Do me a favor. Stop calling Kevin VanDam the most dominant angler in B.A.S.S. history.
The problem is that it's not true ... not even close.
If you want to call KVD the best of all-time (BOAT) or the greatest that ever was or something like that, go right ahead. I agree. I've said it before and think it'll be a long, long time (maybe never) before he loses his spot on top of the mountain.
But he is not the most dominant angler in history. In fact, he ranks a pretty distant second.
Roland Martin was the most dominant angler in B.A.S.S. history — hands down.
Fans (not just sports fans or fishing fans) have an unfortunate tendency. We forget the accomplishments of the greats once they leave the stage. Often it begins even before they retire, when they're just past their prime and starting on the downward slope that eventually ends their career. When they finally hang it up we're already thinking that the game has passed them by, that even at their best they wouldn't be as impressive as the newest stars.
It's a mistake, but it happens to everyone — Babe Ruth (who fizzled in his Boston Braves years), Jerry Rice (who hung on a little too long with the Oakland Raiders), even Michael Jordan (who made an awkward comeback with the Washington Wizards three years after retiring). I even remember a poll of music fans about 35 years ago that ranked Queen ahead of the Beatles when asked to pick the greatest rock and roll band of all-time.
I understood that "Another One Bites the Dust" was on top of the charts, but really? Queen?
To add to our short attention spans and memories, we start deducting points for things that really shouldn't count against a legend's career. Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles, but he was a lousy television announcer. Ted Williams hit .400, but he was a failure as a manager. Roland Martin won nine AOYs, but he's responsible for the Helicopter Lure. O.J. Simpson won the Heisman Trophy, but ... well, you know.
It all contributes to our losing perspective, and it works to the benefit of the current superstar — whoever that might be. Right now, it's in KVD's favor. His seven Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles and four Bassmaster Classic wins are fresh in our minds. But one day they won't be. One day — maybe 25 or 30 years from now — a big percentage of the fans following the sport will never have seen VanDam in person or even on television or the web ... or whatever passes for mass media then. They'll recognize the name and maybe even a few of the accomplishments, but they won't have an appreciation of his place in the sport.
They'll look at his seven AOYs and four Classics the way we look at Cy Young's 511 career wins in baseball — an anomaly, something that could never be achieved in the "modern" game.
And maybe they'll be right about that, but they'll be wrong to dismiss VanDam's excellence just because he didn't compete in their era. KVD's mastery may be defined by his times, but it's not confined to them.
The same is true for Roland Martin. It's been a while since he competed in a Classic (2003), won a tournament (1997) or captured an AOY (1985). His career started a long time ago with a second place finish at Toledo Bend Reservoir in 1970, and few who followed the tournament trail then are still watching.
But no one has ever dominated the sport of professional bass fishing the way Martin did in the early 1970s ... and no one ever will. Bold statements, but I can back them up. First, though, I want to talk about dominance and how it really works in sports.
True dominance in a sport usually only happens in its infancy. When a sport is new, there are few participants, few standouts, few "naturals" and few individuals who have dedicated their lives or careers to the activity. The longer a sport has been around, the more people are playing, the longer they've been playing and the more likely they are to have built their world around it.