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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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