcons led by 28 points late in the third quarter, and (c.) Tom Brady won it for the fifth time.

It was also unprecented because, for the first time, I ate nothing in an entire day but pizza. I’m not going to continue the Pizza Diet, which it most certainly was not. Already today, I’ve had eggs.

So that’s one positive that emerged from the Falcons’ crash.

In the second quarter, some were comparing Brady with Peyton Manning’s performance last year. In overtime, they were still comparing the two, only the means had changed from “time to retire” to “greatest ever.”

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

A similar switch – “Dan Quinn is outcoaching Bill Belichick” to “Quinn blew the game” – also occurred during the same time span.

Immediacy continues to get more and more ridiculous.

New England has a 1.3 percent chance of winning.

New England now has a 19.3 percent chance of winning.

New England now has a 38.7 percent chance of winning.

New England now has a 51.1 percent chance of winning.

New England won.

Peyton Manning left Tom Brady alone at the top. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Fortunately, all the players are well-paid. Otherwise, they might have decided to stop playing and go buy scratch-offs.

The Super Bowl was a complete success, mourning of Falcons fans notwithstanding. Both teams beat the commercials. The biggest surprise wasn’t the comeback. It was the number of people on social media who claimed they’d rather endure gastric distress at halftime than endure Lady Gaga, then admitted they were wrong and she put on quite a show.

I’ve always disliked the name of American football’s biggest game. Super Bowl just seems undignified. It lacks the gravitas of World Series, or even Great American Race. Superman. The Super Ball, made by Wham-O! Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Even though the sound of this particular game was often quite precocious.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Whoever Heard of a Red Devil Heaven?

First-year head coach Eddie Romines and his Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 10:30 a.m.

Life is back to normal. I’ve returned from my restorative road trip. Tuesday night found me back in my normal element, watching the Clinton Red Devils play and driving back home to dicker with photos and write a story about it.

By Monte Dutton

A dichotomy exists between the basketball teams that represent the local high school. Both the boys and the girls have risen and fallen through the years. At the moment, the boys are on a hill, and the girls are in a valley. Both teams do their very best. Newberry paid a visit from 25 miles, mostly down I-26, and Clinton won the boys’ game, 68-60, and lost the girls’ game, 66-27.

A region sweep of the neighboring Bulldogs – Newberry won a holiday-tournament game in overtime – leaves the Clinton boys with 15 victories and three defeats, overall, and a perfect seven victories in as many tries in Region 3-3A, which Clinton and Newberry share with Woodruff, Mid-Carolina, Broome and Chapman. The girls are 4-14 and 1-6.

When I am on assignment, my wandering is restricted to the scorer’s table and the end zone for pictures. When I take pictures, I tally stats on the back of my left hand, then transfer them to a legal pad when I get back to my seat.

Here’s a helpful hint from the journalism pros: Don’t forget to scrub the ink off the wrist with spit. That way the slate is clean when the boys’ game starts.

So much for the notion that journalism is getting too antiseptic.

Kiah Young (5) and Tymori Tribble.

When I go to a game as a fan, I mingle all night. I good-naturedly jeer the refs. I try not to be harsh. I don’t jeer unless I really think it’s a bad call. Sometimes, I even say something to the person sitting next to me like, “You know, that probably was the right call.”

At the scorer’s table, it’s quite different. I must make use of my professional reserve. Also, there is too much to do. A good bit of the time, I pass messages from one scorekeeper to the other. Last night I chatted quite a bit with Al Webb, who keeps the clock. I also get amusement out of watching the repetitive interactions between the benches and the table.

How many timeouts?

Two?

I got two?

That’s right. Two.

How many they got?

One.

They got one?

That’s right. One.

Tymori Tribble

I think it’s required that every officiating crew have a stickler. During every timeout he comes over and delivers a small talk about how he likes everything to be.

Arrow pointing that way. It’s their ball, right?

Yes.

Why hasn’t the arrow been reset?

I reset it when the other team in-bounds.

I like it if you reset it immediately.

Will do.

Savana Campbell (3) and girls’ coach John Gardner.

It’s possible that it makes the people sitting at the table slightly more likely to notice when said referee misses a call, but, of course, it is the scorer’s table, so we don’t yell. We make snarky remarks under our breaths, and, in my business, while it is unprofessional to cheer for either team while occupied professionally, it is allowed and, in many places, encouraged, to exhibit several forms of humor.

In general, though, at the scorer’s table, the officials find friendly faces. The job is hard. The accolades are few. I was probably one or two off on the turnovers or something.

The whole scene at Clinton High is upbeat. The girls’ team has struggled, but it’s better than last year’s, and it’s won a region game, and Newberry (13-2, 8-0) is overwhelming. The Lady Bulldogs forced 25 turnovers and held the Lady Red Devils to two field goals in the first half. Still, Clinton keeps chugging away, doing its best. Great nobility resides in that.

Honoring the seniors.

Last night was the final regular-season home game, i.e., Senior Night. Both teams and the cheerleaders received the individual tribute of the crowd between the games.

Now Clinton’s aura of invincibility will be sorely tested. An early-season trip to Chapman was postponed by snow till next Tuesday. That means the Red Devils must venture to Broome on Friday, Woodruff on Tuesday, and Chapman on Wednesday. The home victories over Broome and Chapman were tense.

The Region 3 title is anything but wrapped up. Chapman is 12-4, 6-1, having lost only at Clinton earlier in the season.

Local sports provide intimacy that others do not. I spent 20 years writing about NASCAR, and never once did a famous driver scan my groceries at Ingles.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).