Dateline: Early Morning Birmingham, Ala.
My favorite day of BASS.
Bass prefers to call it something like, "Official Check-In Day."
But, trust me, it's hug day.
Knuckle bang day.
"How's the ... " Day.
It's the first day of the rest of BASS 2010.
All Things Are Possible Day.
It's the first pitch of spring training.
The twirl of the green flag at the Daytona 500.
The first blade slice of the blue line. (That's hockey, southerners)
The flash of cameras as the opening kickoff hangs in the air.
Zero ... zero on the scoreboard.
All Things Are Possible Day.
It's my favorite part of sports, the renewal. The promise of it all. Sports are spring, without the allergies.
Doesn't matter what your sport is, but one day of every year you KNOW, "This will be our year."
Yesterday was that day at BASS.
On "Hug Day," my first one came from Skeet Reese. I walked into the Sheraton Hotel just as he was checking in his wife, Kim.
I looked right past him for who said it.
And there stood Skeet ... with dark black hair.
California gold hair ... gone. Now dark, and, er, sort of spiked.
The last time I saw Skeet he was carrying both of his young daughters, one in each arm, through the crowd at the Bassmaster postseason.
Tears streaming down his face.
His run to bookend the 2009 season with the Bassmaster Classic win at the start and the Angler of the Year at the end came up short. KVD won Angler of the Year on the last day of the event.
I actually don't know what place Skeet finished, second, third, fourth ... who knows, who cares. With champions like Skeet and KVD, only one place matters.
But here was the dark-haired Skeet giving me a bear hug at the hotel check-in. A huge smile on his face.
Zero ... zero on the scoreboard. Fresh water, fresh start.
Later that night at dinner with my friends K-Pink, K2 (Kerry Short), Steve, Julia & Sophia Kennedy, we sat at the dinner table and watched the snow fall on Birmingham.
We talked of ice on the banks, sideways swimming Shad fish and very fat and happy seagulls. New bait, new line, new fishing stuff. Smiles, jokes, hope.
Walking out we ran into KVD and his wife, Sherry, and Gerald Swindle and his wife Le Ann. More smiles, jokes, hand shaking, hugs, planning of stories to come. Christmas Eve of the sport of BASS.
Outside the restaurant I watched as the big flakes from the sky freshened the planet underneath, and listened to the laughs and squeals as Steve, Julia and Sophia ran around their jeep throwing snowballs at each other.
And as I watched this scene play out in the snow globe that was Birmingham I thought back to earlier today and this conversation with Julia Kennedy:
"db, did you hear?"
"There's going to be another little Kennedy ... I'm pregnant, db. Due around Labor Day, ironically. Steve and I are thrilled."
And as I watched the soft flakes of snow land in their hair, heard the laughs, Sophia's giggles I thought ...
... All Things Are Possible Day.
Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com.