"I'm not afraid
Of anything in this world … "
Dateline: Examination Room No. 4
Thirty years rested on the next moment.
The woman taping the electrodes to my body had no way of knowing that.
She was talking.
I wasn't listening.
I was focused on the box.
The box where the wires ran into.
And oddly, there was only one thought in my mind, a saying I haven't thought about in years, a saying when I read it I thought frankly was just overkill.
A Vince Lombardi-ism from the coach himself.
I remember reading once a quote attributed to him that said something like this: “Doesn't matter if you get knocked down, what matters is if you get up.”
That was the thought in my head as I followed the electrical wires to the box and watched the lady in the white smock hit the switch.
" … there's nothing you can throw at me
That I haven't already heard … "
A friend of mine here in Connecticut sent me a book the other day. The book is called Stone Me: The Wit and Wisdom of Keith Richards. Kevin, the guy who sent me the book, and his wife Paula (a good friend as well, the town clerk here and the lady who signed my first fishing license), plus Skip (a Buffalo, N.Y., ex-patriot) and his wife, Inger, and Barb and I go out to dinner often. They know me very well.
So Kevin comes across this book, knows my affinity for The Rolling Stones (third in my favorites next to Elvis & Dylan) and Rock n' Roll … bang, it ends up in my mail box.
I'm thinking as I look at Richards on the cover, you know, I say to myself and Keith, 30 years as a journalist with a Rock n' Roll sort of attitude to the whole biz … you know, that's what sort of got me in this health mess to begin with.
Traveling 20,000 to 25,000 miles a year … 140-plus nights on the road … Hotels good and bad, motels good and bad, road food good, bad, worse.
Pretty much Rock n' Roll without the melody and bright lights.
As I read the book, one quote by Keith jumps out at me: "Everything I've ever planned has never worked out. I've relied on accidents all my life."
Top of the page.
Now missing from the book my friend sent me.
Held on the wall with a thumbtack.
Above my desk.
Where I write.
" … I'm just trying to find a decent melody … "
"OK … still … stay still for a moment."
The lady running the EKG has no idea what this "moment" means to me.
In a moment-to-moment life, this could be THE MOMENT.
One moment that will determine all the rest.
To all of us, this moment will come. The deciding moment.
Stuck in the moment. I feel nothing from the electrodes on my body. Wires on my swollen legs and ankles, wires on my overweight donut belly, wires on my side.
At rest is not my state of being, it is not the state of being of anyone who lives moment to moment always moving, tumbling along.
Not sure that's even possible.
The lady with the wires does not look at me. She has a red pen and is writing and making circles on the squiggly lines that is me in this moment in time.
I lay there and think of my family.
I wonder, want to ask the lady with the wires, want to tell her about me, about all my moments in time, want her to look at me, not the lines, want her to read my words, not my lines … put down the read pen … unhook me … listen to the one and only question I have …
… I always played until my tank was empty …
… lady with the wires … put down the pen … turn off the machine … LOOK AT ME … just tell me …
… did I push it too far?
…have I run out of gas?
" … I am still enchanted … "
" … the doctor will read this and … "
A few more moments until The Moment.
This may sound horrible, and I don't apologize for it, I'm here because I am going to the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship, regardless of what my doctors say.
I have prostate cancer.
I have screwed up knees, ankles.
Something is up with the veins in my legs.
I may have cardiac issues.
I've done all of this to myself. Chasing the next moment. The next high of a story, the rush of deadlines, the buzz of hitting send.
Make no mistake, it's a drug, the same drug that flows through the Fender Telecaster guitar and into the rock star. Same rush, different stage.
Empty the tank. The dance that got me here.
The dance that will take me out.
I'm going no matter what the squiggles on the paper say, no matter what the doctor advises.
I just want to know what I face.
And I want him to know why it is I have to go, why this moment, of all the moments in my career, is so important.
I want him to know the reason I empty the tank.
Want him to know I do it because my father did it.
I do it because my neighbors do it.
I do it because I was told once a champion is someone who gets up even when they can't.
My children need to know …
All the anglers out there need to know …
It's about respect.
Respect for those folks going to Monroe, La., to compete in the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship.
You get up for that, even if you can't.
America is coming to fish.
America is coming to compete.
America is chasing a dream.
And if you don't respect that, and if you can't get up for that, and if you are not there to honor that, you can kiss my …
" … by the light you brought to me … "
I owe everything to the men and the women who take to the boats.
Owe every word I have written over these past four years.
I owe everything to the men and women of the industry to this sport.
You empty the tank for them, you get up from them.
Can't or not.
At ESPN I worked with a coordinating producer … Ed … family guy, loved all things Philadelphia, as I do all things Buffalo.
Ed gave me a ride home one day -- we live in the same town -- and he said something in that short car ride that I will never forget, and I'm telling ya, he said it over a decade ago and I still remember it as if he said it yesterday.
I hear him whisper it in my ear all the time.
Ed, a long-term guy with the company, LONG TERM, had a bunch of stock in the company, at the time the stock market was great, so I asked him, "Dude … why do you put up with this … why don't you just go out and live on your investments … dude, come on."
And he said to me, simply, this, "I think it's important that my kids see me get up every day and go to work, show them, while I can, what the work ethic means."
That's why this is the most important event that I have ever covered. It is America … mothers and fathers … anglers … showing anyone who watches that the work ethic got them here.
That the work ethic STILL COUNTS.
And that it is still possible, to have, your moment.
Every tournament angler on the planet needs to know that.
Every working stiff on the planet needs to know that.
As do their children.
As do mine.
" … I listen through your ears … "
What we leave behind is more important than what we bring.
What we leave behind guides those who follow.
Right now, anglers all over America are busting their chops to get to Monroe and the B.A.S.S Federation Nation Championship.
These are working stiffs who began fishing in tiny boats, creaky docks, muddy banks.
Guys who always take overtime, guys who answer the call at night and go in, regardless of where in is.
From tiny boats, creaky docks, muddy banks … they join a club of other like men and women, sometimes a big club, sometimes just a few dudes and dudettes.
They still work their job, 40 … 50 … 60 hours a week. They pound nails, they pound the sales floor, they pound the phone keys following leads, they rush to their kids' games, their family outings, smile at the in-laws, frown at the bills.
And after all that, a couple of hours a week, they get to fish.
They go from club tournaments to bigger tournaments, to state tournaments, to regionals, and then to the championship.
From this championship, a few will stand on the biggest angler stage of all, the Bassmaster Classic.
That is how angling America empties the tank.
Moment to moment chasing "The Moment."
When I stand there and watch each and every one of these guys weigh in, I hear this …
" … but whether you get up …"
I hear this.
" … even when you can't … "
I hear this.
" … what the work ethic means … "
I hear this.
My father out in the driveway brushing the snow of a blizzard off his car so he can still go into work.
I hear this.
From the headphones I'm wearing, this song, U2's "Stuck In A Moment."
I hear this.
" … through your eyes I can see … "
I can see love.
I can see hope.
I can see dreams.
I can see America.
When the working stiffs weigh in their bass.
I can see that because the squiggly lines said I can go.
Seems, I get another moment …
… in time.
The tank, not empty yet.
Stuck In a Moment
See you in Monroe,