MONTE DUTTON – A THEORY OF RELATIVITY
I have this compulsion to tell old stories. It could be because I’m ready for a new NASCAR season to begin. I’d like to think it isn’t a consequence of age, but it probably is.
Last night I was at a middle-school gym. I was surprised to see the former mayor of a nearby town, first because he was there and second because he was wearing a Brickyard 400 jacket. I never knew he was a NASCAR fan. Turns out he used to live in Darlington.
“That’s where my dad used to take me as a kid,” I said. “It’s hard to grow up going to Darlington and not love Pearson and Cale.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said.
I didn’t have to cover the middle-school basketball games like the Final Four – mainly I was there to take pictures and make sure I had who scored how many – so I started telling stories over in the corner of the gym.
Hizzoner said he always loved Bobby Isaac, so I told a few stories about Isaac, and Isaac stories usually have David Pearson in them because they were close friends.
The age of old stories is balanced by how vivid they are. To my knowledge, no current motorsports journalist has been asked in a Texas victory lane if he’d like to go deep-sea fishing off Myrtle Beach two days later. The reporters and their subjects don’t go hunting and fishing together unless there is a video crew tagging along and the details are sanitized for the protection of the public.
The only time I ever met Isaac was when I was in grade school and he had just won at Greenville-Pickens. The conversation consisted of “good race” and “thanks, kid.” I didn’t see the stories, but I heard a lot of them when I was just starting out, playing poker and drinking with some old-timers late at night during the media tour.
I have a few from personal experience, but the gap between scribbler and scribblee grew gradually wider during 20 years in the service. The heroes became royalty and the giants of journalism became minions. Bruton Smith was fond of saying, “Never get in a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”
Guess what? The ink ran out.
The drivers have gotten above their raising, and the scribes haven’t.