Off to See the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Bowls

(Monte Dutton sketches)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, December 26, 2016, 11:32 a.m.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Only in America can two college football teams, one with a record of 6-6 and the other 5-7, lead fans hundreds of miles to play a game in an indoor baseball stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida.

By Monte Dutton

Not all of them go. They’re the ones whose ears can process the frequency of dog whistles.

These are vastly different teams I’m half watching. Mississippi State, a weakling of the Southeastern Conference, against Miami of Ohio, a mediocrity of the Mid-American. The last time a football game matched this level of intensity and anticipation, it was a Wednesday night in Muncie on ESPN2.

I’m just watching to see if the winning coach gets doused in Gatorade by his players. If I were a coach, and if a minor bowl victory enabled my team to climb within a game of .500, I’d douse them.

In lukewarm vegetable oil.

It’s just noise. Background noise. Mississippi State just recovered a fumble. I’ll alert a tiny portion of the media with this blog.

I so hope the winning coach gets carried off the field on the shoulders of his players. He’s been holding them up all year.

At the end of this magnificent spectacle, ESPN will segue to a tantalizing tussle between the equally 6-6 teams of Maryland and Boston College. In their respective conferences, these two powerhouses combined to win five and lose 12. The two teams are vacationing fittingly in Detroit.

My favorite game is at 5, and it’s on ESPN2. That’s Vanderbilt versus North Carolina State in Shreveport, Louisiana, a gambling capital of some renown. I’m pumped about the Commodores (yes, 6-6) because they are perhaps the only team playing today that could possibly be excited about being in Shreveport. As Charley Pride once sang:

One more stop down in Shreveport / On this tour of one-night stands / Got some time but no piece of mind / ‘Cause I’m back on the road again.

This song is Shreveport’s greatest hit. I spent a week there one night.

The next line is “tomorrow night I’m in Austin,” but I left that out because that’s one of few places where, this winter, no bowl is being played.

The Red Hawks are beating the Bulldogs, 9-0. Whoa, Nellie.

There’s a bottle of gin in the cabinet, but I’m going to resist temptation. I can’t speak for F. Scott Fitzgerald, but if I get drunk, knowing myself as I do, I’ll get no notable work done on this next novel. Besides, the Monday Night Football game, the one that necessitates the ‘Dores and Wolfpack being relegated to ESPN2, is potentially a good one. Detroit and Dallas. Pro-fessionals. Swimming pools. Movie stars.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Even a Dee-troit Lion.

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. Note that my third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is on Kindle sale at $.99 for the entire month. 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 the latest. It’s 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).

(Design by Steven Novak)
(Design by Steven Novak)

Love at First Bite

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 6:50 p.m.

Today, I voted, which was the simplest of tasks. I worked on a new short story (Part Two of “The Paved Road, posted at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com), which was quite a bit more difficult.

My World Cup pecking order: (1.) USA, (2.) other underdogs.
My World Cup pecking order: (1.) USA, (2.) other underdogs.

I watched the World Cup, or, more accurately, had it on while I was writing.

I’m about to watch a South Carolina ETV program called Making It Grow, not because there is something I want to grow but because someone I know is appearing on it.

I’m going to watch Game Two of the College World Series because Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin was a friend of mine twenty-five years ago and, though I can’t accurately claim to be friends now since I’ve seen him twice in the past decade, I still think a lot of him and try to keep up with the Commodores.

Then, there are the Boston Red Sox, who did me a great favor by getting clobbered last night in Seattle and enabling me to get a decent night’s sleep. I’ll watch them tonight, probably when the Vandy-Virginia game is over.

What's been setting at Fenway thus far is last year's World Series. Defense seems unlikely.
What’s been setting at Fenway thus far is last year’s World Series. Defense seems unlikely.

Today was no different than any other day in that I thought quite a bit about absurdity, principally the absurdity of sport. Many fans watch sports seriously, and I don’t see how they do it.

For instance, I watched a soccer player from Uruguay bite one from Italy. Luis Suarez, I hear, has done this before. Perhaps it’s a Uruguay thing. My thoughts are: (1.) it’s shocking, (2.) it’s funny; the Italian player, Giorgio Chiellini, wasn’t hurt, though Suarez did leave a mark (3.) it, of course, can’t be condoned, inasmuch as you can’t just have people biting each other, (4.) with all concern, and in deference to Twitter, I really don’t think a bite through a jersey on a shoulder qualifies as cannibalism, and (5.) I know someone who might have become a soccer star had she grown up in Uruguay because she once loved to bite people. She was two.

I thought about having Italian for supper because it just seemed like the thing to do, but, as usual, I went with the Tuesday night special at Fatz Café. On the way, I listened to part of the Greece-Ivory Coast (or Cote d’Ivoire) match on satellite radio, where the expert analyst sounded almost exactly like Ringo Starr.

“Uh, in the sickun hahf, ah expect Griss to fuhs the bull goalwuhd cuz it’s gittin frahntic, isn’t it now?”

Roundabout Trips and Uphill Battles

[cb_profit_poster Speak1]Clinton, S.C., Friday, August 30, 2013, 10:41 a.m.

It’s probably not a good omen that I’m writing this blog while “Return of the Pink Panther” is playing on television. Chief Inspector Dreyfuss’s eyelashes are wiggling involuntarily even as I, uh, write. Jacques Clouseau is wearing what appears to be a red velvet blazer, which now seems about as appropriate as wearing a red velvet pound cake. The movie was released in 1975. That Peter Sellers. What an actor.

Alex wil be calling the shots this weekend.
Alex wil be calling the shots this weekend.

It may also not be a good omen for tonight’s high school football game. Clinton is opening its season at Gaffney, which is not only one of South Carolina’s larger schools but the reigning state champion. I’m taking a circuitous route to Gaffney’s “Reservation” – its nickname is Indians – by first driving south to pick up 10-year-old Alex, who is either my great or grand nephew and it doesn’t really matter because he is both great and grand, in Columbia (OK, Cayce). I have no idea how one gets from Columbia to Gaffney, but I’m confident that Siri is omniscient.

And Alex likes talking to her on my iPhone.

The Red Devils are not only coming off a rough season. Gaffney is not only state champion. Clinton High is now the state’s smallest Class AAA school. Gaffney is about 2-1/2 times larger, though, thankfully, it can only use 11 of its students at a time.

My optimism is more guarded than usual. What Morris Udall once said about running for president seems appropriate for a team dubbed “Red Devils”: “We’ll fight till hell freezes over, then lay siege on the ice.”

Then again, Udall lost.

My hometown school and alma mater has won eight state championships over the years, the most recent four years ago. It’s time to bring back the tradition, but tonight I’ll be content with respectability. If a miracle happens, I’ll let you know.

10:54 a.m.

Al Pearce stopped by on the way to Atlanta. Al covers NASCAR for Autoweek and worked for the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press, as well, when I first started covering the sport for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Among the reasons we immediately became friends is the fact that Al graduated from Presbyterian College here in Clinton. He has been writing about NASCAR longer than most everyone still around. Not near enough of you are familiar with his work.

Usually Al and I have lunch, and he spends some time stopping by the old alma mater en route to races at Atlanta or Talladega. As usual, it was at Steamers, on the square, and it seemed as if about half the town stopped by to say hello. He bought lunch. I gave him a T-shirt.

The Blue Hose were in roughly the same boat last night as Clinton High is going to be sailing tonight. Presbyterian scored first but fell, 31-7, at Wake Forest, marking the closest it has ever come to an NCAA FBS school.

My alma mater, Furman, opens tomorrow at Gardner-Webb, and Alex and I might go. It’s his call. The Paladins are on television locally. If we watch it on TV, we can also watch Georgia-Clemson. Alex seems to like the Tigers, so I’ll let him do what he wants. Boiling Springs (N.C.) isn’t much farther away than Gaffney, so we’ll head back up the road if he says so.

11:06 a.m.

Last night was overkill right off the bat. I spent the evening switching from Carolina-Carolina (North at South, latter winning) to the Boston Red Sox (Orioles salvaged the third game at Fenway) to, uh, Utah State-Utah (Utes, i.e., the latter, won), Indiana State-Indiana (latter), UNLV-Minnesota (latter), Ole Miss-Vanderbilt (former) and Rutgers-Fresno State (former was winning when I finally went to bed well after 1 a.m., but latter won, I just discovered, 52-51).

I was (still am, actually) wearing a Vanderbilt shirt, thus sealing the Commodores’ fate.

By the way, I watched not one play of the Carolina Panthers’ exhibition victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. I just don’t care about pro football until it’s real, which means that, at the moment, I’m notably ignorant of what’s going on, but there’s plenty of time to catch up.

Tonight the White Sox are in Boston. Florida Atlanta is at Miami, Texas Tech at SMU and North Dakota State is at Kansas State. Western Michigan is at Michigan State and Central Michigan at Michigan. I’m sure there are others, some of which may not even be on TV.

Clinton High, Alex and I will be at Gaffney.

11:19 a.m.

Oh, Atlanta. Hear me calling. I’m coming back to you one fine day.

Bad Company, I believe.

I won’t be coming back to Atlanta (Motor Speedway) this year. I should be back from taking Alex home in plenty of time to watch NASCAR’s penultimate regular-season race on Sunday night.

For the first time in about 15 years, I didn’t check into the Best Western in Griffin, Ga. It was one of the special places at which I stayed over and over because I didn’t have to book the room online. I just checked out and made sure they knew I’d be back next time.

At last, I lied, but I called them to say sorry.

I won’t be enjoying the prime rib and strawberry shortcake at Manhattan’s. I won’t be spending an evening at my buddy Rick Minter’s farm. One year I met my nephew and watched Georgia Tech play Clemson at Bobby Dodd Stadium, which is one of my favorite college-football venues. Ray was at Clemson then. He later went on to grad school at Alabama. He and wife Jessica are expecting their first child at year’s end.

Oh, yeah. Ray actually has a job. Imagine that.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Any old nag can start, but it takes a thoroughbred to finish. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. This is the time of year when high-school kids muse about slogans on locker-room walls. That’s the origin of the title of my second novel, The Intangibles, which will be published in late October. If you’d like to order a signed copy of my first novel, The Audacity of Dope, see the instructions here at montedutton.com under “merchandise.” Oh, and thanks for your support.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]

Too Many ‘What the Hell’ Shots

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 11:14 a.m.

Last night was strangely unfulfilling.

It’s not that often that I get excited about basketball, but I had some interest in Game 7 of the Pacers and the Heat. Yet I didn’t wind up watching much of the game. It was obvious to me, even before the Heat surged ahead, that Miami was definitely going to win. It was inevitable, mainly because Indiana took too many “what the hell” shots.

What is a “what the hell” shot? It’s when a player looks for someone to pass to and then just thinks “what the hell” and launches one from outside.

Some of them go in, but it’s not a formula for long-term success. They pile up. And did.

What I mainly wound up doing was watching college baseball, which is a recurring theme, dating back to the Southern Conference Tournament in Greenville.

I don’t know if Vanderbilt is going to win the national championship, but what I do know is that the Commodores are an impressive team, as interesting to watch as any big-league team in its glory.

I have a bit of a conflict of interest here. Tim Corbin, Vandy’s head coach, led the Presbyterian College program two decades ago when I covered the Blue Hose. Also, Mike Yastrzemski, the grandson of my favorite ballplayer, plays for the Commodores.

Yes, my favorite ballplayer has a grandson in college.

If Vandy is sidetracked, it will be when the Commodores come up against a team, possibly Louisville, as slick as they are. Vandy is jarringly aggressive on the basepaths. Their undoing may come when they get burned a few times.

Regardless, it’s an impressive program that’s as smart as the school it represents.

You may recall that, a few days ago, I mentioned that I wish Tulane University was the Blacktop instead of the Green Wave.

A late game reminded me of another nickname I’d love to see.

Rice Krispies.

Word just arrived that an Anderson, S.C., man has been sent to the state mental hospital after he said he burned his own house down because it was full of witches.

Not guilty by reason of insanity.

Meanwhile, I wonder where the witches went. Perhaps to the state mental hospital.

There is no truth to the rumor that, before the Columbia regional, Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett quoted Patrick Henry by saying, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me Liberty or give me death!”

It didn’t work out so well for the Tigers.