Who’s a Legend?

Dale Earnhardt with Richard Childress(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, January 6, 2018, 12:52 p.m.

Sam Tiller plays football, basketball, and soccer for the Clinton High School Red Devils. Currently, it’s basketball season. Last night I was at CHS Gymnasium to write about the game between Clinton and the Chapman High School Panthers, who represent the City of Inman and, in my mind, James Harvey Hylton.

Clinton won the boys’ game, 76-75. Chapman won the girls’ game, 38-30.

By Monte Dutton

I know Sam because his father and I are friends. Before the girls’ game started, Sam was sitting in the stands with other members of the team. I stopped by and sat down next to him for a few minutes and asked him about Dale Earnhardt. I knew Sam liked Earnhardt because I had seen it on his Twitter page. It came as something of a surprise because I had never heard him say anything about NASCAR.

“Oh, yeah, I love Earnhardt, man,” he said, and I proceeded to tell him several personal stories about my dealings with The Intimidator over the years. I noticed Sam’s use of the present tense. I love Earnhardt. Sam didn’t indicate that Earnhardt has been dead for roughly as long as Sam has been alive.

Dale Earnhardt on the pole at Atlanta, 1982.
(Photo by RacingOne/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Earnhardt is a legend. The legend transcends the life.

Not everyone can be a legend. Everyone can be called a legend, but that doesn’t make it so. I’ve been thinking about this, and here’s what I’ve concluded. With any famous athlete, the fans feel like they know him (or her).

With legends, they are right.

The Intimidator was no saint. He was The Intimidator. In the local vernacular, Earnhardt “didn’t take nuthin’ off nobody.”

With Bud Moore. (Photo by Dozier Mobley/Getty Images for NASCAR)

There’s a difference between being great and being legendary. Jeff Gordon is great. Jimmie Johnson is great.

Curtis Turner is legendary. Tim Richmond is legendary. Legends live on after greatness has died. It’s a good thing. Legends may not go to heaven. Legends are not necessarily beloved, but they are not forgotten.

Earnhardt may be the last legend. Maybe it’s Tony Stewart. His will have to settle a while.

I’ve come to realize that others use words loosely that I use tightly. Legend. Hero. Friend.

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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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