Over the past year Blake has had some things taken out of his body (upper teeth for a bridge implant) and others put in (a stent for his heart). Asked when his dad might retire, Ryan just laughs. Yet don't let Marty Blake fool you. He understands chronology; he knows life may be many things, but it isn't nonlinear. "You get up every morning and grab the Irish sports pages," he says. "If your name's not in the obituaries, you get dressed."
Tonight's destination is Clemson, S.C., for Clemson and Ohio State. The game features half as many BBs as did Georgia Tech-- Michigan the night before, but there are "other considerations," to use a G.M. phrase. "Great press buffet," Blake says. "[Former Clemson sports information director] Bob Bradley put on such a good one that one afternoon, I drove up for the meal and didn't stay for the game."
This time he'll stay for the game. Bumper, the Lakers scout, drives, with Dick McGuire, the scout for the New York Knicks and one of the few men left in the league with a pedigree as whiskered as Blake's, riding shotgun. Blake provides patter from the backseat. He talks about Wilkes-Barre and St. Louis, about Newport and Monterey (after all, a guy had to scout the jazz acts he'd bring to those Hawks games), and about the former NBA city of Fort Wayne, Ind., through which the train passed in the middle of the night, slowing down only long enough, across the tracks from a joint called the Green Lantern, for the Hawks to jump off. Someone would toss a pebble at the window of the owner's bedroom, hoping he'd awaken and call for taxis. The owner tended to wake up if he liked you. "He liked us," Blake says. "He didn't like the Knicks." The Knicks had to walk the three miles to their hotel.
Ohio State starts a guard, Tony Stockman, who transferred from Clemson two seasons ago. In the first half Stockman sinks four of five threes and scores 16 points. "He makes one more," Blake says, "and we won't be able to get him to come to Portsmouth."
The game is determined, in Clemson's favor, in the backcourt. In his report Blake notes, "Neither team has a true center. Who does? If you find one, please call us collect."
The last hour of the drive home takes Marty and Bumper and Dickie through the fringes of greater Atlanta. The steak houses are franchised now, like the Outback at which they had supped pregame. The NBA's dress code for scouts doesn't allow for corned beef sandwiches in coat pockets. The signs outside gas stations are no longer swinging metal, and Bumper's Escalade would never fit through one anyway.
Still Blake plies the road. "I kid around a lot," he says as Alpharetta comes into view, one more penumbra of artificial light overhanging strip malls and scrub pine. "But I know what I'm doing. It's a hell of a lot of fun. And it's no fun to go out alone."