"Moon beams we can dream on,
at the setting of the sun…"
Dateline: A Schooling
The tiny sneaker kept tapping the floor.
It was white, the sneaker, the jeans that covered it were frayed, back there in the back of the leg where you keep stepping on the pant.
She sat with legs crossed, one foot tapping on the floor, one foot tapping the air. One elbow on one leg, head cupped into the palm of her hand.
Fingers tapping on her chin.
Body racing while sitting still.
And there she sat, in a hotel chair staring at an empty wall, 8 p.m., 10 hours before the morning launch.
"You alright," is what I asked, had to ask as the father of a young daughter, a question not asked as a reporter, but as a dad.
"OK," she responded, answered in the tone of a child looking for comfort, not an interview.
So in a Hampton Inn hallway I stopped, made sure none of me was tapping nervously, became a father to a child in a team jersey, "It will be OK … once you get away from all this hoopla and launch, you know what, you know what, it's just fishing, just you out there on the lake … just like you always do."
And the tapping slowed down some.
And the body in motion slowed some.
And as the elevator doors opened and I was about to get in and go upstairs to my room, came this, "But … but I don't … don't … but don't want to let down my school."
Welcome to Bass 101.
" … and the stars we can wish upon,
when the working man is done … "
I stood on a cold bouncing dock and watched Lake Guntersville fill up before me with student athletes.
47 different schools.
232 smiling faces.
Mattered none what they sat out there in … new Bass Boats … dad's old Bass boat … garage sale boats … boats with sponsor decals … boats with duct tape.
A flashlight duct-tapped running light.
Six boaters to a $50 a night hotel room, "the owner told us to just run the water for 15 minutes and then it would start to get hot," told with a grin of excitement.
Just damn happy to be here.
"Forgot to book a place, spent so much time getting ready for this," one big kid with a school jersey on, "so my teammate and me, we found one for one night, but one night we’re going to be sleeping in the truck … how cool is that, sir?"
In a middle school gym, a place only a few years removed from the lives of most of these student athlete anglers, Mississippi State carried on a laughing conversation with the University of Illinois, off to the side a team from a community college, a two-year school, traded fishing stories with the team from Stephen F. Austin University.
And at the end of the line stood the teams from Auburn University and The University of Alabama, "Mind if I take a picture of you two teams together?"
"No sir, no problem at all, we all friends here."
Welcome to B.A.S.S. 101.
" … sunsets we could cry over,
have our trouble's on the run …"
"Thanks dude, for teaching me how to fold clothes."
The dude at the end of the dock just sort of looked at me. Don't know his name, he may have told me, I may have been listening. He is some sort of boss with the title sponsor … this is btw called the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series.
Told him, "Me and Carhartt, we go way back."
Some 44 years to be exact.
I was all of 16, doing the work-study good luck with life thing from my high school and was the assistant to the assistant to the assistant manager in the work clothes department at the Sears Roebuck Store on Main Street in Buffalo N.Y.
Worked across the sales aisle from my father selling washing/dryers/refrigerators in the same basement of the same store.
Store is now gone from Main Street.
Dad now gone from my life.
But the lesson learned selling and folding Carhartt work clothes in the basement of the Sears store never has left me.
Learned stories of the working man.
Gave change back to hands covered in callouses … shook hands with the grease that built this country … handed brown bid overalls to men who were working to hand me my future.
Told all this to the dude from Carhartt on the dock.
And on the dock, the Carhartt boss looked out at all the student athlete anglers tooling by and said to me, "How do you not love this? No matter whether we sponsor this or not, this is the future out there and no matter what they are facing they are coming by here all smiling, all filled with excitement."
And the Boss Carhartt dude stopped talking for a moment, and we both just stood there looking at the future floating on the lake.
Boss Carhartt Dude, know this when you read this … from talking with many of those kids out there in the boats, those are the children of the working stiffs in America.
Many of whom wore your clothes.
Out there floating, out there those student athlete anglers, that's your thank you from the working stiff generation.
You helped sponsor this long before B.A.S.S. put the word "title" before your name.
As you did for me.
Welcome to B.A.S.S. 101.
" … but more than these miracles above,
good people,we need love."
I have no idea what the future holds, but I know who holds it, and it is those children in the boats.
The Elites, they are today.
The Opens and the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation folks, they are tomorrow.
But out there where your grandchildren will grow up, way out there, that belongs to the student athlete anglers in the boats.
Tell you something, from the smiles.
From the laughter in a Middle School gym.
From the sound of a sneaker tapping on a hotel tile floor.
This here sport of tournament fishing, it's got a chance.
Got a chance to put smiles on the faces of our grandkids.
Got a chance to spread across the country, both North and South, East and West, got a chance to get all out there in all the crevices of America.
Brought there by the college kids you see walking with backpacks to your local college campus.
Brought there by the working stiffs who built those schools.
And who passed on the smiles.
And who passed on the tapping feet of excitement.
And who passed on the love of fishing.
And who did all that …
… in classrooms that float.
Welcome to Bass 101.
" … everybody needs the love, love, love."
Everybody Needs Love