2012 Elite Series TroKar Quest Bull Shoals Lake - Bull Shoals, AR, Apr 19 - 22, 2012

Defining … Palaniuk

Don Barone
Brandon Palaniuk celebrates the big bag of the event.

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

"The river flows…"

Dateline:  The Moment

It is not their records I care about.

The won/loss stuff.

Their records, that's what an athlete takes to the bank.

Ca-ching tells me nothing of the man or woman.  It only tells me about how many "Benjamins" they have in the bank … tells me about their worth, but not their soul.

It is the competitor, especially the competitor within, that I care about. 

That fascinates me.

To really know the athlete you need to know what they are made of, not what they make.

I know a bunch of rich athletes … bunches.

I know a bunch of athletes with championship rings … bunches.

But I only know a few champions.

And money.

And jewelry.

Has nothing to do with it.

It is not what you see on your bank statement that makes you a champion.

It is what you see in the mirror.

" … it flows to the sea … "

Sports, has been ruined, by the obvious. 

Frankly, I don't pay any attention to stats, don't listen to sports talk radio, ignore the pundits, have done interviews with hundred's of athletes that even I didn't listen to.

Coach speak, is boring.

Athlete speak, even more so.

Commentators, just shut up would you … I don't need to be told what it was I just saw … and told about it over and over.

Tell me not about the obvious.

Tell me not about the numbers.

Tell me about the man.

Tell me about the woman.

Tell me not how.

But please, please, tell me the why.

I know they can run fast, jump high, deliver big hits or bring in big bags … how … how … how boring.

Tell me why.

Tell me about the absolute beauty of the sport.

Tell me why sports matter.

Tell me, why I should care.

Tell me…of the Defining Moments.

" … wherever that river goes … "

There came here at the Bull Shoals TroKar Quest a moment that I believe will define a young man, and could in itself, define the sport of the Elites.

I know, for me, every Elite moment will be judged against this moment.

And it involved 24-year-old Brandon Palaniuk.

Believe it or not, it is not about whether he wins this thing or not.  To me, the young man is a champion with a champion's heart, no matter what iron goes up on the mantel, or rings go on his fingers.

To me, it's about Kirk Gibson dragging himself, willing himself around the bases.

To me, it's about Mr. October's 3 home run blasts in Game 6, 1977 World Series.

To me, it is defined by Brett Favre and the football game he played the night after his father died.

The value of sports is not in the scores, but in the deeds.

Brandon and I have had a close relationship since he sat on the Bassmaster Classic stage and blew a whistle for another young man, 1994 Bassmaster Classic winner Bryan Kerchal, who was killed in a plane crash shortly after winning his title.

Brandon was 7 years old when Kerchal won.

When Palaniuk lifted the whistle to his lips, and blew it, for Kerchal, when he gave up his spotlight to another angler, I knew I could be watching something special develop before me.

That feeling was cemented when the two of us sat alone in my 4Runner yesterday and talked.

"Dude, do you know what a defining moment is."

Brandon just smiled.  Like my son and daughter do when they have no idea what I'm talking about, but know something about life their way comes.

This in a nutshell is what happened to Brandon a few hours before we talked:

He was leading this event thing.

He got a fishing hook massively jammed into his baby finger up to the bone.

He couldn't get it out.

Brandon … take it from here:  "At 9 a.m. I hooked myself pretty bad, I fished until about 10:30 caught 20 some pounds but knew I had to have the finger looked at so I called Trip (the tournament director), at 11 a.m. I was at the dock and the EMT looked at it and said I had to go to the hospital to get it out, so we left, took about an hour and a half, I came back to the marina and was back in the water around 1p.m. … came in for check-in with my fish at 2:45 p.m."

The defining moment … not that he played hurt, every athlete does that, the defining moment is WHY he did it.

WHY he went back out with his finger all bandaged up.

Why he went back out when he knew he only had maybe an hour and 45 minutes, AT BEST, left on the water.

"I wanted to put this away.  I knew I had 20-something (actually 24 pounds, 4 ounces) but I know every ounce counts.  It's a sport of ounces and I knew that even if I could just better my bag BY AN OUNCE I had to go out and do it."

That's Palaniuk … Defined.

Brandon, young man, that statement, that deed, will always be for me … your defining moment in this sport.

That punches your ticket to belong here.

"If it was the last day of the tournament, I wouldn't have come in at all."

Another punch of the ticket.

For the record, he didn't catch a thing when he went back out.

Nothing in his makeup told him to stay on shore though.

"db I know for a fact that I have won more tournaments on my LAST CAST then on my FIRST CAST."

And then I asked a 24-year-old young man, basically a child to me, I threw the kid a trick question.

I wanted to see if in fact the kid just got lucky in what he did, or, if in fact, inside him beats a champion's heart, someone who knows not just he how of what he does …

… but the why.

"So dude … fast forward 30 or 40 years … you have grandkids and they are asking you about what it was you did … what would you tell them about this … what would you tell them about why you went back out."

And then I just sat back, put the reporter's notebook down on the 4Runner's floor console and just waited.

Go ahead Mr. Young Arse Palaniuk … define yourself … no audience … no whistle … no stage … just you and me … bring it home or flush it down.

"I wouldn't tell my grandkids a thing about the fishing part at all, I would just tell them about the mental part, about the why I went back out … I went back out because I had the opportunity to do so, and like Mike Iaconelli says, 'You Never Give Up.'  I would tell my grandkids that if you have the opportunity to do something, you be thankful for that opportunity … and then … then … you take it."

And with that my young friend, you defined your moment.

With that, you became …

… truly ELITE.

" … that's where I want to be."

-- db

See you next week at the Central Open #2, Table Rock Lake, Branson, Missouri.

"Flow river flow
Let your waters wash down
Take me from this road
To some other town."

Ballad of Easy Rider

Roger McGuinn & The Byrds

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