It Could Be Worse, but It Could Be Better

Setzler Field Newberry College (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, April 1, 2018, 4:48 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

On Saturday morning, I left a couple small crises behind me as I drove down U.S. 76 to Newberry College, there to join my friends Brent and Sharon Sanders to watch their daughter, Hailey, play women’s lacrosse for Tusculum College against the Wolves.

This was my second women’s lacrosse game. In the visiting grandstands of Setzler Field, I felt a bit like Andy Griffith, who, early in his grand career, cut a record entitled “What It Was, Was Football.”

What It Was, Was Lacrosse.

The Pioneers won, 20-12. Hailey, a defender, scored one of the points and played, as best I could tell, a smashing game, or match, or, uh, round.

I wore the only orange shirt in my wardrobe. I hoped it would help me fit in.

From left, Brent, Hailey, Sharon, me. (Facebook)

Brent and I make good companions, particularly at football games, where we have similar amounts of sense. I didn’t take my camera. For a day, I wasn’t about that life. I didn’t take pictures. My picture was taken. I had my phone, the better to keep up with small crises from afar.

The photo of Setzler Field above this blog was one I took a while back when in the area. It hasn’t changed much since I played at it. That was in 1975. Only the turf has been changed to protect the innocent.

I like the drive to Newberry. There’s a flimsy fence stretched out in front of what used to be the post office in Kinards. I’m always tempted to stop at Wise’s B-B-Que, but instead I had a peanut butter shake from the Zesto near the stadium. I don’t have shakes often. I picked the right one.

What better way to return to normality on my return to the Pleasantville limits than to go to Dollar Tree, where I felt like I had won the lottery by finding a new carabiner clip for my phone holster. The one from the factory had broken somewhere between Clinton and Newberry.

(Steven Novak cover)

The coming week holds promise. I’ve got a lot to do but should have a lot of time. It’s Spring Break in the local high schools, so the typical crowded sports schedule is nonexistent. By the time the ballgames resume, it will be warm and pleasant, and the rest of the spring should be mainly a matter of avoiding thunderstorms.

(Steven Novak cover)

The new novel, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, has been accepted for publication, and, amazing me as it always does, is already available in paperback at Amazon. The Kindle version will be available in a few days. Also fresh on the market is the brand-new audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes) release of Lightning in a Bottle, brilliantly narrated by Jay Harper. Jay is on board to narrate the second Barrie Jarman Adventure, Life Gets Complicated, but there’s no hurry on that. Maybe the stock car racing stretch drive in the fall.

Fenway Park, 2007. (Monte Dutton photo)

Baseball is underway, and it’s so far, so good for the Boston Red Sox, whom I worship. The pitch was great, the hitting unspectacular, but the Sox managed to win three out of four in St. Petersburg, losing the season opener 6-4 when erratic fireballer Joe Kelly squandered a 4-0 lead. Boston then edged the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0, 3-2 and 2-1. Now it’s two games in Miami before the Fenway opener on Thursday, once again, against the Rays.

Kelly, by the way, managed to earn a save in the series finale, though he allowed two two-out hits before striking out Denard Span to end the game.

I just started a novel on baseball. I hope to get out to some minor-league games, in addition to the several high school games I see every week. I’ll be looking for items that will provide inspiration for the book.

It’s spring break at the high schools this week. I’m going to try to catch North Carolina A&T at Presbyterian on Wednesday. The Blue Hose, Clinton, Laurens and Laurens Academy all have losing records thus far. Three of them didn’t last year.

But … it’s still, uh, relatively early.

(Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

Advertisements

A Cold Pastime So Far

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 8, 2018, 1:41 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’ve written about my first two baseball games of the spring. The home team won both. Both were in dramatic fashion. Both had runners cut down on the basepaths with disastrous consequences. One was a bit of a long shot, and the other was damned near a miracle.

One is here, and one is here.

Already, I’m weary of being cold. I’ve had enough of overcoats. I’m ready to put squishy playing surfaces and cold feet behind.

I’ve gotten accustomed to the scorebook I bought on the way to the Shannon Forest-Laurens Academy game. I keep forgetting to take my binoculars. My mind wanders a bit as I try to remember a major-league player who wore the numbers of every player on the field. I quibble about the occasional scoring decision and resolve to put it in the book my way. I tell stories that make everyone nearby realize how old I am.

Both local teams about which I regularly write have new coaches, Luke Tollison at Laurens Academy and Tom Fortman at Clinton. I’d never met Tollison until Tuesday’s game, but I wrote a profile of Fortman when he took the Clinton job. I enjoyed talking with them after the games.

Shannon Forest and Laurens Academy are both Crusaders. Crusaders are popular among the private schools. I saw a Crusaders-Crusaders basketball game a couple weeks ago.

Both Belton-Honea Path and Clinton wore gray uniforms on the Red Devil diamond Wednesday night. It wasn’t confusing because the visiting Bears wore dark, steel gray.

I was pleased Shannon Forest wore green. Names should have a reason. I think a Riverside ought to be next to a river, a Hillcrest at the crest of a hill, and a Palmetto at a place where it ought to be possible to grow them. Here in town, a school that was once on Bell Street burned to the ground over half a century ago, and a new school was built that wasn’t on Bell Street, but the school remained Bell Street.

What was I writing about again? Oh, yeah. Baseball.

Wil Tindall seems to play the entire infield for Laurens Academy. He was one of two players — Clinton’s Caleb Riddle was the other — who began a play by making an error and ended it with an alert defensive move.

At one time in Wednesday night’s game, Clinton (3-2) was leading, 3-0, in spite of walking 12 B-HP batters. The Red Devils held on, 3-2, in spite of 13 free passes and a like number of stranded Bear runners.

So often I finish watching a baseball game and mutter to myself, “Damdest game I’ve ever seen.”

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

Lady Crusaders Find a Holy Land

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, February 25, 2018, 11:17 a.m.

Ruthie Moore

For twenty years, while I was writing about NASCAR, I didn’t see a lot of women’s basketball. Many times, people said to me, “You’d be amazed at how much better it is,” and I’d say, “Well, probably so,” without much commitment to delving into the matter.

Now I know how much better it is.

At last, this year, I got to know the girls’ team — for some silly reason related to age, in high school, they are girls, and in college and pro, they are women — at Laurens Academy, culminating in the private school’s first state championship in the sport. In a span of eight days, I also got to know Sumter, its civic center, and Wilson Hall Academy, but I really know the way to and from.

By Monte Dutton

I also got to know girls’ basketball.

A senior point guard named Taylor Campbell is as dedicated as Stephen Curry. On Saturday, playing with four fouls and busily wrapping up a Class A, South Carolina Independent Schools Association (SCISA), championship with a 48-34 victory over Patrick Henry Academy, Campbell seemed as if her head was equipped with a metronome. A nearby referee was counting diligently, waving her right hand, then pausing as Campbell penetrated around her foe, often dribbling in a circle back out near midcourt.

Taylor Campbell

One, one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four … okay … one, one thousand, two, one thousand, three one thousand, four … and so on.

Campbell was unerring. The pursuing Lady Patriots would have to foul her. She made five out of six free throws in the final two minutes. The Lady Crusaders — somehow, in basketball, both girls and women are ladies — pulled farther and farther ahead.

A junior guard named Ruthie Moore is as tough as Campbell and almost as polished. She is a slight girl, and she plays all over the court, often being shoved and pushed by opponents without as many coats of polish. I marvel at how many times she seems to be at the point of exhaustion but never gets exhausted.

Florence Mitchell

This year I have seen several teams more talented than Laurens Academy. None was more cohesive and determined. Jason Marlett has coached them so well that he doesn’t have to coach them much. Campbell and Moore are merely the best players. They all know what they can do, when is the time to do it, and how it can be done.

In the state tournament, Laurens Academy (31-1) won by scores of 50-13, 53-17, 33-21, and, as noted, 48-34. The only loss was to a large public school, Fort Mill, long, long ago in a faraway place, or something like that.

Next year Campbell will play at Newberry College, and others will sell her short because, well, she is short. I expect her to succeed. I expect her to find a way. She will dribble, shoot, dance, and dash out to the very edge of her potential. She loves basketball in the way that Meryl Streep loves acting. She exudes it. It is the heart of her being.

Moore will be back and better, but now is a time to dwell on what has just happened. I have some distant knowledge that a state championship is an event that dwells for a lifetime. The recent knowledge is about a sport that girls and women play quite well.

Here’s my story on the game at GoLaurens.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my NASCAR thoughts. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

My next novel is up for consideration and nomination in the Amazon KindleScout program. Time is running out. There’s one day left. I’d appreciate it if you’d read about it and nominate it for publication here.

The Penultimate Skirmish in a Great Crusade

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 23, 2018, 9:35 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

The Laurens Academy girls’ basketball team reminds me of my Honda Accord.

Both wear blue and are approximately the same age. The Lady Crusaders have made three successful round trips to Sumter. The Honda has made two, with a side trip to Camden, on a single tank of fuel.

Late last night, the fuel light activated as I exited Interstate 26, having achieved 33 miles per gallon of gasolina. Earlier, Laurens Academy, coached by Jason Marlett with Sandy Moore’s assistance, returned home from Wilson Hall Academy after defeating Curtis Baptist, 33-21, and earning a berth in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association (SCISA) Class A state finals.

Taylor Campbell

The Lady Crusaders are 30-1. The only loss was to Fort Mill, a Class 5A public school. The Honda occasionally moves aside for the benefit of a large SUV such as a Cadillac Escalade.

Both the Honda and the Lady Crusaders are reliable. In the semifinals, Curtis Baptist, a SCISA member in spite of being located in Augusta, Georgia, tested LA physically but wasn’t as sound. Neither team scored until Taylor Campbell put LA up, 4-0, with consecutive baskets nearly halfway through the first quarter. The other Lady Crusaders, the Georgians, the ones with a record of 21-4, never again got closer than three.

Campbell, who will play basketball next year at Newberry College, is a pleasure to watch. I expect she is as competitive as Richard the Lionhearted in the Crusader department, though he died in 1199 and I never saw him play.

In the second quarter, both she and Ruthie Moore, a junior, seemed frazzled and frustrated. The Georgians played them hard. Moore got pushed and shoved a lot, but she managed to lead LA with 13 points to Campbell’s 10. At times, Marlett took her out for a bit of rest, and I thought, she might just just make it after all, and then he’d put her back in on the next whistle, and I’d think, well, she’s never going to make it, but she did.

Ruthie Moore (14)

Three Robinson sisters — Shania, Dynazsa, and Destini — spent most of their time guarding Campbell and Moore closely. Two of them fouled out.

If the Georgians could have hit water from a boat, the game would have been closer, but the splashes were few and far between — 8-41 from the floor — and the figurative width of the Savannah River (which separates Georgia from South Carolina) grew greater in the waning minutes of the navigation.

Now the Laurens Academy girls and my Honda have one more trip to Sumter to make. On Saturday afternoon, the Lady Crusaders, the South Carolinians, will face Patrick Henry Academy, the Patriots of Estill, for the state championship. The game will be played at Sumter County Civic Center, beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Here’s the story on the game I wrote at GoLaurens.com from a nearby McDonald’s, where the coffee is hot and the Wi-Fi reliable.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my NASCAR thoughts. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

My next novel is up for consideration and nomination in the Amazon KindleScout program. Time is running out. I’d appreciate it if you’d read about it and nominate it for publication here.

 

A Day and Night of Mixed Results

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 17, 2018, 11:13 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Friday was a day of extremes. It was a day of the anticlimactic and the climactic, the decisive and the indecisive, and the relaxed and the nerve-wracking.

Let me explain. By coincidence, the girls’ basketball team of Laurens Academy, seeded No. 1 in SCISA (South Carolina Independent Schools Association) Class A, opened its playoffs at 3:30 p.m. at the Sumter County Civic Center. The boys’ team of Clinton High School, the second seed in SCHSL (South Carolina High School League) representing Region 3-3A, played at Camden, the first seed of Region 4-3A, at 7.

I decided to write about both games. It takes two hours to get from my home to Sumter but only about a half hour to get from Sumter to Camden. It just seemed to be fated.

The Lady Crusaders were playing North Myrtle Beach Christian School, who are the Lady Stallions in spite of the absence of lady stallions in nature. NMBCS’s record was 10-9. I can only imagine the schools they beat. I imagine nicknames such as Lady Cowboys, Lady Bugs, and Lady Men.

Laurens Academy (28-1) led 21-2 at the end of a quarter, 37-9 at the end of two, and 49-9 at the end of three. Then, apparently after an edict from the Humane Society, the clock ran constantly in the final quarter, and Lady Crusaders head coach Jason Marlett emptied his bench, and the final score was 50-13.

Here’s the story, as straight as I could make it.

Then it was on to Camden for a whirlwind, a hurricane, and a tornado, all within the span of less than two hours.

Even though the Red Devils advanced all the way to the Upstate Finals in 2016-17, I enjoyed watching this year’s 16-8 team play more. In particular, I could watch Vilo Boyd play defense every night. He fouled out in Camden’s 65-61, overtime victory, and, along with his teammates, was emotionally spent afterwards. Most all of Eddie Romines’ players are expressive young men, and I suspect all those satirical stares don’t endear them to the referees. I love them for the raw humanity they exhibit on the floor.

Romines was correct afterwards when he said the officiating didn’t beat them, but the style of it made life difficult in the second half. The Bulldogs (16-7) came from behind several times with numerous trips to the foul line and a steady rain of three-pointers. A technical foul assessed Clinton’s Zay Hurley occurred at a critical point.

Here’s the story, crafted in a nearby McDonald’s, where the wi-fi was reliable.

On the way home, I listened to stupid country music because I wasn’t in the mood for anything profound. All the songs seemed crafted from some kind of assault on a rhyming dictionary.

‘Cause, you know, life is a heavy load / Just like a big old toad / Down yonder where the river flowed / Me and my baby, eatin’ apple pie a la mode / It’s amazing how much that gal’s growed / A man better beware the seeds he’s sowed / We could hear it when the rooster crowed / So I cranked up my truck and took to the road …

And so on …

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my NASCAR thoughts. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

My next novel is up for consideration and nomination in the Amazon KindleScout program. Time is running out. I’d appreciate it if you’d read about it and nominate it for publication here.

A Mere Thirty-Two Years Ago

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, February 15, 2018, 12:54 p.m.

I’m watching the Independence Bowl of December 21, 1985, on YouTube.

Why, you ask?

By Monte Dutton

Rickey Foggie, who will be inducted next month into the Laurens County Athletic Hall of Fame, was the game’s MVP. He quarterbacked Minnesota to a 20-13 victory over Clemson. I’m waiting on him to call me. We talked briefly, but he was at work and said he’d get back in touch with me in about an hour.

The Golden Gophers just took a 3-0 lead on Chip Lohmiller’s field goal. Among the Tiger standouts are freshman quarterback Rodney Williams, defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry, cornerback Delton Hall and wide receiver Terrance Roulhac.

Clemson is in its first bowl game in four years as a result of coming off NCAA probation. Danny Ford is stalking the sideline. On the other is John Gutekunst, who has just replaced Lou Holtz, who left Minneapolis 17 days ago to become head coach at Notre Dame.

Howard David is the play-by-play man. Bob Casciola, a former head coach at Connecticut and Princeton, is the analyst. Tim Brando is back in the studio. The game is syndicated on the Mizlou Network. I remember watching it live.

Waylon Jennings is singing songs for Stroh’s beer (“Now you’re talking good times, Stroh’s is spoken here”) on commercials. Raymond Burr is selling Independent Life insurance.

The referees are split between the SEC and the PAC-10. The Minnesota fans aren’t overjoyed with Holtz leaving. A big sign in the stands asks, “Lou Who?”

Brando ruins the video for me by reporting that Georgia Southern has just defeated Furman, 44-42, for the Division I-AA national championship. I’ve got a cold, and commercials for Robitussin and Florida Gold orange juice, plus Paladin trauma from long ago, have me thinking about a trip to the store.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my NASCAR thoughts. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

My next novel is up for consideration and nomination in the Amazon KindleScout program. I’d appreciate it if you’d read about it and nominate it for publication here.

Still Something to Write

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, February 9, 2018, 10:18 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I must be getting old. I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve seen most of it. Perhaps I could estimate with some degree of accuracy all the stock car races and ballgames I’ve attended and described, but it would be a waste of time and probably leave me feeling even older than I am.

Last night I was in Woodruff, where Woodruff wasn’t playing. Woodruff High School was neutral. That’s why I was there.

Clinton was. The girls’ basketball team was breaking a tie with Chapman for third place in Region 3-3A, and the boys were settling the championship against Newberry. I went to Clinton High School more than forty years ago, and the alma mater remains accurate. My love has never failed, but, when I write about the Red Devils, I try to be fair. I’m a pro at this sportswriting business. I’m not particularly successful at it, but I keep right on trying.

As testimony to my objectivity, and, unfortunately, my age, Clinton lost both games, but I still had a good time. Chapman, a school located in Inman, where James Harvey Hylton also is, won the girls’ game, 46-40, and Newberry’s boys, located appropriately in Newberry, won, 72-60.

Both Red Devil quintets expended maximum effort. Both are going to the Class 3A playoffs. The Lady Red Devils (12-15) will visit Pendleton on Monday night, and the Red Devils (15-7) will play at home on Tuesday against either Pendleton or Seneca, depending on the outcome of a game between the two tonight.

The girls’ team is getting better, having won twice as many games this year after winning twice as many games last year as the year before. That’s 3-6-12 if you’re scoring the triple play at home.

The boys’ team, which advanced all the way to the upstate finals a year ago, tracked Newberry like radar this year before the Bulldogs got off the final torpedo. In the regular season, the two teams differed by a single point, Newberry winning at Clinton, 71-68, and Clinton winning at Newberry, 53-51.

The Red Devils are more graceful and frantic. The Bulldogs are taller and bulkier.

Newberry escaped in the third quarter. Clinton was almost out of ammunition — Vilo Boyd, Zay Hurley, and J.D. Payne all had accrued four fouls — in the fourth, but the Red Devils forced seven turnovers, got as close as six, and exhibited their usual herculean effort before succumbing.

The Clinton coaches, John Gardner with the girls and Eddie Romines with the boys, are great guys. In fact, the Newberry head coach, Chad Cary, is a great guy. I don’t know the Chapman girls’ coach, Leslie Boyd, but she seems really nice.

The Red Devils won the region last year. This year they fell ever so slightly short, but they’ve still got running, shooting, passing, bouncing, and jumping to do.

If you enjoy reading what I write, please consider making a monthly pledge and becoming a patron here.
My books are available here.
You can help get my next one published by nominating it here.