The Endless Variety of Sport

Big Diamond Raceway in Pennsylvania. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 20, 2017, 11:15 a.m.

A lot is going on for a Thursday. Some of that is holdover from last night, when Matt Crafton won the annual indelicacy known as the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Raceway, near Rossburg, Ohio, which isn’t very near anywhere.

I never went to Eldora for a Truck race. The late David Poole and I drove over from Indianapolis one time to watch USAC midgets race there, and while I’d like to see the NASCAR trucks race in person, given one race to see there, I’d pick almost anything else: sprints, midgets, Silver Crown, dirt mods, late models, all racing vehicles designed to be more supple on dirt.

By Monte Dutton

Still a good show, though, particularly if one enjoys madcap antics.

What do I remember? More than anything else, I remember that the track has kind of a rocky plain behind the back straight, and when the national anthem was played, a cowboy on horseback cantered back and forth, waving a large American flag. Rossburg, Ohio, isn’t Tombstone, Arizona, or Deadwood, South Dakota, or Dodge City, Kansas, but it could’ve been that night.

The place was packed that night, too, but I’m sure it has more seats now. David and I sampled the race-track food, breathed the dirt, and had a grand time. The trip was also valuable for the conversations we had on the way over and back.

Over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of dirt tracks: Cherokee, Riverside (different name now, I hear), I-85 (no more), Laurens County here in South Carolina; 311 in Madison, North Carolina; Manzanita (no more) in Phoenix; Grandview and Big Diamond in Pennsylvania; and a few others that don’t come to mind at the moment.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The Red Sox close a homestand, and they’re headed to the West Coast to take on the Angels and Mariners, and that makes this “a getaway day,” so the last of four games against the Blue Jays is this afternoon at Fenway Park.

Jacoby Ellsbury. once Carmine, is now a Bomber. (Monte Dutton photo)

On Tuesday night, rain delayed the second game, and then Hanley Ramirez waited until there was one out in the 15th inning before he decided to hit a game-winning homer, so I’m still recovering from that.

Entering this game, Boston leads Tampa Bay by three games and, more importantly, New York by four and a half. It’s always dangerous to lead the Yankees shortly after the All-Star Break, and, sure enough, the Raging Capitalists just gained access to half the White Sox. Really free enterprise also gained the Red Sox the use of Pablo Sandoval, who wound up being a luxury car with an oil leak so severe that the Sox junked it.

‘Tis a strange Red Sox team: last in the American League in home runs, first in earned-run average, fifth in runs scored, one of the better outfields I have ever seen.

If you’ve got a decent British accent, it’s The Open Championship. If you’re saddled with my South Carolinian brogue, it’s the British Open, but, whatever, it’s my favorite golf tournament.

This year it’s at Royal Birkdale, which has always been north of Liverpool, or at least since 1889, but wasn’t awarded “royal status” until 1951, and that undoubtedly signaled its entry into the “Open rotation” three years later.

I like watching golfers try to get out of ridiculous bunkers and pesky flora with names like heather and gorse.

I like it, every now and then, for the greatest golfers in the world to play occasionally like I used to.

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

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).

Spanning the Globe for the Constant Variety of TV Sports

Sonoma comes next, but that's another week. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Sonoma comes next, but that’s another week. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 20, 2016, 9:45 a.m.

Wow. I’m a bit overwhelmed.

I can’t come close to quantifying all that happened in my living room. By extension, it was, oh, from Oakland, Plum (Pennsylvania), Newton (Iowa), Omaha, Boston, Le Mans (France) …

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

The grass didn’t need mowing (later this week, I expect). I had clean clothes, though I seldom wore them (the clean ones). My guitar(s) could use new strings.

I had just completed the first draft of a manuscript for my next novel. I was in need of relaxation. Damn it. I’d been passionate all week. I needed to unwind.

Forget about your cares / It is time to relax / At the Junction.Theme from Petticoat Junction

Apparently, it was hot outside. I suspect it might have been. I went through a drive-through.

Dustin Johnson, the big galoot, won the United States Open. He’s a South Carolinian, born in Columbia, college at Coastal Carolina, now lives occasionally and officially in Myrtle Beach. He has heretofore been noted for superhuman skills and a frail psyche in the major championships of golf. On Sunday, Johnson kept his wits while, all about him, other golfers were losing theirs. He played against type. For the past few years, I’ve been rooting for him against type. He kicked some type ass.

(Monte Dutton sketch)
(Monte Dutton sketch)

Then there was the basketball game. Game Seven of the NBA Playoffs. A stereotypical battle between the bruising East (Cleveland Cavaliers) and the graceful West (Golden State Warriors), descended from Lakers against Celtics. None of the first six games had been close. The seventh was. The fiercely aggressive Cavs from the long-derided Rust Belt city came from two down to win three straight for the title. So was the great LeBron James defined forever.

Other Kings besides Le Bron. (John Clark photo)
Other Kings besides Le Bron. (John Clark photo)

It’s sort of rewarding to watch a great sporting event without a heavy rooting interest. Often it takes a rooting interest to watch passionately, but watching dispassionately, caring about the outcome but not obsessed by it, can be just as enjoyable and more relaxing.

The difference might be whether one curses at the TV or not. I sounded more like Jed Clampett. I be dogged. Hoo, doggie. No exclamation points. Oil. Black gold. Texas tea.

(I wrote the words above with the full knowledge that those old enough to remember The Beverly Hillbillies are outnumbered by those who don’t. On the other hand, there’s TV Land.)

Do you remember having a mistaken opinion about what a word means when you were a kid? For some reason, I once thought Chanticleer had something to do with Christmas. The reason I learned what it means was probably the existence of it as a nickname at Coastal Carolina University, which, as a fellow state school, synonymized (spontaneous word invention) Gamecock.

Whatever. One Chanticleer won the U.S. Open, and a coop full of them won its first game at the College World Series. Admittedly, I only saw the final inning of CCU’s 2-1 victory over Florida. My schedule proved too crowded. If I’d had two more sports, college baseball and hemispherical soccer, to switch back and forth from, I’d have a splint on my right thumb now.

Big Papi in Atlanta a few years back. (Monte Dutton photo)
Big Papi in Atlanta a few years back. (Monte Dutton photo)

For passion, I had a pair of Red Sox victories over the Seattle Mariners at Fenway on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, the night they lost, David Ortiz hit his 521st home run, tying him not only with the wondrous Ted Williams but also with Willie McCovey (another favorite of mine) and Frank Thomas. Ted was my dad’s greatest hero, him and Johnny U. I doubt Jimmy Dutton turned over in his grave, but he definitely noticed. I never saw Williams play, but he’s the reason I’m a Boston fan in baseball. My dad handed him down to me, and I adopted his successor, Carl Yastrzemski, in left field.

The Colts left Baltimore, and Unitas died too young, but Fenway Park is still a constant, better than ever. Yaz was even in the TV booth for an inning not too long ago.

(Photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)
(Photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

Le Mans. I’ve never been within an ocean of the race, but I have a story that relates to it. The late Chris Economaki was the greatest all-around authority on auto racing I’ve ever known. I don’t think Chris would make a strenuous objection to the notion that he was not without an ego.

One day in Daytona Beach, Ken Willis, the irreverent and wisecracking scribe of the local daily there, and I were trading irreverences, when, all of a sudden, he asked me if I knew what year Fireball Roberts ran the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I said that I thought maybe it was 1962 but pointed to Economaki and said, “Ask Chris. He’ll know.”

Willis said, “Hey, Chris, what year did Fireball run Le Mans?” Willis pronounced it with the “s” on the end.

Apparently, Chris didn’t know the answer, which he could not possibly admit, so he stood up out of his chair, said, very loudly, “It’s le-MAH!” and walked swiftly out of the room.

Miraculously, by the way, 1962 was indeed the year Daytona Beach’s own Fireball Roberts competed at Le Mans.

Sam Hornish Jr. and son celebrate in Iowa. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Sam Hornish Jr. and son celebrate in Iowa. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

I miss Chris. He watched me play music twice in the Poconos, offering his acerbic reviews between songs.

Anyway, a Toyota dominated the race and broke down with three minutes remaining. It was sort of the most dramatic ending since the one Hollywood and Steve McQueen staged 46 years ago for the movie Le Mans. Porsche won. The new Ford GT won its class. Most of my time watching the race was spent in reverie, fascinated at the spectacle of all those magnificent machines roaring around and occasionally sending up roostertails that had nothing to do with Chanticleers or Christmas.

A substitute teacher won the Xfinity Series race in Iowa, where, of course, if you build it, they will come. Okay. Sam Hornish Jr. is also an Indianapolis 500 winner, but his NASCAR career never hit the heights and eventually tumbled into the skids, and winning the race might not really make much difference at this point in his career, other than being laudable and, as people always say when they’re trying to get you to do something, “it looks good on your resume.” Sam Hornish and I have approximately the same need for a resume at this stage in our lives.

So, yeah, I’m glad he won.

William Byron stands atop the NASCAR Truck world. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
William Byron stands atop the NASCAR Truck world. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

On Friday night, I also watched the Trucks race at the Track of Dreams. In summary, this kid William Byron is really something. He’s the hottest Roman candle out there below the high-dollar fireworks of the Sprint Cup Series.

The poor Atlanta Braves. They swept the New York Mets on a weekend when I didn’t even notice.

What do I do for an encore? Oh, work on some fiction. Go see some high school players pitching and catching. Catch a little Legion ball.

Write these.

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

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton.

Most of my books are available here.

Fox Left Me Thumbstruck

This isn't Le Mans, but how else am I going to use this photo? (Richard Prince photo for Chevy Racing)
This isn’t Le Mans, but how else am I going to use this photo? (Richard Prince photo for Chevy Racing)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, June 19, 2016, 10:44 a.m.

Like all users of social media, I am the unfortunate repository of great deposits of useless information. Recently I stumbled upon a story noting that the intensity of the grip of young people has declined 30 percent over the past 30 years.

This, of course, would explain the rash of baseball bats flying into grandstands in recent years. I thought it somehow must be the gloves. I thought maybe The Big Guy mistakenly put on his sliding gloves instead of his batting gloves or his driving gloves or his riding gloves.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m sure my hands have weakened — of course, I’m a Dustin Johnson drive past being young anywhere but at heart, and my doctor might quibble with that if I made the mistake of asking him — but I’m satisfied my fingers are in the pink. They got a workout on Saturday and not just at this keyboard.

I had a classic First World problem. Fox Sports turned me into an easy-chair Sherlock Holmes.

The United States Open golf tournament, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and various NASCAR activities in Iowa moved around the Fox family of channels like military families. The program guide didn’t help. Thursday’s rain delay of the Open in Pennsylvania caused dominoes to fall around the globe in general and my living room in particular.

The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977.  (Thomas Pope photo)
The Silver Fox, David Pearson, circa 1977. (Thomas Pope photo)

Fox. Fox Sports 1. Fox Sports 2. Fox Business. Michael J. Fox. John Fox. Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. David Pearson, the Silver Fox. Little Foxes. Foxy Brown.

It’s still going on. I just looked up and poker was on Fox Sports 1. Back to Fox network. Eureka! I have found the golf! I feel like Meriwether Lewis. Or Old Tom Morris.

Just to let you know I’ve done my research here, let the record note that Foxy Brown is both a 1974 film and a rapper. She may be hosting the NHRA later if it rains at Oakmont.

Imagine if the remote control had never been invented. Imagine if I had to keep getting up and down, changing the channel.

Of course, it defies belief that the great scientists who took off enough time away from making laundry detergents perpetually “new and improved” to invent cable, satellite, high-def, cool names for prescription medications, and some advances I skipped right over or never noticed, would never have invented the remote control.

The world would be simpler, and handshakes would be firmer.

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

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

I collected 11 short stories, each converted from a song I’ve written, and called it Longer Songs.

A pot-smoking songwriter becomes a national hero, and it’s nothing but trouble in The Audacity of Dope.

The Intangibles is set in the South during the 1960s and is about civil rights, bigotry and high school football.

Most all my books can be found here.

Signed copies of Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, and Longer Songs are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton, S.C.

Rainy Days and Open Dates

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 16, 2016, 10:29 a.m.

The United States Open is on Fox Sports 1. Most of the time, NASCAR is on Fox Sports 1, for a few more weeks, anyway. I believe there are other sports there: soccer, for sure, and whatever that form of fighting is where they can kick as well as box. I don’t usually watch that channel except when there’s racing on.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

But I’m watching golf today, or, at least, the channel is on. I’m sort of half watching while I write this. It’s raining. Joe Buck is promising to let me know exactly how long the delay has been when “the first golfer puts a ball in play.” Bated is my breath.

It rains a lot on Fox Sports 1. As far as I know, that seldom happens with that kind of no-holds-barred fighting. From my self-censored view, it seems like the channel should be Fox Sports & Rain 1. I have a skewed view of the true essence of the channel.

I’d have to say golf does a better job than NASCAR with rain delays. Sure, an attractive, curvaceous woman just spent a couple minutes on what the golfers are tweeting. Fox, in general, puts a lot of beautiful women on TV. It seems that women who bear no similarity to Jessica Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) have little chance for employment at Fox.

It’s probably just a coincidence.

Imagine Michael Waltrip at The Open Championship. I bet he’d give it a try.

Drivers, start your Air Titans! (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Drivers, start your
Air Titans! (Getty Images for NASCAR)

All NASCAR has over golf on Fox Sports 1 is the Air Titan. Perhaps I’m prejudiced. Perhaps there are millions who enjoy endless discussions of special color schemes, and the valuable collectibles based on them, and replays of the same race a year earlier shown so that maybe, just maybe, some fans will linger a while until they figure out the race they’re watching is not live and in person. One tipoff is when Jeff Gordon, seconds earlier wearing a suit and tie, takes the lead.

Paul Azinger just said the rough is very penal. I expect most watching golf nod obligingly. NASCAR fans would be snickering. It’s penal. Not penile. Not a very apt use of either one, by the way.

Now they’re getting ready to play again. Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are chatting amiably at the tee box. Jordan Spieth is chuckling alone. Andrew Landry is three under through 11. As best I can tell from Wikipedia, he is unrelated to Tom, though he is from Nederland, Texas.

Landry, who is undoubtedly related to someone, just moved two shots free of the field on No. 12. Bryson James Aldrich DeChambeau, who may have the best golfer’s name ever bestowed in Modesto, California, is getting lots of air time in his scarlet attire. With the bright Gatsby cap, he reminds me of the late Payne Stewart, though conspicuously sans the knickers.

Is Sunday Father’s Day? It is. It’s a fine weekend for a major golf championship. Father’s Day tends to miss me as I neither am one or have one. NASCAR racing used to keep my mind off it. For some reason, the stock cars are taking this one off, that is, except for Truck and Xfinity races in Iowa.

Golf almost doesn’t exist for me except in the major championships, for which I cultivate strong interest. Hockey’s that way, too. I love the playoffs but seldom watch regular-season games for more than a few minutes at a stretch. Maybe it’s a consequence of age. Maybe it’s a consequence of having things to do. I must limit my indulgences.

I used to play golf, though seldom well. Every golfer occasionally plays well, as in, oh, one shot in three. The worst shot at Oakmont will be similar to many of mine. Maybe that’s why I like the major championships. I can relate.

I gave up playing golf when I took up playing guitar. I don’t play it well, either, but only rarely do I strum and miss.

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

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

I collected 11 short stories, each converted from a song I’ve written, and called it Longer Songs.

A pot-smoking songwriter becomes a national hero, and it’s nothing but trouble in The Audacity of Dope.

The Intangibles is set in the South during the 1960s and is about civil rights, bigotry and high school football.

Most all my books can be found here.

Signed copies of Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, and Longer Songs are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton, S.C.

 

A Loss of Character … and Characters

(Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
(Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 19, 2015, 12:55 a.m.

One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy covering NASCAR as much in the final few seasons I was traveling with the circus was that it became so formal. More and more, it was journalism by media conference, and it became harder and harder to have personal interactions with the drivers.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

My best memories were always personal moments: a talk with Jeff Gordon between the rows of haulers in Fontana, dozens of conversations with Tony Stewart, sharing a golf cart with Jimmie Johnson at an outing near Talladega, and many other scenes when the handlers weren’t hovering nearby.

I didn’t see the end of this morning’s Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland. I had just finished visiting my mother and heard John Hunter Nemechek’s victory-lane interview. It made me recall the time I bumped into him and his father at a casino buffet in Las Vegas. I don’t know what year it was, but John Hunter was just a kid, no more than 10 years old or so. Joe was then in his prime as a Cup — it was probably still Winston at the time — driver, and there was some tension between us whose origin I don’t recall. Either he and I had had some minor disagreement in some interview, or maybe it was something I had written, but we sort of eyed each other warily.

Anyway, we had some little conversation that broke the ice. That was always the best way to smooth relations, and Joe introduced me to his son and we wound up eating together, and we parted, not as friends but as friendly.

The reason it’s always John Hunter, not John, Nemechek, is that the driver who won Saturday morning’s race is named after his late uncle, who was killed in a Truck race at what was then Homestead Motorsports Complex. John Nemechek’s death is the chief reason the track was reconfigured. Homestead opened as a scaled-down version of Indianapolis, flat with four distinct turns. The trouble was that a 1.5-mile version of 2.5-mile Indy resulted in transitions that proved dangerous, and those turns were rounded, and banking was increased, to correct the problems that contributed to John Nemechek’s death.

Just hearing the kid’s voice made me recall that long-ago meal at the casino buffet.

Jeff Gordon(HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon(HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Johnson was still a Busch Series (pre-Nationwide and Xfinity) driver when we played golf together. We were getting ready to hit shots when this fellow who was about my size and considerably drunker appeared in the fairway looking for his ball.

“What y’all boys doing tomorrow evening?” the fellow asked.

“Qualifying,” said Johnson.

Jimmie Johnson  (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)
Jimmie Johnson (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

This did not dissuade the fellow, who was wobbling a bit as he pondered his shot back across a row of trees into the appropriate fairway.

“Wull, when ye get th’ough, come on over to them Lincoln Grandstands,” the man said. “Me and the boy’s’ll be getting druuuuunk.”

“Count on it,” I said, intending to do no such thing but not wanting to make the fellow mad.

Johnson and I were having a few beers, too, but we weren’t in this fellow’s league.

In the early years — I started writing about NASCAR full-time in 1993 — golf tournaments involving media, drivers and friends of drivers were common. The courses started getting nicer. The players started getting richer, and the media started getting excluded, and the same process started applying to interactions between media and drivers. We went from being friends of the sport to being necessary nemeses.

My stories started losing character because they had less characters in them. The same became true of the media itself. When I got asked out to dinner with a driver, my goal was impressions. I wanted to make an impression on them and gain an impression of them. It used to tick me off when my colleagues turned these social functions into “media availabilities” and then when the handlers started setting them up that way.

I’m sure some of them started saying, “look at that Dutton. He’s not even taking notes” and “let’s not invite him next year.”

Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)
Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)

The reason Stewart and I almost always got along was that the first time I met him was over spaghetti at an Italian restaurant in Dover, Delaware. Let’s just say we both appreciated the other’s sense of humor.

The conversation with Gordon was over the fact that I was writing a book about him that his “people” hadn’t approved, and I wanted him to know that and not through the filter of his “people.” Hendrick Motorsports has lots of “people.” As a general rule, they are buttoned down people.

I told him I didn’t write “official” books.

Not as many smiles these days. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)
Not as many smiles these days. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)

“I’ve got no desire to depict you as anyone other than the extraordinary talent and person I consider you to be,” I said, “but I guarantee if you or those around you have the right to approve every word, there will be a few of them who say this or that has to come out, and this or that will be the most interesting and entertaining part of the whole book, and the book won’t be any good, and it won’t sell, and I won’t be proud of having written it.”

Gordon said he understood, and the two of us left knowing how each other stood.

Nowadays, I just watch them on TV and read transcripts, but it doesn’t matter all that much because it would be mainly the same way if I was there and didn’t have a camera crew trailing me.

That took lots of the fun out of it from my perspective, and it’s all I can come up with when I think about the unexpected surprise that I don’t much miss being there anymore. The Chase opener will be the 99th consecutive race I haven’t attended.

It’s the kind of streak that doesn’t make it into record books.

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

I’m happy. I’d be happier if you’d help me make ends meet by buying these novels I write nowadays. There’s only a smattering of racing in them, but there are some good characters. Take a look. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

St. Andrews, Loudon, and the Clemson Spieths

Perhaps I could use some reflection. (Monte Dutton photo)
Perhaps I could use some reflection. (Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 16, 2015, 9:15 a.m.

No, I didn’t get up at 4 a.m. to watch the British Open, though I left the TV on when I went to sleep so that, at some point, I’d roll over, peer at the screen, mutter, “I’ll be dogged,” and go back to sleep.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I started watching it at 7, though. At the time, Jordan Spieth was tied for the lead, Tiger Woods was grimacing, at which he remains world class, and it occurred to me that, while there is no logical NASCAR match to The Open Championship or any other championship, except its own, New Hampshire Motor Speedway is as close as it gets.

St. Andrews is in the northeast of Great Britain, a little over halfway up the coast of Scotland, and Loudon is in the northeast of the United States. The Old Course is quaint, and, in its way, so is the track.

Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)
Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)

The 1970 Open at St. Andrews, won by Jack Nicklaus over Doug Sanders, was the biggest reason I started playing golf. Guitar was the reason I stopped. When I was a kid, I used to pretend I was playing in the British Open, mainly because I usually played at little more than a cow pasture known as the Rolling S. (The last time I was there, the Rolling S had been greatly enhanced, almost to the point where it didn’t even remind me of St. Andrews, or Carnoustie, or Troon, and it’s located many miles from the ocean, though it does have several ponds.)

Watching Tiger Woods languishing made me think that Dabo Swinney missed the perfect opportunity to declare his team the Clemson Spieths. Coach Swinney hosted his annual media golf tournament on Wednesday. Of course, I wasn’t there, but I saw it on the 11 o’clock news, or, rather, the sports, which comes on right before Jimmy Fallon.

My mind has been as distant from sports as it ever gets, probably because (a.) the New York Yankees took two out of three from the Boston Red Sox, whom I prefer, before the All-Star Break; (b.) I watched a movie instead of the Home Run Derby; (c.) I watched two PBS documentaries instead of the All-Star Game; (d.) my new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, will be released next Tuesday; and (e.) I’ve been polishing up my next novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, just to have it ready at the opportune time.

Fluor FIeld, Greenville, South Carolina.(Monte Dutton photo)
Fluor FIeld, Greenville, South Carolina.(Monte Dutton photo)

Facebook reminded me this morning that my most recent, and possibly last, visit to Fenway Park was three years ago tonight. The Red Sox won that game in spite of the fact that Bobby Valentine managed it. In the interim, I’ve been to one other major league game, about a dozen of the minor variety, and many involving collegians, mostly the ones wearing blue hose at Presbyterian College.

Hence the moniker Blue Hose.

Adam Scott just took his first official swing of The Open Championship. The graphics on screen predictably listed him at “even.”

Tiger Woods is way back, but, on the other hand, Paul Azinger just said that Dustin Johnson “plays like a panther.”

Then again, it’s only Thursday.

 

Before the release date, July 21, you can purchase Crazy of Natural Causes at the low, low advance price of $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

Most of my books, fiction and non, can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

The School of Hard Knocks (and Cold Beers)

Texas Motor Speedway. (Monte Dutton)
Texas Motor Speedway. (Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, April 11, 2015, 11:51 a.m.

Years ago, I used to say that I didn’t like sports as much as I liked sports writing. Furthermore, I liked “being a sports writer.”

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Back in those days, my favorite people were other sports writers. I liked the irreverent atmosphere of press row. I liked going out to dinner and telling stories we’d all heard a hundred times before, but they were so good, they still made us laugh.

“Tell that story about you and old Fred coming home from Middle Tennessee State, Tom.”

Ten, fifteen years ago, it was still a job worth doing. We spent eight to twelve hours at the track, and then we’d find other ways to spend the remainder of earth’s daily rotation. We might play golf. We might go to ballgames. We might go watch live music somewhere.

Bruce Robison at the Aardvark in Fort Worth in 2010. (Monte Dutton photo)
Bruce Robison at the Aardvark in Fort Worth in 2010. (Monte Dutton photo)

I always watched live music somewhere in Texas. One year, the night before the race, I went to a little dive in Denton to see Dale Watson or Max Stalling, and if there’s one thing in Texas you can’t depend on, it’s the time a headliner hits the stage. Eight often becomes eleven. I didn’t get out of there till two in the morning, and traffic was way worse back then than it is now, principally because crowds were way larger, and the worst traffic in NASCAR was outside Texas Motor Speedway because everything is bigger in Texas, and there’s also “a little bit of everythang” there.

The late Neal Sims was famous in the ranks for his ability to miss the traffic. He always said you could wait until right before the green flag and “drive right in.” I think it helped that Neal looked almost exactly like Mark Twain, though I can’t really say why that made a difference. What most people identified as the Singing of the National Anthem, we in the press box called the Arrival of Neal Sims. He’d walk in to a smattering of applause – I reckon we could cheer for each other, just not partisan interests – and say, “Yep. Drove right in.”

Traffic is also a problem on the actual track. It's much faster, though.  (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
Traffic is also a problem on the actual track. It’s much faster, though. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

On race morning, I awakened a bit the worse for wear and decided it was time to give the Neal Sims Strategy a try. Texas was not the place for a debut run. Compared to Neal, I was a novice, a track champion from Smoky Mountain Raceway who had been miraculously given a shot with the Wood Brothers.

Sometimes, as here at Captain Chuck's in Michigan, I went to play music myself.
Sometimes, as here at Captain Chuck’s in Michigan, I went to play music myself.

I heard the national anthem. It was on the radio. The track was barely in sight. When I walked into the press box, the leader was on lap 38. It was the only time in twenty years of regular service that I failed to see the start of a Cup race, or, maybe, there was that time at Rockingham when nature called. I’m not sure.

Neal and I walked into the lobby at the bottom of the main tower at the same time.

“First time I ever got burned,” he said.

“First time I ever tried,” I replied.

That’s the way a man learned life’s lessons back “in them days,” as Matt Kenseth might say.

The above is true. Stuff I make up is located at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and my books, true and not, are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1415634579&sr=1-1

 

All the Dyed Easter Eggs of Sport

It's a little easier to compare Fenway Park now to Fenway Park then, but some things are timeless. (Monte Dutton)
It’s a little easier to compare Fenway Park now to Fenway Park then, but some things are timeless. (Monte Dutton)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, April 5, 2015, 9:32 a.m.

Happy Easter. May you ponder its significance, and may it mean more to you than dyed eggs and chocolate bunny rabbits. Don’t feel guilty about it, though, for kids like dyed eggs and chocolate rabbits. Christ is risen, and, coincidentally, here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail.

So many Easter Bunnies in the world of sports.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The present is glorified to the detriment of the past, and, ultimately, it’s because there isn’t much money to be made from the past.

Kentucky lost last night in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, falling two shy of the first 40-victory season. To be fair, it should be acknowledged that, for most of college basketball history, no one had a chance to win 40 games because a season wasn’t that long. Kentucky was 38-2 in 2012, 38-1 this year, the Wildcats that lost two won the national championship.

Indiana only had a chance to be 32-0 in 1976. North Carolina was 32-0 in 1957. San Francisco was 29-0 in 1956. UCLA went 30-0 in 1964, ’67, ’72, and ’73.

One cannot hold it against a school that it won as many games as it was allowed to play. The seasons get longer, but one cannot improve upon perfection.

When Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, it was a percentage that hasn’t been equaled since. No one in college basketball has equaled 1.000 since 1976, and 1.000 cannot be exceeded, no matter how many times an athlete says he’s giving 110 percent.

Post-season home runs? The entire post-season in baseball consisted of the World Series until 1969. Mickey Mantle hit 18 home runs in the Series. That’s the pertinent record.

Would Clayton Kershaw overpower Babe Ruth?  (Monte Dutton sketch)
Would Clayton Kershaw overpower Babe Ruth? (Monte Dutton sketch)

Underneath this façade of hype, somehow it has become acceptable to defend the superiority of the present by citing the level of play. Athletes are better. Everything is bigger. Conditions have changed. Babe Ruth couldn’t touch Clayton Kershaw, or whoever the current pitching Flavor of the Month is.

That isn’t legitimate, either. An athlete can do no better than to dominate his era.

The football players of the 1960s weren’t as large. Or as fast. Well, guess what, if Jerry Kramer came along now, he’d have had the advantage of all that we know now that we didn’t then. He’d be larger. He’d be faster. He’d have the advantage of all the training techniques. So would Johnny Unitas. So would Wilt Chamberlain. So would Bobby Orr.

Petty Blue forever.
Petty Blue forever.

If Richard Petty was 22 again, now, and strapped himself into one of the Power Generics that pass for stock cars nowadays, he’d figure out how to get it around the track fast. He’d be more comfortable, too. Back in his day, winning drivers climbed out of their cars looking exhausted. Perhaps it was because a few climbed in looking hung over.

I get tired of this “but, uuhhh, back in Petty’s day, he used to lap the whole field.” Look into this a little more, bud. If not for free passes, wave-arounds, and hot-dog-wrapper cautions, drivers would lap the field now. NASCAR is highly competitive, but it’s not as much different from the old days as hype-aholics would have one believe. Engines and tires weren’t as reliable. More fell by the wayside. At the beginning of the races, particularly the big ones, there were lots of drivers in the lineup who had a shot.

Another fake measure is money. Most of it’s counterfeit. Today athletes make more in a game, or a match, or a tournament, or a contest, than many greats earned in their careers. Easter is probably the last day we should claim that money really means anything, but, for God’s sake (literally), if one must cite money, at least allow for inflation.

It’s not just sports, of course. Don’t tell me how much bigger than Gone with the Wind the latest box-office smash is until you charge everyone a nickel to get in.

I’m satisfied most readers of this blog will nod a couple of times while reading it, then go back to hinting darkly that Rory McIlroy is better than Arnold Palmer ever thought about being. At the very least, check back with me in 15 years. Let a career run its course, and try to compare mashies with mashies and not niblicks with spoons. Meanwhile, read my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com and then visit here and buy a novel or two: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Let’s See How Harvick Putts

Kevin Harvick is the reigning champion. The confetti keeps right on flying. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick is the reigning champion (Homestead, 2014). The confetti keeps right on flying. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 16, 2015, 9:37 a.m.

Kevin Harvick has lots of fans, and they’re happy today, as they’ve been happy for quite a while, and they’ve always liked that word. Their favorite driver has won twice this year, four times in the space of seven races dating back to 2014, and in the other three races, he’s finished second.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s so hard to digest, Harvick’s accomplishments are comparable to a mouth full of peanut butter.

In the current young season, Harvick’s average finish is a nice, quaint 1.5. The co-owner of his team, Tony Stewart, has a big, fat 36.0. Another teammate, Kurt Busch, has more points in one race (39) than the boss (32) in four.

Then there’s Danica Patrick.

Kevin Harvick and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, are dominating the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Stewart-Haas Racing is not.

Let’s forget whether you’re a fan of Harvick or not. It matters not where your sentiments lie, whether you’re a card-carrying citizen of Junior Nation or you live in a shack near the blinking caution light of Gilliland Gulch. Let’s just assume you’re in favor of tight, competitive racing and duels for the lead that go on for lap after lap.

Also, nice, long walks on the beach at sunrise.

A sense of deja vu must be familiar to the great Richard Petty. (John Clark photo)
A sense of deja vu must be familiar to the great Richard Petty. (John Clark photo)

It could be worse. Harvick’s finished first or second in seven consecutive races. Big deal. It’s been done before. Just 40 years ago, and Richard Petty, when he had his big, bad seven straight, heck, when the year was over, all he had to show for it was 13 victories.

And a championship.

Compared to the past, the significance of Harvick’s valiant early exploits, in terms of the hallowed Sprint Cup Trophy that will soon have another name, is minuscule. It’s said that golfers drive for show and putt for dough. (And, as Kurt Busch once said, everybody knows that NASCAR is just like golf.)

Yes, Harvick is pulling in his share, but the real dough is in the championship, and, by that standard, Harvick isn’t going to reach the green until September, and the putt that matters won’t be struck till Thanksgiving is nigh.

It just doesn’t matter … much.

Harvick's going to wear that right arm out with all those fist pumps. (HHP Photo for Chevy Racing)
Harvick’s going to wear that right arm out with all those fist pumps. (HHP Photo for Chevy Racing)

Harvick could finish first or second in the first 26 races of the season, and a week later, he’d still have 15 other drivers, fortified by The Truly Great Wave-Around Also Known as The Chase. He can finish first or second nine more weeks in a row, and when it all ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he’s still going to have three other drivers dead even with him.

Resistance to the Chase is futile.

By the way, not even Harvick, the Sultan of Swagger, can maintain his current pace. This year he strode out onto the first tee flashing a “wood” made of rare metals and space-age polymers, and he’s hitting it so straight and true that the rest of the boys (and somewhere back there, a girl) are getting a little restless, but they all have the same wishful thought.

Let’s see how Harvick putts.

Last year he putted right well.

For more thought-provoking insight on the most recent race, you may find my latest Bleacher Report column instructive, or, of course, maybe not. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2398034-kevin-harvicks-early-nascar-domination-wont-do-him-much-good-come-chase-time

Take a look at my books (and, preferably, buy at least one) here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Customized Entry to the Chase

At the Glen, it's Marcos the Magnificent. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
At the Glen, it’s Marcos the Magnificent. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 9, 2014, 2:26 p.m.

Watkins Glen International is often a course of opportunity. Now, though, the Chase is less choosy. It’s charitable, and for Marcos Ambrose, Tony Stewart, A.J. Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, and others, the Glen is a beacon, potentially leading one of them in through a season drenched in fog.

Ambrose, 37, won there two of the past three years and, at the Sprint Cup level, nowhere else. Stewart, 43, was won more races on this road course (five) than anyone else. Stewart could win anywhere. In the most recent (2011) of his three championship seasons, Stewart went winless in the regular season, then won half of the 10 races in the Chase. As it turns out, in a year in which the Chase has grown charitable, Stewart cannot afford the same luxury because he needs to win a regular-season race.

3:33 p.m.

Switching back and forth between the Nationwide race and the PGA Championship: How many people watch golf who have never played it? How many watch NASCAR who have never driven a car?

Some would declare this an improper analogy, but when I played golf (I gave it up for a guitar), it was no closer to the game professionals play than a trip to the Family Dollar is to winning the Daytona 500.

I was much better in both golf and racing on video.

Once upon a time, Jeff Gordon dominated road courses. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Once upon a time, Jeff Gordon dominated road courses. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

4:12 p.m.

This is a tough day to watch TV. I’m enjoying both golf and racing, which is similar to switching back and forth between 24 and How I Met Your Mother. About a half hour ago, I watched Jason Day hit his tee shot across a river, wade through it, rummage around with David Feherty, intrepid TV guy, looking for it, and then save par. This was sort of like MRN’s Dave Moody running down through the grandstands to wrap duct tape around the quarterpanel of Casey Mears’ crumpled Impala.

Of course, NASCAR would never stand for it.

5:00 p.m.

In many Nationwide Series races, Kyle Busch is money in the bank. That’s Ambrose at the Glen.

There’s been talk of Ambrose going home to Australia and running V-8 SuperCars. If I had the wherewithal, I’d just let him cherry-pick road races all over the world: NASCAR, touring cars, SuperCars, riding lawn mowers, barstools, whatever.

The King called Ambrose “un-flippin’-real.” Richard Petty doesn’t use F-words often.

Thanks for reading my stuff. I’d love it if you’d give my novels (The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope) a read, or perhaps you’d like the short stories posted at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com.

Or perhaps not.