“It seems like only yesterday
I didn't have a clue…”
Dateline: LaGrange, GA
I have always wanted to be,
a quiet man,
who lived on a noisy street.
I have always wanted to be,
where I don’t,
I have always wanted to be,
not like me.
“…they call it understanding…”
I went into this story to learn more about 2013 Bassmaster Classic winner, Cliff Pace.
But in an open apology to Cliff, I have to say, I actually learned more about me, and about us.
Especially us, us in the media.
So this is about Cliff, an angler I call a friend.
But it is also about me, and what it is I do for a living, because I will call myself out, and not my colleagues, when I cut this deep.
At the end of this year I will present a vintage, beat up metal lunch pail to the hardest working stiff on the Elite tour. If the year ended right now I would proudly hand it to Cliff.
And the dude would proudly take it and get the meaning of it all.
Cliff Pace, is a construction worker, in a bass boat. “After high school I went to work in construction, would work 65 hours a week, I was a tool belt guy, brought up in a blue collar family, it was a big part of my life.”
To know Cliff, you need to know of the three most important things in his life:
“All of those are tied together in everything I do.”
Out of high school Cliff got an academic scholarship to college, “but it just wasn’t for me.”
“My dad, my dad Leo, died when I was young. He, he was a friend, a good friend and father to me, he is a big part of what I am today.”
So Mom, “she would set her alarm at 4am on days I would fish tournaments so that she would get up to make something for me to eat, was always there to help me.”
What is it that we ask of the athletes we watch. I believe all sports are a waste of time unless we can take something from it with us in our lives.
My son Jimmy one time when he was young asked me why if I don’t care much about sports, why is it I cover sports.
I told him, reporting, writing about people you don’t know, in situations you may be uncomfortable in, has taught me two things, two of the most valuable lessons I have learned in life.
It taught me, tolerance.
It taught me, understanding.
What is it we want from our athletes when they win, quiet dignity, or chest slides across the floor.
Both forms of expression, will be mocked.
“db I treat bass tournament fishing as a business, as a job, a job I love to do, but as a job.”
And Cliff has a passion for this business.
“Dude I won half a million dollars a couple of months ago and I’m out here on this lake killing myself, up Monday at 5am, on the water until 8:15pm, sat in the boat doing tackle until 10:45pm, went in the hotel room and looked at the lake on Google Earth until midnight, got up the next morning at 5am and did it all over again.”
And then he said the one word that best describes Cliff Pace, “…wholeheartedly.”
Think about that…wholeheartedly.
I smiled when he said it because I have heard that word before, not a lot, but Cliff is the 3rd athlete to tell me that in an interview.
The first was Larry Bird.
The second was Jerry Rice.
Quintessential working stiffs, hall of fame, all business…athletes.
“My Grandfather used to tell me that the best way to kill time, was to work it to death.”
“…a willingness to grow…”
In 30 years of interviewing everyone from those living in castles to those living under bridges, and all the folks in between, I have come to learn this,
it is the person we don’t know, that we can learn the most from.
We are the chroniclers of Win, Place, and Show.
Come in last, come in 10th, and our pens will be pointed elsewhere.
But what of the athletes, persons, we don’t know.
What of the athlete, John Stephen Akhwari. But maybe even more importantly, what of the news producer, one of us, who sent a crew out to interview, not the first Olympic marathon runner entering the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City…but the LAST runner in the race.
John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania.
During the marathon Akhwari fell, dislocated his knee and badly bruised his shoulder. The winner of the race finished in around 2 hours and 20 mins…Akhwari ran into an almost empty stadium over an hour later.
It is from those you don’t know, that you can learn the most, especially from an unknown runner who came in last. When asked why he still ran, still competed in the marathon he replied:
“My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race."
And that is why Jimmy, I write about sports.
And that is what we are missing if we only cover, Win, Place, and Show.
“…I'm finally understanding…”
For the most part, I’ve found, that the athletes understand this better than we, who cover them, do.
I asked Cliff who it was that he looked up to in this business and he told me pretty much, all who have come before him, “I admire the anglers, the workers, who created this platform for me. I have tremendous respect for what they did, and what it has done for me.”
I wrote that down, and just waited, it is answers to questions you’ve never asked that tell you the most about the person, and so I waited to see if, or what Cliff would say next.
He sat on the deck of his boat fiddling with a lure, turning thoughts over in his mind as he turned the lure over in his hand, and then he said, “…sure done a lot for me, and know it is my job, our job, to do a lot for those who will come after us, to leave them a successful platform, as was left for us.”
Unless you know Cliff personally, don’t expect much small talk at events, his passion for the business of tournament fishing, his amazing hyper focus on every little detail concerned with competing, pretty much make shooting the breeze impossible, “I always think of this quote db, ‘If you say something that means nothing, it’s just noise.”
It is NOT being aloof.
It is NOT being unsociable.
It is the consummate desire to compete at the highest level of the sport.
“…there's so much I could know…”
What is it that we ask of others, to be like us, to be like we want them to be, or to be unlike us, not us, but themselves.
It is in the difference, where lies the understanding.
It is in the difference, where lies the learning.
Relish the fact that we live on a big green rock floating in space that ALLOWS difference.
If we all were the same, acted the same, the same, there would be no need for sports.
There would only be…same.
No need, for questions.
No place, for new.
And that’s, the Change of Pace.
Something new, something different, and the burden is not on Cliff, but on us.
Us, to have a passion, for tolerance.
Us, to have a passion for, understanding.
Understanding, and tolerance for,