Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, November 26, 2017, 12:55 p.m.
I don’t think my mind is shot yet, but I can’t remember all the football games I’ve watched. Alabama-Auburn and Clemson-South Carolina are easy. Furman-Elon was most memorable. I get some of the late-night, West Coast games garbled. Did Boise State play Fresno or Fullerton? Who was Hawaii playing? Oh, yeah. BYU. Colorado played Utah. Did that mean Colorado State played Utah State? I think they put some apples in an old oaken bucket. Everyone probably played for some empty kegs – everywhere but Utah, for sure – and when Arizona began playing Arizona State, Arizona wasn’t even a state. It was a territory. Back in the old days, it must have been Arizona versus Arizona Territorial.
Furman’s 28-27 victory over Elon in the FCS opening round was the most pleasing, though not when my wi-fi went out for about a quarter and a half. Clemson-South Carolina was a great time for me to learn how to play the Have Gun, Will Travel (“Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam?”) theme, and I can’t believe it’s been 37 years since I graduated, 15 years since I picked up a guitar, and 10 since I learned how to play it with some modest degree of competence, and yet I never learned how to play the song, which is quite easy, by the way, except for the lyrics, which are hard.
He travels on to wherever he must / A chess knight of silver in his bag of trust / There are campfire legends that the plainsmen spin / Of the man with the gun, of the man called Paladin.
Auburn plays on the plains. Georgia Tech plays on the flats. Michigan plays in the Big House. LSU plays in the valley. Clemson has a valley, too, but Saturday’s game was at the Willy B., where the Second Amendment includes plastic bottles.
Notre Dame now seems to have a schedule that consists entirely of the West Coast, the ACC, and service academies.
The Carolina Panthers and the New York Jets have piddled their ways through a 3-3 first quarter, and I’ve been piddling away at this blog, so there is a certain symmetry between New Jersey, where, naturally, two teams from New York play, and my living room.
All NFL coaches currently look like they’re going deer hunting after the game. I don’t know why. There must be money involved.
I’m tired of Rob Riggle. I think Peyton Manning should get his own sitcom. I am not going to Sonic or KFC any time soon. Little Sweet is causing me to rethink my addiction to Diet Dr. Pepper.
Yesterday, it occurred to me that I knew the personnel of the NFL better when I was 10 years ago. An example: the Jets once had a No. 15 older than Josh McCown. His name was Babe Parilli.
The Panthers were an acquired taste for me. Back when they began, I was writing about NASCAR for a suburban Charlotte newspaper. I learned that the better the Panthers played, the less room I had to write about racing, so I sort of resented the pro football team.
That changed when I started writing columns at Bank of America Stadium after the NASCAR season ended. From hobnobbing in the locker room afterward, I liked Luke Kuechly as a person before I had any idea how good he was as a player. Now watching him play is a joy of watching football. He defines the old coach’s cliché “nose for the football.” I’ve seldom seen a linebacker with better instincts for finding the ball. I find myself watching him constantly.
The Panthers won in MetLife Stadium on a day when they were ripe for the taking. The Saints were beaten by the Rams in Los Angeles. I watched more football since Thanksgiving than any man should. My appetite seems insatiable. For twenty years, I was this way because, when NASCAR ended, it seemed like football was just getting started, and I’d watch every R+L Carriers Poulan Weedeater Bowl Presented by the Geico Gekko. Now I see a lot of football, most of it in person at high school and small-college stadiums. It could be that I just love football.
A lot of this year has been sad. The local high schools had losing records. Presbyterian College, where I saw seven games, is de-emphasizing football, and mine is the least of the hearts being broken.
Furman, though! Alma mater! The Paladins have learned how to win again. They’ve won eight of their last nine games. They lost eight games last year. They play thirty-five miles away this week, and, if they avenge another loss, at Wofford, they’ll play far, far away, likely in North Dakota. I probably couldn’t make it to Fargo if I left directly after the Wofford game.
The Terriers are tough. But it’s a possibility. It seems as if anything’s possible for the Paladins again.
Most of my books — non-fiction on NASCAR and music, collections that include my contributions, seven novels, and one short-story collection — are available here.