People Profiles and Passings

The Quest: 94 Days

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“And I’ll be standing there, where the boats go by … “

Dateline: Packin’ the db/bb/rv

Every word I write … is a privilege.

Every word read … is an honor.

These 94 days of covering the Bassmaster Elite regular season.

And I’m not saying that to blow smoke up the arse of anyone. I’m saying that, because, it is simply true.

I care deeply about my bosses, they have put everything they have on the line for this thing called the Bassmaster Elites. I care deeply for them as people.

I don’t care what they think about me as a columnist.

I care more than you know about the anglers and their families of the Bassmaster Elites. I have laughed and cried with them. I have hugged and been hugged by them. I have been through triumph and tragedy with them. I have learned from them, and I hope taught them some stuff as well.

I don’t care what they think about me as a columnist.

I care about the hundreds of emails I get with every story. I care about those who take time out of their busy schedule to read my stuff – to laugh with me, to cry with me, to travel with me and to think with me.

I don’t care what you think about me as a columnist.

I only care about … the words.

To know me is to know that words are my soul, that when I sit down to write words, the words within me are better than the “me” inside of me.

I don’t know where the words come from, but I know this: it’s a privilege to type them. It is an honor to write them.

And that the words in me, are for you.

” … where the roadside bends … “

I am out here on the road, for you.

Ninety-four days now. Forty or fifty more to go. Days on the road.

I do it, because you can’t. You do your stuff for me, and I have your back out here.

I do it for the love. Not so much for the sport, but for the sportsmen of the sport. And when I say “sportsmen” I mean the men of the sport, and the WOMEN of the sport.

In any endeavor, to make it sex specific, is to only ignore half the population of the planet, and that is wrong.

As I said, I don’t care what you think of me as a columnist.

I’m not supposed to.

People tell me a lot that when they read my stuff they tear up, and sometimes I’m not surprised by that, at other times I’m floored by it. People have laughed at what I thought would bring tears, and cried where I thought smiles would be.

I don’t care if you laugh or cry, get happy or mad. I just care that what I write invokes some kind of emotion in you.

Emotion.

To be alive is to be full of emotion.

The sport of competitive fishing is one filled with emotion.

If you are watching a sport and there is no emotion, if you are reading words and there is no emotion …

… go somewhere else.

” … and it twists and turns … “

I am the caveman who painted on the wall.

I am the Neanderthal who grunted around the camp fire.

I am the unknown helper who handed Guttenberg the wooden letters.

Real life.

I am the press, not at the press conference.

I am the TV producer who doesn’t watch TV.

I am the media who hates the media.

Real life.

I value the writer, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I value the writer, Hunter S. Thompson.

I value the writer, Studs Terkel.

To know them, is to know me. If you haven’t read them, stop reading me now, and read them. You will be better for it.

Before I came here I never read a word about BASS or how to fish, even though BASS sent me a book about how to write about fishing.

It was written by “Papa” Hemmingway. My writing Professor in college was a good friend of Hemmingway, and he told me great tales of Papa.

So I was long familiar with the book I was sent to read, had read it years ago, talked about it with my Professor. Knew it had nothing to do with fishing.

No mention of bait.

No mention of flippin and pitchin.

Was a “How-To” book though.

“How-To” have adventure. “How-To” put emotion in what you do. “How-To” chase dreams, “How-To” live life as a combatant, not a couch.

Hemmingway wrote of the Elites before there were Elites, because Hemmingway’s words were of adventure.

Vonnegut wrote of the Elites before there were Elites, because he wrote of the wackiness that is life when you look at life from the other side of the mirror.

HST wrote of the Elite before there where Elites, because he wrote of the darkness, the nighttime of life, wrote of the things left not written.

Terkel wrote of the Elites before there where Elites, because he wrote of real life, listened to the world, and then wrote it down.

You want to know about tournament fishing, read the masters mentioned above.

You want to send me books, know that the only words I care about are the words within.

” … every new generation … “

I am not hooks and bullets.

Won’t be any bullets at all.

Won’t be any hooks at all if you don’t put what you hook back.

I am treasure and adventure.

Which is why I chase those who chase, the chase.

If you are an athlete who chases money, you won’t be seeing me. If you chase glory, I won’t be there. If you think you are bigger than the sport, my words won’t be helping you, just the opposite.

But if you are an athlete who chases your sport because you can’t NOT chase it, look for me on the sidelines, writing, clapping.

There are only three sports on the planet I would like to chase. Tournament Fishing, Bowling and Rodeo. To me, the only real sports left.

If you are in some No-Tell Motel in Des Moines eating macaroni and cheese with ketchup as a side, and it’s minus 100 degree outside and blowing in under the door, and you have just won a bowling tournament and won $250 and a new Bowling Shirt, you are the only athlete I want to write about.

If you have dust of a small town fair still in your nose and ears, smell like the Wal-Mart Generic BenGay that covers the horse shoe imprints on your ass and back, or have red skin under your red clown nose, have your boots propped up to the one radiator in the motel room that makes noise, and always check under your 1994 Ford 150 before you say the prayer you do before you turn the ignition key, you are the only athlete I want to write about.

If you didn’t make a check and now are facing bounced checks, have your in-laws as your sponsors, travel from lake to lake for the mortgage, know that the end is just one missed check away and that was three missed checks ago, but still you stand up on the front of your Bass boat in gale force winds and pitch to a log in the cove because you just FEEL there is a big’un suspended in the shallows under there, you are the only athlete I want to write about.

If the athletes you follow don’t have the heart like these guys …

… follow someone else.

” … and I’ll be praying to my higher self … “

Every word I write, I do so for the greatest sports writing influence on my life.

My Uncle Sibby.

Sibby Sisti was a ballplayer. And that is the greatest tribute you can say of one who puts on the cleats, pulls the leather glove over their hand, thumbs the stitches of the dusty white ball.

Uncle Sibby loved the game, and the game loved him back for it.

It is his tales of Barnstorming America that I try and match, of playing the game for “a couple of bucks and almost our expenses.”

We have lost that aspect of sports telling, not because those who try and tell it can’t, but because for the most part, they are not allowed to, if all you know about your sport comes to you from a media day, or a few minutes in a locker room, or dock, you know very little about your sport.

Whether I play the sport or not, whether the writer you read plays the sport or not, doesn’t matter.

All sports are snapshots of life, all the beauty, all the warts, the agony and defeat thing, ups and downs, that is life.

I write about life, and those who live it. And I believe that tournament fishing, and especially those of the Bassmaster Elite series, are the best example of the sport of life that I have ever been around.

As the Elite Regular season ends today I want to thank the family BASS for inviting me into their family.

Just last night, John Crews, an Elite angler who has won on the highest of stages, came up to me and told me that if he makes the All Star Post-Season and if he wins it he will donate $25,000 to the foundation I started, Tackle The Storm.

That’s a huge chunk of money out of the winner’s purse. Money that on the tour is more elusive than the fish.

And I thank you for following my journey these past 94 days.

Many more miles will be traveled chasing the tour.

Many more days will be spent living with the tour.

Thank you Uncle Sibby for always talking about the love of sports, never the stats.

Thank you Elites for being my Uncle Sibby, every time I flip open the notebook and click the pen, I smell his cigars, hear his tales, try to match his stories.

I miss him, for he was a ballplayer.

But I’m glad I found you, you Elites … you to, you guys … are ballplayers.

Sportsmen in an age when there are just men who play sports.

Which is why …

… every word I write is a privilege.

Every word read … is an honor.

” … don’t let me down, keep my feet on the ground.”

Ancient Highway

Van Morrison

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