If …

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.

"But when a dream is calling you … "

Dateline:  3:19 a.m. running from dreams …

If.

If I.

If I had.

If I had to …

… to do it all over again.

It wouldn't be this.

If.

To do it all over again.

It would be this … the words that I write would not be read.

They would be sung.  The words I write would be songs.

If, I ran to my dreams, instead, of running from them.  My dreams.  I would have written songs that played on your radio, played in your head, played in your soul.

Lyrics.

Not paragraphs.

If … I would have listened to my dreams which sung. 

If I wouldn't have listened to my high school teachers and advisors who shouted, stupid, you're stupid, stupid, stupid, their song tearing through my soul.

If I would have followed the songs inside of me I would have been part of the melody of life, listen, listen …

And the first song I would have written would have been about dreams.  Dreams are the you that know what you should be doing.  Dreams are the lyrics of the universe, the song inside of you.

Listen to your song, sing your song.

Chase your dreams, no matter what anyone says.  Run, run, after those dreams, do not be afraid to sing your song.

If.

If you don't.

You will end up without a song.

If you don't chase your dreams, they will chase you.

Chase you at 3:19 a.m.

And you'll have no song in your soul.

If.

If you don't.

You will only have nightmares.

And they will chase you.

As they do me.

If …

" … there's just one thing that you can do … "

At some point, you stop chasing dreams, and start chasing life.  Those amongst us who never quit chasing their dreams, those we call geniuses, those amongst us who stop chasing their dreams, those we call working stiffs.

I'm a working stiff.  Brown bag dreams.  Punch in, pay the bills, punch out, try to sleep.  Punch in, say yes to bosses, punch out, say no to yourself.  Punch in, be silent, punch out, sing.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the nightmares, I started chasing not dreams, but dreamers. Which is what sports is all about … dreams.  Dreams of the catch, the score, the ring.  Poured bronze immortality.  A mantle of dreams.

And nowhere are the dreams bigger than here at the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Divisional and championship events.  That's why, of all the competitive fishing tournaments I cover, that's why this event, covering the Fed Nation's dreams, is my favorite event of all.

If you are here and not dreaming of greatness … go home.  Wait for your nightmare to come, and it will.

But as I stand backstage and watch the anglers come up one by one, I know, I can see, I can hear the song playing in their hearts, because in that bag they bring up on stage, they weigh in more than just fish.

They weigh in their dreams.

Bag after bag.

And in that line there isn't a bigger dreamer than a 33-year-old construction worker from Jefferson, Maine.

" … well, you gotta follow that dream … "

Don't know about the other people around me, but to be truthful, this is how I see "First Safe Light," and the boats being launched.

I'm walking the sideline of tournament fishing … the dock.  Game time, first safe light, is about 20 minutes away.  I'm going from huddle to huddle listening in … each state president is giving the locker room talk to the team.  Connecticut at the end of the dock, Ontario mid-dock, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York scattered about.

I'm listening, but mainly I'm looking.

Looking for the play-ahhs.  Who around this dock wants the ball? I'm looking for … PLAYERS.

I looking for prime time.  Looking for game face.  Looking for those who won't settle with just being here, I'm looking for those who know the goal isn't to be in the Super Bowl, but to win the Super Bowl.

I'm looking for that Day Four angler.

The guys who fish not to just make the cut, but to win the whole she-bang.  Not just to be in the top 12, but to be the top ONE.

Dreamers.

Midway down the dock, I find him.  He's standing in a boat and he's facing away from all the other people milling about, facing away from all the other boats floating about.

He's standing facing the still dark Lake Champlain.

And he's smiling.

When you stand upright in the boat and you stare into the dark, just stare at your field of play, the lake, and you do so with a big smile on your face … that is game face.

Just send me in coach … please … just give me the ball.

"Dude … hey … what's your name?"

"Joe … Joe Holland … Maine."

"Let's talk."

Joe Holland, he told me, "I get goose bumps walking up on that stage."

.And only his eyes move, shift from the dark lake, eyes me up and down, and then shift back to the lake.

"Sure."

Ho, ho, he's game planning.

"Tell me about being at this tournament? What does it mean to you?"

And his eyes never move off the lake, his body language never changes, he doesn't turn to face me, the only thing that changes, is his smile.

It gets bigger.

" … wherever that dream may lead … "

"I just want to enjoy every moment of it, just stand here and appreciate it … it's a dream come true."

"What's the dream?"

"I dream of someday being a pro … being an Elite angler, but the only way someone like me will ever make that is working my way up through the Federation level … or a good lottery ticket."

And when he told me what, "Someone like me," meant, I thought this … this sport needs guys like this … the Elites do … we need Joe America, and that's what this guy is.

Meet him.

He's a working stiff.  A family guy, a Boy Scout without the badges.

College graduate, communication degree from Saint Joseph's College of Maine in Standish … where he also was the catcher on the baseball team his four years there.

Works now, "in construction, work concrete," a working stiff job that he does in Maine from April to October where he makes, "under $20,000  a year."  Come October Joe packs up and heads down to Florida to help take care of his 87-year-old grandmother.

And fish for bass.

"Last year I fished 51 one-day tournaments, five two-day tournaments, and one three-day tournament."

He drives, or DROVE, a 1990 Chevy stepside pickup truck with 289,000 miles on it until, "A couple of days ago the tranny went, don't know what I'll do about that yet, a friend let me borrow his truck to get here."

And when he got here, he was towing a boat he found in an old barn.

"It had cobwebs all over it."

" … you gotta follow that dream … "

Joe America … aka … Joe Holland.

"My father got me into fishing. My dad got it so I fished my first tournament when I was 8 years old."

Joe sent me a picture of his father. "It's like from way back in the 80s or something, it's his Bass club and he's the guy standing there holding like three awards."

Joe's dad, the one in the gray sweater holding three awards way "back in the '80's."

Joe looks like his father's twin.  Same smile as well.  Game face runs in the family.

"I found this old boat in a barn in Belgrade, Maine … it was a Tracker Grizzly aluminum boat … 1999 hull … I paid $800 for it.  I wanted it because I was going to make it into my own special bass boat."

So every night after work Joe would work on his boat … work on it on weekends … any spare time went into his boat.  Finally, he had it the way he wanted it, "I fished five tournaments in it, won two of them."

And he brought it here.  To Lake Champlain.  The Champlain Ocean.

"I was practicing in it and it was really rough out there … then it started to happen … "

Joe trails off, it is still very fresh in his mind, still very hard to talk about, but he does, in his inside voice, " … it was really rough out there and as I'm trying to get back to the dock, it starts to break up, every weld I made in the boat starts coming apart … every weld broke."

Joe in his barn-found $800 boat.

Joe made it back safely, his boat is now parked way back in the corner of the hotel parking lot and he is fishing out of other anglers’ boats instead of piloting his own.

"It is still pretty tough to talk about, coming back to the dock with the boat all broken up, I thought I had just lost the dream."

" …  to find the love you need … "

Joe America.

"I'm just an average Joe, I'm trying to run down a dream without the funds.  This is how I'm going to do it, come up through the ranks and fight my way in, what other sport on the planet gives you an opportunity like this?"

And with that he stops talking, actually wipes his eyes behind his non-sponsored, bought-for-himself sunglasses.

"I'm sorry, db, I'm sorry … sometimes I just get so emotional about it … I just … I just appreciate being here, I get to fish with and against the best Federation Nation anglers in the east, what an honor, and I don't know if I will ever get the opportunity to get back … I'm sorry, so sorry … it's just very emotional for me."

And then he made it emotional for me.

"When I walk across that B.A.S. S. stage, db, I get goose bumps."

I know the feeling Joe, I get it every time I hit play on my iPod.  Get every time I hear a song.

"What other sport out there gives you hope like this … none.  When I took off yesterday and launched by you on the dock and you pointed at me and all you said was ‘Super Bowl’ … it gave me chills … because you know what db … it's possible I actually have a shot, as do we all out here, of fishing in our Super Bowl … the Bassmaster Classic.  But you know, I'm just an average Joe … I have the hope, I have the drive, I have the dream, just not the dollars … "

As he talked, I don't know what else he said because all I heard was … "you can't spell" … "you don't know grammar" … "you can't write" … "stupid, stupid, stupid … "

And this is what I said back to Joe America:

"If you have the hope, if you have the drive, if you have the dreams … listen to that … listen to what you hear inside of you, and don't let anyone talk you out of it because if you don't listen to other people, someday, someday that stage that gives you goose bumps today … someday, that stage will be all yours."

If only you listen to the lyrics in your head.

And not to anything else.

It's your life song.

No one else's.

Take the stage Joe, take the stage waiting for you.

Chase your dreams, run after them, speed towards them … gallop.

Because then …

… there will be no … ifs.

" … keep a-movin, move along, keep a moving."

Follow That Dream

Elvis

--db

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