Big Red Gets Devilish in Soccer

Luke Mann (6) scored the first Clinton goal. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 9:52 a.m.

Red Devil soccer has developed gradually over the years. I was away, writing oddly about race cars that go around and around, for most of its history, but it has been my theory that Clinton High School added a soccer program at just about the time sporting goods manufacturers stopped making blocked-off shoes for straight-on football kicking.

By Monte Dutton

From time immemorial until the end of the 1980s, Red Devil football had exactly one soccer-style placekicker, and the reason I am so attuned to this phenomenon is that the sidewinder in question, in 1978 and 1979, was my brother, Brack, who also played cornerback in the latter year’s Shrine Bowl. Have you ever noticed how seldom it is that a placekicker plays another position nowadays?

What I’m suggesting is that the motives might have been slightly mixed when a soccer team representing District 56 finally took the field.

On Tuesday evening, amid conditions that were almost perfect, Clinton won a Class 3A soccer playoff game for the first time … ever. All I was there to write was this. I took a few photos during the first half and then retired to the sidelines, there to complain about the officiating and be swept up in partisan fervor.

The score was Clinton (11-11) 3, Chester (8-9) 2. The Red Devils will go to Walhalla, an outpost on the far side of Clemson from here, for another match on Thursday night.

Here comes Parker Duncan.

Luke Mann, whose father once played football with me; Parker Duncan, son of our Congressman; and Elvis Fitz, who coincidentally kicked field goals and extra points for the football team last fall; scored the goals. The Red Devils outshot the Cyclones, 20-12.

Clinton took a 1-0 lead on Mann’s goal. Then it was 1-1. Then Clinton took the lead again. And Chester tied it. Duncan’s game-winner occurred in the 71st minute, three after Chester’s Jeffery Gulish scored.

At the time, things looked ghoulish. I couldn’t resist.

Duncan’s game-winner led 30 parents of Cyclones to yell aloud something like “oh, fiddlesticks!” and something less wholesome under their breaths, and about 50 Red Devil fans to exult in much the same fashion. The tone was markedly different.

Clinton: “Damned if we didn’t score! He got it! He got it! Who was it? Parker Duncan! Woo-hoo! Go, Parker!”

Chester: “Day-ummm.”

Duncan, whose thirst for the net is as great as his father’s political ambition, also had an assist, as did Jesus Gonzalez and Patrick Nelson.

If one is standing on a sideline, surrounded by others among the faithful, listening to jeers rising from the little wooden grandstand where the other team’s pilgrims have set up camp, reality gets distorted.

It was as if the officials were willing participants in a seedy attempt by the visitors to brutalize the local lads. Fans were howling for mandatory incarceration, no parole, and all the refs had to offer was a single, solitary yellow card. I even went so far as to suggest one of the co-conspirators might need an update in the prescription for his spectacles. Oh, wait. The ref wasn’t wearing glasses. Contact lenses, undoubtedy. Something was distorting his view.

Many of the fans were quite knowledgeable about the game, no doubt a result of carrying kids all over the Upstate to play club soccer for “select” teams.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

If Clinton should win at Walhalla against the Razorbacks – it seems particularly unique a nickname for soccer – then I’m told they will play Berea, the Greenville school that is, according to a reliable source standing next to me, the No. 28 team in the nation.

I’ve got my share of problems, but I’m glad I haven’t been tasked at trying to figure out the top 50 high school soccer teams in America. Lots of variables, I’m thinking.

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).

 

Atlanta on TV and in Memory

The start of the Rinnai 250 Xfinity Series race. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 4, 2017, 2:17 p.m.

I love Atlanta. I love Griffin, where I stayed in the Best Western for most of 20 years, and I love Hampton, where Atlanta Motor Speedway is, and where I used to play my guitar and sing my songs at the town farmer’s market, and I love an evening get-together at Minter’s Farm, where my friend and fellow expatriate sportswriter Rick Minter collects old farm contraptions and grows vegetables and Christmas trees.

He’s at the track. Like me, he still writes a little racing on the side, but he gets to be in closer proximity.

By Monte Dutton

I notice a Dillon just wrecked. I wrote a 5,000-word chapter and updated the outline. I read from a novel by a Georgia author. I played a little guitar. Darrell Waltrip has been blowing through the jasmine of my my-yi-yind. And a Dillon just wrecked.

If only I had a summer breeze, it would theoretically make me feel fine.

Michael Waltrip just said a driver is “making up for that first initial start.” No telling what will happen during his last initial start. Chase Elliott sounds great. So does everyone else in a TV booth with Michael Waltrip, but NASCAR has a Waltrip thing. I pick up the guitar.

Well, I’ll admiiitttt, I’ve got a Waltrip prob-LEMMMM!

I’d like to get back to the track. I’d better not step on any toes.

The original topic was how I love Atlanta. I have significantly digressed.

It’s the environment. Everybody around here talks the same way I do about NASCAR. I don’t even mention it anymore. I get tired of nodding my head. I got a crick in my neck last week at the high school basketball game.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch at Atlanta. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The first time I watched a Cup, then Winston, race at Atlanta, then International Raceway, I went with a football coach, and Morgan Shepherd won. The first time I wrote about a race at Atlanta, it snowed a foot, and, several weeks later, Morgan Shepherd won. Two races, three weekends, and I could almost write Morgan Shepherd’s life story.

One year, the concrete floor of the media center had patches of solid ice. School kids were grazing all through the aisles. A bus was parked outside. The PR director came around, encouraging writers to go across the track to work in the press box. I asked him if My Weekly Reader needed more space. It wasn’t till I came back in the fall that he spoke to me again.

I age myself. Is there still such a thing as My Weekly Reader? I bet it’s digital.

I’d hate to walk up the steps behind the old press box, on what is now the opposite side of the track, mainly because I hated to walk up them then. That was where the most famous sportswriter in the South waved a white handkerchief because the PR director was delivering Lincoln’s Second Inaugural before he’d let Dale Earnhardt speak.

Hampton, Georgia, must be like Clinton, South Carolina, based on the millions of people who don’t go to the races at the track there. It’s not a lot like Clinton, South Carolina, because we don’t have but thousands around here.

I hope there’s progress when the Cup of Monster NASCAR Series holds its Sumpin Sumpin 500 if for no other reason than the damned thing is still 500 genuine miles. It’s allegedly 500.5 miles, but that really depends on the paths the winning car takes over 325 laps.

The Xfinity cars are in the second stage of finity, so, instead of overhearing Michael Waltrip, I think I’ll start watching the action.

(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).

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).

The Very Best of Clinton’s Greatest Hits

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

DSCF2865Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 9:54 a.m.

Happiness, happiness. Everybody’s looking for happiness.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

As I looked around the perimeter of The Sponge, Clinton High School’s beloved field of dreams and antiquity, that’s what struck me.

Lots of smiling faces / Little children running around / Everybody’s somebody in this old Hill Country town. — Viva Luckenbach! Jerry Jeff Walker.

Cameron Bishop (left) and Chandler Todd.
Cameron Bishop (left) and Chandler Todd.

When I attended the local high school, The Sponge was just the field. The ball field, maybe. Next year a new one will open at the high school, across the ring road, and it is rumored to be outfitted with a grass infield and bullpens that are actually a part of the design and not carved out of the pine trees behind right field. The old Clinton High School is now the new Clinton Middle School, and athletic facilities are slowly migrating into the 21st Century.

Davis Cunningham has the wingspan of a condor.
Davis Cunningham has the wingspan of a condor.

Maybe they’ll call it the Baseball Complex, which is what Presbyterian College calls its field, even though there’s nothing complex about it. It’s complicated to find a place to see the whole field, but not complex.

Anyway, The Sponge, so named, I’ve been told, because its hard, sandy, clay infield drains well after thunderstorms, is going out in style. The Red Devils (22-1) won their 19th game in a row Monday night, 3-0 over Eastside (17-8), one of Greenville’s almost innumerable suburban schools. Technically, the Eagles are from Taylors, which is named after Andy, Opie and Aunt Bea, or that’s what I prefer to believe.

J.P. Duncan
J.P. Duncan

The Red Devils are a club that pitches well, bunts with a maniacal persistence, hits towering drives occasionally when its batters swing away, and seems to play better as pressure increases. They possess a never-say-die mentality that occasionally inspires a game in which they give up six runs in the top of the first and wind up winning, 10-6.

At some point in almost every interview I conduct with head coach Sean McCarthy, he says, “They’re a special bunch.” Far be it from me to quibble.

Brayden Gibbs
Brayden Gibbs

On Monday night, Clinton had 19 at-bats. Eastside had 26. In part, this was because the Eagles batted once more. In part, it was because the Red Devils sacrifice-bunted four times and tried five. Once this year, they executed three squeeze plays in a single game and two in a single inning.

Tristan Smaltz
Tristan Smaltz

In two playoff games so far, Clinton pitching hasn’t allowed a run, and Clinton fielding plays a considerable role in the stinginess. Tristan Smaltz and Davis Cunningham have combined for 21 strikeouts in 12 innings. Smaltz is small and lefthanded. Cunningham is a tall righty. Aaron Copeland chipped in two thirds of an inning to nail down a 2-0 victory over Daniel. Cunningham went the distance in the 3-0 decision over Easley.

Todd greets Peyton Spangler, now playing at Newberry College.
Todd greets Peyton Spangler, now playing at Newberry College.

It’s such a pleasant crowd. Until this year, Clinton hadn’t won its region in 22 years. Sure, the fans are loud and feisty, their spirits kept high by public-address announcer and Voice of the Red Devils Buddy Bridges, but mostly, they are delighted. Bridges was back last night, having missed the Daniel game because his son was getting married, and I half-expected the fans to give him a lemon pound cake or something.

The foes on Monday from Eastside.
The foes on Monday from Eastside.

McCarthy is nervous and superstitious before games, in marked contrast to his players, who are as playful as baseball players are wont to be, and one of the reasons he seemed panicky before the Daniel game was that he didn’t get a chance to hand the lineup card personally to Bridges. I lean more toward the players than the coach while wandering around the field taking pictures, and this makes McCarthy uneasy, and it makes me chuckle, which makes him even more uneasy.

DSCF2868Afterwards, he has recently succumbed to the coach’s habit of answering every question with the same answer, and I don’t mind because his team has given me more than any writer can ask, that being a good story to right night after night. Whatever he asks his players to do, they do, and McCarthy deserves lots of credit for teaching them how by instilling in them guts and a penchant for glory.

Aaron Copeland
Aaron Copeland

On Friday, they can nail down their district, which is a unit I didn’t know existed until I started following these proceedings closely by word and presence.

Two teams, Daniel and A.C. Flora, will face off to determine which gets to take on the Red Devils on Friday night. I’d like to see the big dogs hunt a little more at the plate, but I ought not complain because what a writer likes is a good story, and these Red Devil baseball games write themselves.

 

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleMy book of short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, is called Longer Songs, and you can buy it here.

The Audacity of Dope is a tale about a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who becomes a reluctant national hero. He prevents someone from blowing up the plane he’s on, and both hilarity and drama ensue. My first novel is an irreverent, fun read.

The Intangibles is my most personal. Set mostly in 1968, it draws on memories from my childhood and teen-aged years. It’s a story of civil rights, bigotry, and high school football.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has a main character who is an outrageous football coach at the beginning, loses everything and has to start over. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

TrespassesCoverForgive Us Our Trespasses is a yarn about a corrupt, ambitious politician who wants to be governor and will do anything to achieve it. It has a parallel story of a good cop who’s trying to stop the monster and another of kids gone wild.

To peruse all my books, including most of the non-fiction ones from my NASCAR years, click here.

 

Latest Adventures from Courtside

Tay Cook (5) on defense. (Monte Dutton photos)
Tay Cook (5) on defense. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, January 13, 2016, 10:42 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Another Tuesday, another high school basketball game. Another Monday, another national championship football game. The Clinton High School boys won. They’re 8-4. The Clinton girls lost. They’re 1-13.

It’s about right in both cases.

Some occurrences don’t often occur in the ACC. Last night marked the first time I ever remember a timeout being granted one team while another was already dribbling up the court. The referees did the best job they could, though. They didn’t make any more mistakes than everyone else did.

Broome's David Miller (4) jostles for position with Clinton's Jalen Carter.
Broome’s Damion Farr (5) jostles for position with Clinton’s Jalen Carter.

Last night we had some additional excitement at brightly lit Clinton High School Gymnasium. The crowd wasn’t large, but the visiting fans generally sit on the same side as the scorers’ table, and the Broome contingent made up for its lack of size by means of one heckler.

DeNaisha Floyd led the Clinton girls with eight points.
DeNaisha Floyd led the Clinton girls with eight points.

At one point, this fellow apparently listened to what the Clinton coach was saying during a timeout, or claimed he did, and then started yelling at the top of his lungs that Chris Wofford, the Red Devil head coach, didn’t respect the Centurions.

Kiah Young (4) shakes Broome's Cody Brown.
Kiah Young (4) shakes free.

“Hey! Y’all gonna take that!?”

I expect it was all a ruse. Wofford’s team has one victory. He respects everyone else.

Donrte Reeder (25)
Donte Reeder (25)

He later accused the clock operator of trying to cheat Broome by giving a foul to one player meant for another. Such a ploy, in the unlikely event that any veteran of keeping score would try it, has nothing to do with the clock operator, who was understandably insulted because he was just trying to do his job, and there were two keeping books, one representing the Red Devils and the other the Centurions, and the problem had been that the referee gave the scorers the wrong number. This was corrected, and the Broome player went to halftime with three instead of four fouls, and went on to spend most of the rest of the game on court.

DeNaisha Floyd headed to the basket.
DeNaisha Floyd headed to the basket.

Then the Clinton High School football coach arrived to try to cool things down, and the irate fan said the clock operator had tried to “intimidate” him. I was sitting there, aware that I was a journalist and had no business being in this line of fire, but all the clock operator had done was seethe quietly. I don’t think they’d even exchanged words. The fan was trying to play the “best defense is a good offense” card. He was the victim.

The woman sitting on the other side of me had warned earlier that “he can get rough.”

A fourth-quarter press was the key to the Red Devils' 62-55 victory.
A fourth-quarter press was the key to the Red Devils’ 62-55 victory.

As much as I wanted to tell that fellow that, if he eavesdropped on the Clinton huddle one more time, I was going down to the Broome huddle and tape-record every word its coach said and play it on the loudspeaker, but, of course, I didn’t. I just fancied doing it in case, this morning, I wrote a blog.

Well, pilgrim, somebody oughtta tell you a thing or two, but I won’t, I won’t … the hell I won’t.

John Wayne said something similar to the above in McLintock. It was just before the big mud fight.

Jalen Carter
Jalen Carter

Broome won the girls game, 39-30. Broome would have won it, anyway.

Clinton head coach Tosh Corley.
Clinton head coach Tosh Corley.

Perhaps the little standoff behind the table did some good. The fellow behaved during the second half of the boys’ game, or maybe the crowd was larger and louder, and it wasn’t as noticeable.

In retrospect, it was a good no-call.

Clinton is off to far Lancaster on Friday night, and I’m not too upset to eschew that trek. I’ll be in Laurens, where the Raiders are entertaining Greenwood.

Or maybe the entertainment will come from the fans.

Here’s my story on Tuesday night’s games: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/22672-cook-leads-red-devils-past-broome

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

The next novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I hope you’re as excited as I am, but I’d settle for half as much.

Check out my other page, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, every now and again. And join my Facebook group for loyal readers of my books, Similarly Crazy, or become my close personal friend through monte.dutton. I’m on Twitter @montedutton, slightly more irreverent @wastedpilgrim, and slightly more literary @hmdutton. Instagram? Why, Tug50, of course.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I ask a lot for a person from South Carolina.

Crazy of Natural Causes has only been out since late summer. It’ll only set you back $3.49. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

My first novel, The Audacity of Dope (Kindle version $2.99), is about a songwriter who gets on a plane a free-thinking stoner and gets off it a free-thinking national hero. Complications ensue. http://www.amazon.com/The-Audacity-Dope-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B006GT2PRA/ref=pd_sim_sbs_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51zCT-MrcFL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR105%2C160_&refRID=0G1646HCQ562QP6C7JCP

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles (Kindle edition $4.99) is set in the 1960s, with an integrated high school football team at the epicenter of the local civil-rights volcano. http://www.amazon.com/The-Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=pd_sim_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51JrJlU8vKL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR107%2C160_&refRID=0RG9JJ51G715SBNV9BZH

Sometimes the Ball Bounces Funny

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, December 18, 2015, 10:45 a.m.

One of the curious aspects of sports is it is mostly a product of humans. The humans are inside bulky automobiles, at the end of sticks, heavily padded, and/or assisted by teams of mechanics, coaches, caddies, and entourages.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The effect of humanity is nonetheless ubiquitous.

Fans often act as if the sports are simple. They are not.

Take last night at Laurens District 55 High School. Basketball teams consisting of girls and boys, in that order of starting times, played similarly composed teams from nearby Hillcrest High School, which shares its district with others.

DSCF1456The Raider boys played almost as well as is humanly possible, and, again, this is human in the imperfect sense.

And the Raider girls? Vice versa.

Both teams tried. Both teams walked on the floor determined to win. Same gym. Different results.

Ty Madden (30) scored 22.
Ty Madden (30) scored 22.

It’s difficult to handicap basketball games with the season relatively young and region competition just beginning, but, logically and based on rational factors, the Laurens girls should have been favored, and the Laurens boys should have been underdogs.

Au contraire.

The Rams (3-3) won the girls’ game, 62-34, over the Raiders (6-3). The Raiders (7-2) won the boys’ game, 92-62, over the heretofore unbeaten Rams (5-1).

DSCF1450It has been a familiar refrain of mine to note the difference, in NASCAR, between a good race and a good story. The same is true in basketball between the good game and the good story.

Those two games Thursday night were like the first lap between the tortoise and the hare. Honestly, I think it’s possible that, when the two teams play again, the outcomes could be reversed, and it’s likely the games will be closer.

DSCF1440Sometimes a mysterious group mentality descends over an arena. It’s not a matter of one player coming down with the flu, or another coping with poor grades or a lovers’ quarrel. It’s not psychology. It’s sociology, and the coach doesn’t have time to commission a study.

I saw something I’d never seen Thursday night. I saw a team commit 47 turnovers, and 31 were in one half. That same team, by my calculation, hit 11 out of 58 shots, many of which appeared to be quite makeable.

Perhaps you have guessed it was the Laurens girls.

DSCF1437Yet that same team had defeated Woodmont, 51-46, two nights earlier.

Afterwards, head coach Yoneko Allen was every bit as mystified as I. To summarize, my questions were related to the general “how bad was it?” and her answers were variations of “as bad as it could be.”

DSCF1435If you’re interested in the specifics, here’s the story I wrote: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/22489-raiders-rams-swap-mismatches

When the Hillcrest boys ran on the floor, they looked a little like an elongated football team. Seventeen players dressed. Given what ensued, all of them played. One difference in the game was the Maddens. Laurens’ Ty scored 22. Hillcrest’s Lavassit and Daylin combined for one.

But Maddens alone could not account for this wide, wide world of blowout. The Raiders slipped out to a 24-7 lead, and the margin briefly reached 31 (48-17) before holding steady at 28 (48-20) during the halfway intermission. The biggest margin was 88-54 with 2:32 remaining.

DSCF1453Thirteen of the 17 Rams scored, though none more than 12. Four Raiders had 10 or more. Laurens shot better and more often, tracked down more of the shots that missed, and committed fewer turnovers.

I can’t account for the differences in the games. Maybe all the girls skipped lunch. Maybe it was a crack in the time/space continuum.

More likely, it shall remain a mystery, and many more will follow.

 

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

At least my novels are intended to have mysteries. Please consider buying them here. Most of my books are listed. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

Most of my non-fiction — as in sports, current events, whatever I happen to think fits at the time — is here. I write short stories, book reviews, and musings about writing — and, uh, whatever I also happen to think fits at the time — at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com – and I hope you’ll sample the fiction-and-books blog from time to time.

 

When This Old Town Seems Young

Keith Richardson FIeld is ready. (Photo courtesy Tex Glenn and Dale McWatters)
Keith Richardson FIeld is ready. (Photo courtesy Tex Glenn and Dale McWatters)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 21, 2015, 11:27 a.m.

Tonight Clinton High School opens its varsity football season at home against A.C. Flora of Columbia. The Red Devils defeated the Falcons in the first round of the 2013 3A playoffs and agreed to open the 2014 and ’15 seasons against them. A year ago, Flora returned the favor rather effectively with a 27-0 win over a Clinton team that would have a rough season.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Now Clinton has a new coach (Andrew Webb), a new offensive system, and the optimism that comes to town with every season. On Thursday, I drove over to the school gymnasium to watch the band play and all the athletes introduced to a crowd of fans on one side and, across the way, a host of cheerleaders and athletes representing the various sports at both the middle school, which is now located in what used to be the high school, and the high school proper. They took their places after being introduced, and by the time it was over, the far side was nearly as full as the near.

People signed up for the booster club and bought shirts and caps. The veteran P.A. announcer, Mark Entrekin, and the excitable “Voice of the Red Devils,” Buddy Bridges, introduced every kid, from middle-school volleyball to varsity football, as they walked and trotted out to midcourt at varying speeds and countenances, some on crutches and others in flip-flops. As kids get older, the rate of movement apparently slows as the swagger increases.

They all seemed confident. They all had their dreams, their hopes, their ambitions, their aspirations, their senses of humor intact. They’re colts and fillies who haven’t been broken.

It is a good thing. It will not be as easy as it seemed on Thursday night. They basked in the heady optimism and the high expectations. The town is in a good mood. Four of the school’s baseball players played on an American Legion team that won the national championship, on ESPU, no less, and the 9- and 10-year-olds won a state championship of their own.

The dreams of exceptionalism are intact.

Now, of course, the kids who basked in the spotlights must play their games. They must crank up the fight songs. They must swish the pompons. They must block, tackle, run, pass, catch, dig up and spike volleyballs, cross the nearby country, and, somehow, do it all in a coordinated and unified fashion. They rest secure in the knowledge that the community is behind them, but the community cannot perform the aforementioned tasks.

Meeting the Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photo)
Meeting the Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton football is two head coaches and six years removed from the school’s eighth state championship. The memory is still relatively fresh, though dimmed by recent results. From the shores of Lake Greenwood to the banks of the Enoree, families send their kids to the schools of District 56, of which Clinton High School is the flagship. This has been the case since long before my mother, father, sisters and brother went to school. It has probably been the case since the villages were linked by more than horses and wagons.

The Clinton Red Devils do not merely represent the school. They don’t merely represent the principal town. They represent the crossroads and the rural routes. Even in the neighboring towns, people are wondering if Clinton will come back this year.

The odds don’t favor them. The schedule is tough. The Red Devils do not back away from powerhouses, even though their own power has recently subsided. If the coming year isn’t successful, the expectations will still be high before the next one. This year, improvement will suffice, but the fans are tired of losing, and the players even more so.

In spite of all this, the kids who hit the field tonight have no responsibility for those who came before them. They have to go out there under the bright lights and win for themselves. They alone will reap the benefits or absorb the adversity, and regardless of what happens against the Falcons of Flora, next week another challenging opponent looms, and then another, and another, until the season is over, and then there will be more sports and more seasons, and more expectations that will sizzle or fizzle in the glare of competition.

What I will try to remember is the faces of the kids as I watched them trot, saunter, amble, and march out to midcourt last night. I expect the wins will outnumber the losses, whether the folks in the grandstands realize it or not.

 

The kids will not play sports forever. They will have to make a living. The principal way I make mine is by writing, and I hope you will consider buying the books that are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

‘Oh, We Miss You on the Old Side of Town’ *

Jeff Gordon has one more chance to win a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. This was taken at Martinsville, Va. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon has one more chance to win a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. This was taken at Martinsville, Va. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 10, 2015, 9:18 a.m.

It is not my intention to recount my one unfortunate weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Sure, there was the traffic nightmare, and the best example of a track thinking all it needed was a Sprint Cup date, and everything else would just take care of itself.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Sure, it was the only place in twenty years and a little over 500 races where something was stolen from me. A “photographer,” wearing no credentials, struck up a conversation with me in the press box. I didn’t like him. He didn’t like me. I took my camera — thank God — and left for a while to take photos of the traffic jams, and when I returned, the best pair of binoculars I ever owned was gone. I am ninety-nine and 44/100ths percent sure he’s the guy who swiped them.

I didn’t go back the next year — looking for that son of a bitch was a bad sole reason for returning — and I haven’t been back to any track in the two-plus seasons since.

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

That being noted, I like Kentucky and Kentuckians. It’s why I made the Commonwealth the scene of the new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes. I envy Kentuckians their rugged spirits and feisty natures. They deserved better from their race track.

Kentucky Speedway, between Louisville and Cincinnati, Ohio, not far from the banks of the Ohio River, is a great example of a track that blew its big opportunity. When it had a chance to be a sensation, it left thousands, stopped in traffic for hours on the way in and the way out, saying, “Not no more I won’t. I’ll never make this mistake again.”

Locally, it’s an observation I’ve often made regarding restaurants. If a man opens a restaurant, he’d better make sure he’s ready to go when the doors open. If not, most people won’t complain. They just never come back.

Feast your eyes on a modern Brickyard crowd. (Monte Dutton photo)
Feast your eyes on a modern Brickyard crowd. (Monte Dutton photo)

It happened at Indy when the tires failed and interest waned. Traffic hassles hindered Atlanta, where now the hassles are over, in part because a new road was constructed, but partly because, by then, it was too late. People in the nearby metropolis and its sprawl just got out of the habit of going. They started rationalizing away their unwillingness to go back to a sport with races and racers that had left them behind.

Besides, it’s on TV. TV is no substitute for being there, but it sure is more convenient.

Tracks are investing millions of dollars … in tearing grandstands down. If I were them, I’d cut the rates drastically on the back straight so that people would flock to the cheap seats. Darlington hooked me on racing back in the days when the back straight was packed with Scouts: Cub, Boy, and a few Webelos, maybe even some Bluebirds and Campfire Girls. My daddy thought ten or fifteen bucks a head was highway robbery, so we sat over there in the sun, an Igloo cooler with his beer, my Pepsi, and a Sunbeam bread loaf refilled with pimento-cheese and egg-salad sandwiches, between us.

When men were men and pit crews were mechanics.
When men were men and pit crews were mechanics.

That’s the reason I love racing today, but most of the NASCAR tracks are now tearing the grandstands down so that they can “rebuild the brand.” Translation: with fewer seats available, they can charge more money for the ones they’ve got left. They’ve got interactive attractions and fan-friendly experiences, all of which come with a hefty price tag.

All those Boy Scouts built the “brand” at Darlington because lots of them grew up like me. From where do the next generation of fans come? Country clubs and gated communities seem to be NASCAR’s answer. Working-class heroes are on the wane on the track and in the grandstands.

I hope it comes back. I hope I want to go back. I just don’t see it happening. I’ve got a perspective here at home that those at the track miss. When I sit around and talk to the kids who play football, basketball, baseball, and soccer, NASCAR isn’t even on the map. Lacrosse is bigger. Ten years ago, I used to hand out caps I’d been given at the tracks to kids from Clinton High and Presbyterian College. That market’s gone.

Maybe one day the kid on the left will be what the man on the right was. (John Clark photo)
Maybe one day the kid on the left will be what the man on the right was. (John Clark photo)

Where I live, NASCAR has always been big. It was mainstream in the South when I was six years old. It became that way in the whole country. Here in the old home place, though, it’s retreated into cult status. It might as well be Idaho. The fellow who runs the local dirt track tells me he’s making a comeback. A night race in NASCAR doesn’t hurt the gate as much as it used to. They watch the hometown heroes sliding around and around, clay caked to their overalls, and “To hell with NASCAR!” is about as much a rallying call as “Remember the Alamo!”

Someone needs to consider that “brand” with a long-term perspective now, while there still is one.

 

One reason to buy my new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, in advance is that it will help me build momentum. A better one is that, by doing so, a download will be promptly sent you on July 21, the release date. Better still is the fact that advance orders are going for a mere $3.49. Consider it here: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

It might even help me build my “brand” if you’d read one of my previous books: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

*Tom T. Hall, of course.

As Much As I Try, I Just Can’t Say

Views of NASCAR seem a little distorted.(Rusty Jarrett/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Views of NASCAR seem a little distorted.(Rusty Jarrett/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, May 11, 2015, 10:55 a.m.

Last week I bumped into an old friend in town. He was just back from Talladega, where he had camped in the second turn, and was quite happy at Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory. He told me he was setting up camp at Charlotte this Thursday.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

He went to Martinsville, too, and I’m almost certain he’s going to be at Darlington in September when the Southern 500 returns to Labor Day weekend. In fact, I know lots of people who swear to me they’re going back to Darlington if they haven’t been going there already while NASCAR was swapping its dates to the lowest bidder.

I talked to another friend on the phone Sunday. He said the racing was so bad in Kansas that he left the house when it started raining (in Kansas, not Georgia) and went to a nearby dirt track. He had a ball, came back home, and got depressed again, only it was that deep, dark depression that comes from watching something in the wee hours.

Opinion about NASCAR is sharply divided, even, and perhaps particularly, among those who love it the most.

The name of a Charlie Robison song just came to me: “These are desperate times.” It’s about a guy who robs a bank in cahoots with his wife, who is a teller, and at the end, he gets caught because she turns on him to the feds, and, when he asks her why, she says, “It wasn’t easy, Jack, but these are desperate times.”

Kevin Harvick leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Kansas in 2014. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Kansas in 2014. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I was singing along to this song while I was listening to it on my iPod, circling the yard on a grass-cutting mission. Some people who live in the nearby apartment complex might think I’m crazy since they can’t hear what I can hear through my sound-proof headphones, which are red because I bought them when it was still the Winston Cup.

When I started wearing those headphones cutting grass, I was plugging them into a transistor radio.

I have one friend who likes NASCAR as much now as he did 10 years ago. He likes it more than high school football, and, once upon a time, he was real good at playing that.

Lots of them still like it, just not as much, which is why I reckon they tend to watch it on TV instead of go see it live, and I don’t care how great fellows named Waltrip keep telling them it is, they’ve gradually stopped buying it.

I used to watch it from there. Now I watch it from here. Both ways I watched it for pay. Either I’ve got a great perspective or the worst one possible.

I’d appreciate it if you’d give my, uh, literary web site, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, a look from time to time, not to mention the occasional consideration of my books at: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

You can nominate a third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, for publication here: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1H8P26P38KYW8