ESPN has brought tremendous attention to our sport; no one could argue that point. However, is it all positive for the bass fishing community?
I will admit that it is easy for me to sit here on the sidelines and rank how each angler reacts as they land the Classic winning bass. However, as the Internet and bass angling world discuss how our professionals react in these times, I am forced to analyze the same.
To be fair, Christina, my wife, tells me that I was born too late; at 34 years old, I already listen to talk radio, and while I thoroughly love alternative rock or ska music, I think my all time favorite is Frank Sinatra. My brother, on the other hand, frequently reminds me that I am becoming my dad. I write all of this to say that I understand that I have a slightly more conservative soul, a mainly steady spirit. Also, while I am a passionate and emotional man (ask my wife) my opinion on this topic will come from a slightly "old school" approach.
I have played sports my entire life. My dad was a professional golfer before retiring to enter the ministry full time. One of the things I came away from my years under his tutelage was to “respect the game, it (the game) has been here before you, and it will be here after you.”
As an All American catcher for my college baseball team, I often struggled with the desire to flaunt my appreciation of my own abilities. What I ultimately settled on after tearing my rotator cuff in preparing for my senior year in college, was that things change rapidly, and what do you want everyone’s last memory of you to be?
I entered the competitive bass fishing world at 23 years old, and quickly got a taste of success, and as I did with baseball, I began to feel important. A couple bad finishes, or a bad year, or a lost sponsor or two because of my lack of respect for the institution of bass angling, and I developed a new focus.
So, what strikes me when I see anglers screaming about a caught bass is this; where will this take us in five years? Ten? How do we top the antics that are currently being displayed?
If I look at the state of our professional sports, I don't like where the NBA and NFL players have taken it, and I hope that our current crop of professionals don't take it down that path.
As I watched the 2004 Bassmaster Tour event on the California Delta, I was impressed with the reaction of Robert Lee as he boated the 9.12 that all but sealed the victory. He reacted with a genuine response, one that made me understand his excitement without being forced, or staged.
Another moment from BASS history was Denny Brauer's five pounder in the waning moments of a Megabucks Tournament. Brauer flipped a jig on a dock piling that every other angler had fished, and set the hook on a 5 pounder that earned him $100,000; at the time, bass fishing’s biggest payday. Despite the size of the accomplishment, Denny's reaction was classic professionalism, despite the obvious look of excitement on his face, he merely pumped his fist for the camera, and went back to work.
I have watched as sports figures pound their chests after a dunk signifying a dagger in the heart. Or grasp the air in front of their private parts letting the world know that their "juevos" are bigger than everyone else’s after hitting a jump shot.
We have seen Sharpie carried in uniform socks, and cell phones hidden under goal post paddings, and now we have our anglers screaming as if they just beat Hulk Hogan with a pile driver.
The marketing person in me is proud that bass fishing is receiving the attention it is. Our sport is now displayed on Sportcenter, but what impression is being left as they barge through the living rooms of the viewers?
My opinion here is definitely from the cheap seats, I cannot speak from experience as to the competitive pressure upon these anglers. I am also not simple enough to consider that these reactions are character flaws of these anglers.
What I would like to see is the majestic nature of the black bass treated with some dignity, and some respect granted to what those who have gone before us have worked so hard to create.
I do wonder though, when we will see Rick Clunn break in to a dance on the deck of his boat, or who the first person will be to hide a cell phone or Sharpie Marker under the scales? Should be interesting, as long as they don't hide them in Fish Fishburn's socks.
By the way, so that I could fully understand the feeling, I broke into a version of the Running Man after finishing this piece, Christina (my loving bride) told me to sit down, she said I looked goofy, and I was scaring the dog. Whatever that means.