Footsteps

“You're a real tough cookie…”

Dateline:  Knock Knock

There are, behind all of us,

footsteps.

True story:  I once had a semi-moron News Director lead me into the middle of the busy/filled newsroom I was working in, and then with a sweep of her hand say exactly this to me, “Any one of these reporters in here would love to have your job.”

And then she yelled this:  “All of you who want Don Barone’s job, raise your hand.”

Three hands shot up.

Footsteps.

I’ve heard them.

True Story:  From the book, Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, this from Sportscenter Anchor, and friend, Jack Edwards on reporting the Olympic Park bombing, “We had a tremendous investigative producer who had an unimpeachable source, and we went on the air and said that Richard Jewell was no closer to the center of the FBI’s “first circle” than any other suspect.  We never varied from that even while everyone else was identifying Jewell.  For me, that was Sportscenter’s greatest moment because we were the only, and I do mean, only news agency not pegging Richard Jewell.”

After we reported that on Sportscenter I sat alone in an ESPN editing room, in the dark, watching all the domestic, and some international news agencies, file reports naming Mr. Jewell as the main bombing suspect.

The news biz world was basically saying the opposite of what I just wrote.

And we broadcast.

I had just gotten off the phone with a shouting boss who, after a bunch of cursing, basically told me that if my information was wrong he would happily replace me “with any number of people who want your job and can do it better.”

Footsteps.

Yeah, I’ve heard them.

Some were soft.

Some were loud.

But all were after just one thing.

Me.

And once again I’m hearing footsteps, but,

this time they are not coming for me,

this time they’re coming for,

the Elites.

“…that's okay, lets see how you do it…”

Knock, knock.

Here it goes, this year, 2014, we’ve got 14 “rookies” on the Elite tour.  Not a record, in 2006 we had 20, in 2011 we had 15 (thank Ken Duke for this info, not me, thanks Ken) but you know what, anytime you through a Bakers Dozen plus 1 into the mix…you are going to stir up the pot some.

At the half turn point of this shindig, check this out, of the four tournaments in the books, TWO were won by the new guys:  Brett Hite won tourney #1 on Lake Seminole and Jacob Powroznik won the last gig we had, tourney #4 on Toldedo Bend.

In the Angler of the Year race 3 of the top 10 guys are rookies, at least what we call rookies in the very broadest use of that word.  They are rookies in the Elites but these dudes have been fishing Pro’s for a while.

“Let’s be honest about it db, I came here to beat KVD.”

I’m sitting at one of those round banquet table things talking to new guy, Randall Tharp.  Randall is sitting on my right, his wife Sara, is on my left.  I’ve talked to Sara a bunch of times both in person and through all those social media things I’m supposed to do.

But this is my first honest to goodness talk with, interview of, Randall.  To tell you the truth, Randall can rub some people the wrong way with his, lets say, exuberance of his fishing abilities.

I understand that.Randall Tharp, this was supposed to be a Selfie with him but my arms are to short to make me look good so his wife Sara took this shotie.

But in truth, it doesn’t bother me much, I’ve been around a whole bunch of professional athletes a lot more, A LOT more exuberant than Randall.  I never got to interview, “The Greatest,” Ali, but I’ve interviewed hundreds who told me how great they are/were.

I’ve never had any champion stand up and shout, “Hey world, I’m…average.”

Whenever I heard footsteps coming my way, I just got, quiet.  More fun to knock them off that way, they never hear it coming.

Randall, though, is not me.  “I want to fish against the best and beat the best.”

And yeah, he’s got the chops to say stuff like that, I checked out his record fishing B.A.S.S., and totally ignored the rest of his professional life, but while on the waters fishing B.A.S.S. he’s been in 32 tourneys, won 3 of them, has 14 top 10’s, been in the money 25 times.

“db, I qualified 3 times to fish the Elite tour, but never did it.  You know though, I started thinking, where would I be if I went the first time I was asked…”

I just sat there writing some notes down, fooling with the paper table cloth under the table, I wasn’t going to say a thing, wanted to see exactly how Randall was going to finish that there sentence, I knew I could finish it for him, you too could probably do the same thing…but he never filled in the blank.

Tell you the truth, when I sat down with the guy, I didn’t know what to expect, big head/big mouth, or, confidence, and I came away pleasantly surprised, sure the guy knows he’s good, because he is good, very good, and let me tell you something, EVERYONE OUT HERE IS COCKY IN THEIR OWN WAY.

You have to be, stand quietly in the corner and you’re going to be out the door pretty quick.

“I came here db, very simply, because I want to be the best, and to be the best you have to compete against the best, and beat them.”

And frankly, that’s not bragging, that’s just a fact.

When Babe Ruth retired he was the all time leader in walks, got the pass to 1st base…2,056 times in his career.  Most threw around him, the best though, the best threw heat.

“…put up your dukes…”

“It’s a good feeling to compete against the best in the world, KVD, Skeet, Davis, you know the guys, it is a true test of my fishing ability.  I want to fish against them, and I want to beat them.”  Jacob Powroznik

Davis is the Current Angler Of The Year leader, Mark Davis, and yeah, he’s heard the footsteps but I’m not to sure he’s worried about them…check out how he feels about it in this story by Dave Precht, VP of Publications at B.A.S.S.

I’m becoming a fan of this new dude on the tour, Jacob, even if I have no idea how to say his last name.Jacob Powroznik

Some numbers:  Has fished in 8 B.A.S.S. events, won 2 of them, finished in the top 10 4 times, been in the money in ALL of them.  Made a check 4 out of 4 times so far this year.

“Winning at Toledo Bend, winning that Elite Tournament was an enormous relief, got the huge monkey off my back.  I look at it this way, I have 1 in 108 chances to win the lottery, the Elite lottery, and last tournament I hit the lottery.”

Here’s why I like the guy, “db, dude, after I won I was driving down the road and it hit me, HIT ME, I just got a ticket to the Bassmaster Classic, I MADE THE CLASSIC.”

And as he says that, I look into the window of his truck, and sitting there in the passenger’s seat…the trophy from Toledo Bend, just made me smile as did this, “After I won I got 478 txt messages BEFORE I even got back to my truck.”

I wasn’t there when Jacob won his first Elite event, the 4th one he ever played in, but I guess some questioned why he didn’t do handstands on the stage, but I think those looking for that confuse us with American Idol.

Jacob may be quiet and reserved but he isn’t confused by any of this, “All the guys out here are top notch, they do everything right, there’s no edge you can get against them, but, but you can out fish them.”

“…let's get down to it…”

“Bring it on.”

Let’s be honest here, many of the guys on the tour are good, some great, but none, none has a bigger target on his back than the man with just three letters,

KVD.

“Uh huh, yeah db, they are good, but bring it on.”

The first few years I covered this sport I pretty much ignored KVD, figured the guy got enough pub, figured I would be dealing with a glamour boy who would only talk to me if he wanted something.

I was wrong.

Over the last few years Kevin, and I never call him KVD, and I have become good close friends.  When I was in the hospital both Kevin and his wife Sherry txt’ed me often, called too, his mother and father, great friends as well, and I consider this friendship endearing, and an honor.

I have been around hundreds of the greatest athletes on the planet, some the best of all time, no doubt, but if I stand back and look at “Sports” in the unbiased eyes of a journalist, I put Kevin, and to almost the same degree, Skeet, in the Top 10 of the best competitors I’ve ever been around.”

Competitor, NOT athlete, because to me competitor is a mixture of God-given talent and sportsmanship.

Sportsmanship.

When I talked to Kevin about hearing footsteps he said sure, “…these guys are good, but we are 4 weeks in, lets see how things shake out at the end of this year, see how they shake out a couple years from now, a decade from now.”

That’s the talent part of the equation.

Here’s the sportsmanship:  “db, I think it is good for the sport to have new blood come in and push the guys who have been in it awhile, and I know frankly it is good for me to be pushed, you push me and all I’m going to do is get better, and that’s good, good for me.”

"Bring it on." Kevin VanDamMost may never say it, but I think over the last couple of years the Elites may have been getting a little stagnate.  A little to comfortable, and the worst thing in sports, for the athletes, for the fans, is comfortable.

The greatest thing in sport is when the underdog, the new guy…wins.  When that happens, everything in the game is revitalized.  The competitors, the fans, and the game itself.

After all, it is The Game, that matters.  And the competition within, why we watch, why we suit up and join in.

Footsteps.

Knock, Knock.

Both, the lifeblood of the game, the stuff of which makes the game better, the stuff of which makes the competitors, better.

Who knows how the rest of the year will play out, we may never hear another word from the crop of new guys, but I kind of doubt that.  Either way, out here, out on the water, there is a new energy, a renewed sense of purpose, sense of drive, and even if the new guys tank there is still excitement in the air, and the game is better,

because of the footsteps.

Oh, BTW, the moron News Director who asked for the show of hands, she’s a Banquet Manager somewhere in California…sitting on my mantle, three Emmys and the New York Festival World Medal for Investigative Journalism.

BTW2…Richard Jewell,

exonerated.

Footsteps, yeah…

…bring ‘em on.

“…fire away.”

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

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