Gimme That Old-Time Promotion, It’s Good Enough for Me

The Talladega draft. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 4, 2017, 6:25 p.m.

It occurred to me yesterday morning. What NASCAR needs is a ground game.

Monte Dutton

Just hand the ball to Jimmy Brown, or pitch it to Gale Sayers. (It’s not that I’m old enough to use the names of heroes many today know nothing about. I take relish in it. There was really no need to use this comparison at all. By ground game, I meant the kind politicians talk about, the one that used to be called “getting out the vote.”)

NASCAR needs to put fannies in seats. Empty seats don’t buy hot dogs. They don’t even stand up to hear Restless Heart perform the national anthem.

Oh, the excuses.

It was a tad warm. It was a little cool. The race takes too long. I might miss The Walking Dead. The wi-fi’s slow. Some tickets are cheaper than they were five years ago. All sports are experiencing a slump (which explains the 5,000 who watched Alabama play Auburn … in volleyball.)

TV is all that matters. Never mind that TV ratings are swooning, too.

You can feel the rumble every time the the steel chariots roar by. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

NASCAR has managed to run off its once-loyal fans, and the ones who straggled in when it became fashionable are now really into mixed martial arts. Or, hell, they might spend all their free time watching President Trump.

For the umpteenth year in a row, the Emperor spent the offseason buying new clothes, and once again, more and more people notice he’s really naked.

If tracks disassembled, detonated, and melted more grandstands into scrap metal, they’d be phone booths. The goal, openly divulged, is to increase the market value of the remaining seats. In other words, it will be easier to charge $100 apiece for them if there are fewer.

What would I have done? I’d have left those desolate grandstands on the back stretch, recruited scout leaders, baseball coaches, bandleaders, Campfire Girls, Future Farmers of America, Beta Clubs and the Royal Ambassadors of the Baptist church to sell the tickets for 10 bucks a pop, let the kids keep $5 of each ticket for themselves or their organization, park the buses and expose them to racing, no matter if the whole program did no better than break even.Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The first step in rebuilding this fan base is getting them while they’re young. If the only way kids watch is on TV, it’s the most they’re ever going to do. No one has to make them think that being there is important. Being there really is important. They’ve got to feel the vibrations, smell the fumes, hear the fury of powerful engines, and experience the pulse quickening that unfurls with the wave of a green flag.

It’s breathtaking. Take some breaths.

That’s what I mean by a ground game. Turn out the fans. Don’t just open the gates.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(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. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(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.

(Joe Font cover design)

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).

I Hate This Is Happening!

"Yeah, right. Been there, done that. You call that football, son?"
“Yeah, right. Been there, done that. You call that football, son?”

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 11:49 a.m.

One common experience of advancing age is that one finds himself talking about all sorts of things that others don’t understand. It is intensified because they weren’t yet born when these things happened. Mysteriously, it doesn’t seem as if anyone pays attention to history anymore.

This is just the latest in my continuing series about how the ever-expanding wealth of information paradoxically seems to make the world progressively dumber.

Someone says that LeBron James is “arguably” the greatest basketball player who ever lives. It turns into a LeBron vs. Michael Jordan argument.

“How about Bill Russell? Or Wilt Chamberlain? Or Oscar Robertson?” I ask.

“Well, we never saw them play.” They might as well add “Pops” to the end.

It’s no excuse. The first sports book I ever read was about Mel Ott. He had a rivalry with Chuck Klein, another slugger. They’re both in the Hall of Fame. I know very few people who have heard of them. I never saw them play, but I know that Ott, a left-handed batter, raised his right foot before he swung, just like the famous Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh.

If I told this story, oh, practically anywhere, the reply might be, “Oh?” (I couldn’t resist.)

Part of it, of course, is my fault. I haven’t come to grips with the simple mathematics of being in my 50s. I saw Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, John Unitas, Dick Butkus, Bobby Orr, Rod Laver, Arnold Palmer and Jerry West play. I saw A.J. Foyt, Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, Jackie Stewart and David Pearson race. I saw Willie Shoemaker ride and Secretariat gallop, though not at the same time. I saw Muhammad Ali box.

I only saw newsreels of “The Galloping Ghost” (Red Grange). I remember Jim Brown and Gale Sayers.

The years got away from me. Unitas is as relevant to the kids of today as Grange was to me. The elapsed time is about the same.

But I knew about Grange. I read about “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” which was played during my first year on earth. I knew a home run by Bobby Thomson was “The Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff” even though I was born seven years too late. I knew Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games and Cy Young won 511.

Two weeks ago, I watched a ballgame with someone who had never heard of Howard Cosell.

I wonder sometimes if all knowledge about sports today is derived from video games. A kid’s favorite player is as likely to come from “Madden ’13” as the Super Bowl.

What prompted this topic was the fact that a remake of “Brian’s Song” showed up on TV. I had never seen the remake, though the original, a TV movie starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, was a national sensation when I was 13. The remake, starring Sean Maher and Mekhi Phifer, isn’t bad, but it’s the same as most remakes. “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” starring Gary Cooper, was remade as “Mr. Deeds” with Adam Sandler.

That’s about the same as comparing a sonnet to a limerick. Or a sonata to a ditty.

I know, of course, that I’m not objective. Part of my view is that I have greater perspective, but part of it is also that I’m turning into a grumpy old man, ready to pounce on any topic with one of those wearisome clichés like “back in my day!” and dreading the first time he actually hears “keep off my grass!” come out of his mouth.

I still want to be cool, but it’s getting harder and harder to pull off.