At the finish line at last, R.I.P Silver Fox

Posted in Journalism, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2018 by macmystery

 

David Pearson

David Pearson

Born and raised in Georgia, I reside now in Beaufort, S.C., in the Lowcountry of the Palmetto State. But for roughly 15 years, Spartanburg County in the state’s upcountry was my home. My two children were born there.

Working for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, I immersed myself in the area’s sports history, if not its history in general. And that included learning all about David Pearson.

Pearson died Monday (David Pearson’s New York Times obituary). He was to the Hub City what Hank Aaron is to Atlanta. Or, in an even better analogy, what Rocky Balboa is to Philadelphia.

What he is to stock car racing is the greatest driver to ever slide behind the wheel.

I am no longer a NASCAR fan for myriad reasons, too many to count or run down here. But I respect it. And there was a time the sport mattered more to me.

My parents, particularly my mother’s family, had roots in rural South Carolina, and there was a knowledge of stock car racing passed down. I heard tales of Fireball Roberts. There was disdain, but respect, for Richard Petty and the Petty clan. Cale Yarborough was a good ole South Carolina boy I heard good things about.

But there was nary a mention of Pearson, born in Whitney, a textile mill village in Spartanburg. And in a lot of ways, that is symbolic of Pearson’s career.

I have never fallen for the fool’s gold that is the Cup, be it the Winston, Sprint or Monster Energy. Auto racing championships are misleading. They are disingenuous. They lie to you.

There is one thing and one thing only that matters in racing. Winning. At the end of the day, you either won or your didn’t.

Richard Petty, a winner 200 times over, is nicknamed The King. Rightfully so. He is the all-time NASCAR leader in wins, and his mark will never be broken.

Richard Petty’s statement on the death of David Pearson

And if you care about such things, he won seven championships, tied with Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson for the all-time record.

If Richard Petty was NASCAR’s Joe DiMaggio, David Pearson was almost certainly its Ted Williams.

And like Williams, Pearson was better.

He won 105 times, 95 times fewer than Petty. Also a number no other driver has sniffed. But Pearson did it in less than half as many races than King Richard.

Contemporaries, Petty and Pearson clashed often, finishing 1-2 in a race 63 times. Pearson won 33 of those.

Essentially a part-time driver, Pearson picked and chose the races he ran, rarely ever coming even close to a full schedule. In fact, the only years Pearson competed in close to a full slate — 1966, 1968 and 1969 — he won NASCAR’s top championship.

From 1972 to 1978, Pearson raced in just 143 races. Roughly 20 races a season over seven years. He won 43 times, averaging six wins a year. That number alone is only one fewer than Bill Elliott, one of the sport’s all-time greats, won in his entire career.

Petty was big. He was brash. He was public.

Pearson was quiet. Friendly. But he was private.

The Silver Fox, as he was nicknamed for his driving acumen, was overshadowed while he was still winning. And he was somewhat, though not in Spartanburg, forgotten when he retired.

Until 1999.

As so many publications did for so many sports when the new millennium approached, Sports Illustrated named its driver of the century.

This time, Richard Petty didn’t win. It was David Pearson.

A panel of 40 of the greatest drivers, owners, executives and crew chiefs in the sports history gave Pearson the narrow victory. (Actually over Earnhardt. Petty was third.)

It happened again in 2011. This time the accolade came from the Sporting News.

Pearson’s peers knew.

Despite my long tenure in Spartanburg, I didn’t get to know Pearson. I was a copy editor and a page designer, rarely getting out to cover, report or write. I met him only a couple of times.

(It was my pleasure, however, on several occasions early in my tenure at the SHJ to pull a fax off the machine in the sports department in the wee early hours of a Saturday morning to find Pearson’s name in that Friday night’s results for one of the handful of dirt tracks in the area. He was in his 60s at the time.)

Two of my friends and co-workers got to know Pearson a little better. I am jealous of them both.

Chris Winston and Todd Shanesy have both spent time as the keeper of the stock car racing flame on the SHJ staff.

Winston, like me, no longer working for a newspaper, put together a book on stock car racing in South Carolina that included an entire chapter dedicated to Pearson.

I expect him, in the near future, to put his thoughts about Pearson together. When he does, I’ll share a link.

Shanesy still works for the Herald-Journal and wrote Pearson’s hometown obit on Monday night.

For Shanesy’s 1999 story on Pearson’s Sports Illustrated honor, he talked to Cotton Owens. Owens, whose given name was Everett, is a NASCAR Hall of Famer for his time as both a driver and a team owner.

Also a Spartanburg native, Owens owned the Dodge team that Pearson drove to the 1966 Grand National Championship and voted him No. 1 in that Sports Illustrated poll.

Owens wrapped Pearson up best.

“He was just the best ever. It didn’t matter what kind of track it was. Short track, speedway, dirt track, whatever. Pearson could win anywhere, any time.”

“There’s never been anybody like him.”

 

 

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Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Posted in Journalism, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by macmystery

Clock

I am stringing the 2018 S.C. Primary runoffs in Beaufort County for the Associated Press. I’m supposed to call in vote-total updates as they progress throughout the evening until all the votes are counted.

I did the same thing for the primary itself two weeks ago. That night, All the votes weren’t counted until 3 a.m. Tonight being a runoff, there should be far fewer votes.

Easier, right? You’d think so.

As the chairman of the county board of elections said a few minutes ago, this should be an early night. But it sure doesn’t look that way, again.

And just to add insult to injury, the clock on the wall in the room where I am set up is stopped at 12:55. (It’s 10:20 p.m. as I write this.) Everytime I look at the clock I dread getting up in the morning.

Rakim, minus Eric B., of course, but not all by himself

Posted in Journalism, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by macmystery

https://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=622595890&mediaId=622597776

While procrastinating late Monday night, as I so often do when I have a viable writing topic, I found myself listening to music.

It’s not an uncommon activity in my life. A large percentage of my disposable income (and a lot that should have never been disposable) has been spent on music, not to mention my time, both disposable and indisposable, as well. Concerts, records, tapes, CDs, road trips.

But I’ll admit that over the last few years of my marriage, which LEGALLY ended in 2016, aside from time spent in the car, music had all but disappeared from my life. And maybe that should have been a sign. But that’s another story for another day.

Anyway, as I said, I was listening to music, something I do again, typically late at night. A strange mix … Dierks Bentley, the Cowboy Junkies, Henry Mancini, Metallica and Dave Brubeck. (I’ll admit, there was 10 minutes of George Carlin mixed in there, as well.)

I was listening to this strange mix as I put off writing something more substantial than my Facebook post from earlier Monday evening about former two-time National League Most Valuable Player and longtime Atlanta Braves standout Dale Murphy. Ironically, I’m still going to write that post, but it’ll be another day now, at least.

That’s because, while perusing Facebook, I came upon the New York Times story (How an Affair Between a Reporter and a Security Aide Has Rattled Washington Media) about the relationship between its reporter Ali Watkins and a man who handled security for many years for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

So, of course I was going to write about that. Being a former journalist — being a former journalist is like being a former Marine … there’s no such thing — the story presents some interesting and frustrating dilemmas during a time when the press is badly needed, as well as badly maligned.

And then Rakim happened.

Someone I know from high school, a lifetime ago, had shared the latest installment of National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert. Featured for June 25, 2018 was Rakim, initially, at least, of Eric B. & Rakim fame.

I’ll admit it. Aside from straight up classical music, the least represented major genre in my music collection is rap. Or hip-hop, if you will. Old school Run D.M.C., some Sir Mix-A-Lot, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar … but not much else. A lot of it doesn’t interest me. A lot of it I respect but simply don’t enjoy.

I have read a lot about Rakim. But I haven’t listened a lot to Rakim.

But I did Monday night.

And I was treated to 9 minutes and 37 seconds of brilliance that maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for 30 years ago, when Eric B. and Rakim were on top of their game. Kind of the same way I have a different appreciation for jazz now than I did as a young man.

And in a lot of ways, comparatively, Rakim’s style is jazz, at least vocally. His lyrics and voice are his instrument, and while aggressive, he is not necessarily loud and not in a hurry. Much as Willie Nelson brought jazz phrasing and guitar to his otherwise solid country gold lyrics, Rakim in some ways does the same thing.

It’s evident with the live band, rather than a DJ, backing him in the small NPR studio. The musicians are tight and work infectious grooves through three songs, allowing Rakim’s lyrics to shine as his instrument.

I was impressed. I had a moment, really. Usually, though, it’s when I hear something new that blows me away. I am admittedly not used to, at this point in my life, hearing songs more than two decades old, performed by the original artists, that pique my interest so completely.

My son, Dylan, possibly in the wrong place at the wrong time, can attest. He walked in the room in a moment of boredom after his computer crashed, expecting to wander in and wander out.

Instead he was detained by me and forced to surrender 9:37 of his evening, too, to sit and watch this Tiny Desk Concert. Not surprisingly, to me, he found himself, like I did, enjoying the video, foot tapping and hands popping.

The final two songs of Rakim’s three-song set, were “Paid In Full” and “Know The Ledge,” … classics and songs I will now seek out. But they followed “King’s Paradise,” a song released a few days ago and featured in Season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix.

“King’s Paradise” is Rakim’s first new release in a decade. Suddenly, seemingly, I’m hoping it’s not his last.

D-Day, plus 74 years, Twitter-style

Posted in History, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2018 by macmystery

airborne

Wednesday marked another anniversary, the 74th, of D-Day, the June 6, 1944 invasion of the European mainland by Allied Forces against the occupying Germans in World War II.

On Twitter, the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, the #AllAmericanDivision, found a unique way to mark the occasion. Understanding that I’m posting this after the fact, you can check it out in retrospect on the 82nd’s Twitter page (@82ndABNDiv) or give them a follow and make a note to check it out next year.

#AADDayReenactment
We’re in it, folks!  This is our D Day Reenactment.  For the next 17 hours we’ll bring you an “as it happened” play-by-play of The Division’s actions during D Day.
Follow along, ask questions, comment.
We’re typing this as we go cuz we want to interact w/ u

The #AllAmericanDivision used social media to share a 17-hour reenactment of preparations for D-Day and the division’s activities in the invasion itself.

We’re trying to balance between information overload and providing context. There will be periods of up to 10 minutes when we will not have updates. We’ll be going until noon Eastern tomorrow. Once we get into the drops, we’ll provide a more traditional “play-by-play” of events.

The 82nd used photos, first-hand accounts, maps, videos and diagrams to document the invasion. They also worked in some shots at friendly rivals, the 101st Airborne, of Band of Brothers fame.

 

The words matter, Donald …

Posted in Humor, Music, Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 6, 2018 by macmystery

Just for Donald Trump, since he doesn’t seem to come close to knowing them, here are the lyrics for Irving Berlin’s song God Bless America:

God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:

God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

It would seem as though Mr. USA Patriotism would have this down by now.

Just a mood …

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 30, 2017 by macmystery

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here. There are a lot of things that I want to write about and a lot of changes in my life and in the world since the last time I did.

But somehow I’ve just got around to this.

It’s not lost on me that this is a day when significant things are beginning to happen that could shake this country up, … even more than it has been shaken in the last year.

And politics isn’t even at the top of my writing wish list. But it will come.

For now, though, it’ll suffice to say I’m getting back into the swing of things.

And I’ll post this song. It’s a mood I’m in. And so it goes …

Missing the Big Man

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2011 by macmystery

Tramps like us …

It’s been almost three weeks since I heard the news.

I was working on the sports desk on that Saturday night, when Rob, a guy I’ve worked with for sometime who knew of my affinity for all things Bruce Springsteen, said, “I’m sure you’re all over this, but in case you haven’t seen it, Clarence Clemons died.”

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