“Crowded hallways are the loneliest places…”
This is for all of you out there who have never, been noticed.
For you, in the back of the room.
The last desk in Geography class.
You who never shout, you who never raise your hand, you in 4-door sedans and not tight clothes.
Why is it that we in the media gravitate to those in spike heels, and not the folks in flip flops.
If you wear a sign that says, come see me…we will. Wear a wife-beater white tee shirt at a disaster; you’ll lead the 6 o’clock news.
I know, I’ve put you there.
And to those in the back of the room, I apologize. It is easy to cover, to write about those in the front row, the 2nd, the 3rd row, but you there in the back, you’re tough.
Moths, we, drawn to those in the lights… when, in fact, the greatest stories are found in the shadows.
For the first two decades of my life, the planet had no idea I was here. When I went to my high school’s 30-something reunion, this happened over and over again, a classmate would come up to me, say hello, shake my hand, look down at my high school yearbook photo pinned to my chest, look at my name tag, look at me,
and have no idea who I was.
I could have gone to any high school reunion anywhere, and felt just the same.
I’m the classmate, most never knew. And, to those who did, I was the weird one, surely a dummy, maybe worse.
I wasn’t bullied, just ignored, and that may be just as bad.
So for you in the shadows, for you who whisper, this one is for you, this one is about Elite angler Aaron Martens.
And he’s one of us.
“…so your confidence is quiet…”
I am not one for “stats.” I think numbers are boring and that, in sports, “stats” are basically, meaningless.
And every sports fan on the planet will call me a moron for that sentence, and will of course support it with a “stat.”
Show me a “stat” that takes into account, spirit, heart, determination, then I’ll listen, until then…..zzzzzzz.
So I was shocked as I looked at the rankings of the Elite’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race (AOY from now on, ok) the other day.
Shocked that I wasn’t reading the names, but was reading the numbers, the points…my wife back in Connecticut won’t believe that sentence BTW.
But I was. Just like this:
412…my buddy, Mark Davis.
411…friend, Greg Hackney.
390…great friend, Aaron Martens.
382…WHAT, wait a minute, go back….
…390…22 points out of first, Aaron Martens…
So I do this, bam, bam, bam 3 w’s and then Google and I start searching, searching for any story this year that mentions Aaron creeping up on the AOY leaders, Aaron possibly putting back-to-back AOY titles together, anything like that.
Spent about a half hour doing it which is 15 minutes past my attention span.
And I come up with nothing.
Now what comes in the next couple of hundred words, please do not take it to be smack against Mark Davis, Greg Hackney or the 101 other Elite anglers fighting to be AOY.
Take it to be smack against me.
Take it to be smack against the media who once again have written the bejesus out of the obvious, and nothing about the subtle.
I told Aaron what I was going to say here next, and he just smiled, but I think one of the reasons Aaron runs under the radar so much is because if you are 15- to 20-second soundbite looking for journalist…
…Aaron ain’t your cup of tea.
I love him, but when I interview him, I have to put a little Schnapps in my tea afterwards.
“…to them quiet looks like weakness…”
Back a few years ago I did a story trying to explain Aaron as best as I could…here’s the story called, “Thousand Voices.”
Basically, if you ask Aaron a question, you will always get an answer, but it will be in a very roundabout circle kind of way.
Example: Yesterday, I asked Aaron, “What’s up with you and all this talk about drop shot?” When I just wrote that I stopped, looked at my watch and said that sentence out loud, timed it… it took me 00:06:23 (I coughed during it).
To answer that question, Aaron started by telling me what exactly was in his tacklebox…when he was a child 38 years ago.
I’ll paraphrase; the dude had more than drop shot in there, and still does.
Trust me when I say his answer wasn’t a 15- or 20-second soundbite.
And, to me, that was the absolute beauty of it.
He went from childhood, through teens, to adulthood telling about all the lures he used, uses, it was an explanation that was a symphony of detail.
If you think this is just a drop shot guy, you are not even in the same ballpark as him.
When he was done telling me all of this, all I could do was smile, was chuckle, and tell him this, “Aaron, buddy, please don’t ever change, please don’t.”
“…crowded hallways are the loneliest places…”
Here’s an Aaron you might not know; quiet does not mean lazy.
“I spend 140 hours a week working on fishing.”
Aaron will never approximate anything. It wasn’t “around 140 hours.” It wasn’t, “I don’t know, db, maybe something like 140 hours…”
No, it was 140.
And I bet if I put a watch on it…it would be 140, exact.
“I sleep 4 hours a day; last year at the tournament where I won AOY, I slept 4 hours in four days.”
His wife Leslie breaks in and tells me, “db, I tell him he needs more sleep; it isn’t healthy and…”
Aaron breaks in, “…and I tell her that preparing for a tournament is more important than sleeping.”
Aaron takes to the water usually, “at 6:15 in the morning,” and gets off the water, “at 8:30 at night…I used to practice in the dark sometimes until midnight but they don’t let me do that anymore.”
I know these guys very well and Aaron is possibly the hardest working one of them all.
“…for outcasts and rebels…”
We are sitting in the Marten’s motorhome. It is raining heavy outside; his kids are playing video games, as is his nephew. Aaron and I are sitting in the dinette; Leslie his wife is on the couch right behind Aaron’s back.
At times, she reaches out and touches his shoulder.
At other times, she looks at me and smiles, the same smiles I have as Aaron tells me something, in Aaron’s way.
I asked him this, “How many interviews have you done so far this season.”
Aaron told me, “None, but don’t write that; I don’t want you to get fired.”
I then said, “How come no interviews?”
“I don’t think they like me, db.”
And, in that moment, I was once again the kid in the last desk, the man with the pinned on photo that no one knew.
Leslie could only look down at the floor. I faked writing something down in my notebook. Aaron just sat there and smiled.
I left soon afterwards, drove the 20 miles back to where I’m staying with Shaw Grigsby and Paul Elias.
When I got back here and told the boys where I was and what I was doing, Paul looked at me and said, “Yeah, he’s in third place and he could very easily win it again.”
A whole bunch of other Elite anglers who knew I was doing the story told me the same.
But in the half hour drive back here, all I could think of was the last quote I wrote down, “I don’t think they like me, db.”
And whether it’s true about the liking or not, the fact that he even thinks it, the fact that ANYONE even thinks it means that we in the media have failed, miserably.
From whence I came, I have forgotten.
Shame on me.
Aaron, my friend, I told you, “…don’t ever change, and I meant it, for you, but more importantly, for me.
Because your not changing will help me…change.
Help, I hope all of us.
Help us listen to the whispers.
Help us bring light to the shadows.
Help us find those, not looking for us.
We will never know each other if all we read, all we hear, are snippets of lives.
The miracle of the stories of life should not be abridged. You, the reader, you, the user of the stuff of the media, should demand it, should embrace the full story.
And we the media should know one simple fact: that every crankbait, every topwater bait, every frog, every drop shot used, that story, that question, that answer, begins,
in a child’s tacklebox.
“…or anyone who just dares to be different.”