My next story will begin simply.
Will begin with three words.
Will begin with just four words.
It can be no other way.
Simple. Straightforward. To the point.
It will begin like this:
I have cancer.
I don’t have cancer.
In the next few days, one word will change my life. In all the words I have written, one word will make all the difference.
And that word is …
“…I’m not half the man I used to be…”
It was in the rainy mist of the B.A.S.S. Northern Open last week on Oneida Lake where I learned I was focusing on the wrong word – cancer – and not the word I needed to be focused on – Love.
As I stood on the beach in the morning fog waiting for launch, I watched as a figure also started walking along the sand.
Watched as the figure walked past the docks.
Watched as the figure walked past the B.A.S.S. workers.
Watched as the figure walked up to me.
The figure was covered head to toe in rain gear, it was only when the figured pulled the rain hood back, that I knew it was a woman.
Middle aged maybe, hard to tell.
Makeup on maybe, hard to tell.
Tears on her cheeks, not so hard to tell.
And when she pulled he hood down, she looked up, and straight into my eyes, and this is exactly what she said, “Don Barone, I love you.”
Then she pulled the hood back on and started to walk away. When she did I reached out and gently touched the yellow rubber slicker, and the arm underneath.
“Excuse me, do I know you, who are you.”
“Doesn’t matter, but I came here to tell you I Love You because you saved my husbands life. He reads you, and he read about your health problems. When he went to his doc to get checked, they found four blocked arteries in his heart …”
I just stood there, not know what to say. I didn’t know if I could say anything IF I had something to say.
“… you saved his life.”
And with that she walked away back into the mist of Oneida Lake.
And I stood staring at her footsteps in the sand.
And then I walked over to my 4Runner and climbed inside, out of the mist.
And fell apart.
“…there’s a shadow hanging over me…”
It is the thought of death, that has brought me life. I do not have a death wish, and I do not have a life wish.
I have a NOW wish. Today. This moment. Now.
And so I write this not for me, not so much for you, not for the stranger who came to me in the mist.
But for the husband of the lady who stood in the cold wet sand and told me of her heart, while fearing for his.
We as stupid old guys need to know this, our health is not just ours, it’s their health too.
Mainly THEIR health. For that moment in the sand, I saw that it wasn’t only you that had a blocked heart, the woman in the mist had some heart blockage too, from you.
When we don’t take care of ourselves, we don’t take care of our loved ones either.
I know my wife Barb lies awake nights worrying about me, at some point that will affect her health as well.
And I caused that. Plain and simple.
My NOW wish for the husband of the lady of the mist is this, do not let her walk alone on the sand, take care of yourself, take care of her.
Walk together on the sand, look not at the footsteps of where you have been, but at the sand waiting for you to leave your mark.
I don’t know, after tomorrow, what the next beginning sentence it is that I will write. Be it one of three words, or one of four words.
But a sentence, and a story there shall come.
And it will come out of the mist.
And it will be about love.
And it will be about the beach in front of me.
Not the beach I’ve come from.
But the beach I’m going to.
Where this time my footprints in the sand …
… will not be there alone.
“… oh, yesterday came suddenly …”
It is not the footprints in the sand already left by Elite Angler, Nate Wellman that I care about, it is the footprints facing him, facing the sport, facing us, that worry me.
I’ve read some stuff about the alleged incident.
I’ve been asked some stuff about the alleged incident.
As a crime reporter/investigative reporter for over two decades, this is my opinion – I HAVE NONE.
I don’t know the facts. Facts are all I care about. Never let emotion into it. Never ask a question I don’t know the answer to. Never assume anything. Never buy a shadow of a doubt theory because there is never a shadow of facts theory.
Not going to get into the alleged incident.
Can’t, don’t know much about it.
But here is what I do know.
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson.
1919 World Series. Chicago Black Sox.
Nate Wellman if you do not know about the above…you need to do some heavy google reading right away.
Especially about “Shoeless” Joe.
Because he, young man, is you.
He did it.
Some said yes.
Some said no.
He said no.
He was kicked out of the sport he loved.
He spent the next 30 years, THIRTY years of his life trying to prove his innocence.
After being banned from baseball, “Shoeless” Joe opened a liquor store down south, and one day one of the most famous outfielders of all time came into his store, but Mr. Jackson never said a word to him.
Finally the outfielder said something like “you don’t know who I am,” and Shoeless Joe is said to have said back to Ty Cobb, “yeah I know who you are but I didn’t think you wanted to know me, most don’t …” or something to that effect.
That’s your future right now. That’s your precedence.
If you don’t think so, you are only fooling yourself.
You need to do something, and then we and the sport need to do something as well.
You need to tell the truth.
And then we, with that truth, need to begin to forgive.
That’s right, forgive.
The Chicago Black Sox made baseball a better game.
Once the truth comes out on the Steroid Era of MLB … it will be a better game.
And once we forgive, we will be better fans; we will be better people.
Nate, I’m going to give you a little piece of advice after covering the theory of sports for two decades now, especially all the bad parts of sports. I’m going to echo what dozens and dozens of fans have told me over the years, what they scream at the TV sets newscast after newscast …
… JUST TELL THE TRUTH … SAY YOU SCREWED UP … YOU’RE SORRY.
And then move on.
And in time we will.
There is one rule I have never seen quoted. You can throw all the rule books you want at me, count all the pages, and look for all the loopholes, but this rule remains quote less.
Forgive each other.
Nate, the footprints you leave in the sand can be ones filled with questions that will follow you for the rest of your life.
Only with truth, will come forgiveness, and only forgiveness will wash away the doubt you leave in your footsteps.
You only need to look to “Shoeless” Joe…to know that.
“…oh, I believe in yesterday.”