2013 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #3 Logan Martin Lake - Pell City, AL, May 16 - 18, 2013

The road to redemption

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.

“We play hurt sometimes…”

Dateline: Bass Pro Shops Southern Open, Lake Logan Martin

I’m going to warn you, you need to buckle up for this one.

It is about family.

It is about fishin’.

It is about faith.

Mainly faith, and my lack of it.

Until I was given the seemingly inexplicable assignment of covering fishing tournaments…me a dude who doesn’t fish, doesn’t like boats much, and one pretty much allergic to the outside.

I’m all about family.

Not much about fishin’.

About faith, none.

But then I got sent to travel the country covering the Elite anglers and all sorts of B.A.S.S. fishing events, and from the get-go, strange things began to happen, and I found myself traveling on,

the road to redemption,

whether I liked it or not.

“…cry sometimes…”

I came to this business of chasing fish lake to lake pretty much dead from the eyebrows up.

It is hard to have faith in one another, or even a God, when in one year you cover 186 dead bodies, when you cover child molesters, when you cover cold blooded soulless human beings, and especially when, under deadline you have to write countless sentences that begin with,

the dead infant…

…the child was found bound gaged and…

…all three children were killed by…

Family, becomes your bedrock, faith, not so much.

Now you may think you have the answer, may have been something a preacher told you, a verse read, a prayer said, but until you spend 30 years doing what I have done,

until your body count reaches mine,

I’m not listening.

Sorry, but it is the truth.

So basically, B.A.S.S. is sent a shell of a human being, a shell that didn’t much care about what it was doing, sent to an organization that pretty much didn’t care to have the shell here.

Pretty much the exact definition of Epic Fail.

No one knew back then, especially me, that when I left my driveway, took Route 6 to I-84 South, who knew, that I just turned on to the,

road to redemption.

“…dust ourselves off and get back your life…”

The question I ask myself over and over, especially during the long hours that I am alone and driving from one event to another, is this:  “Why.”

What could possibly be the reason a non-fishing, non-outdoor guy was sent to do what it is I do now.  It can’t be so that I would start fishing, because that hasn’t worked.

I’m finally though beginning to understand, I was done with faith when I had to brush the dust of 9/11 off my shoes, I was in fact, done with YOU.

Lost complete faith, knew, in my heart, the kind had left man.

And just at my lowest point, here I am, in a world I never knew existed, and in an instant I went from covering, meanness, to kindness,

and in my heart I now believe this,

faith wanted to show me that most of the time,

it gets it right.

And it was going to take me for a ride,

down.

the road to redemption.

And believe it or not, here, at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #3 on Lake Logan Martin,

the road to redemption,

took a turn into a parking lot,

where waiting for me in a new Toyota Sienna Minivan was,

Lee McClendon, Jr,

sitting with a smile,

paralyzed in his motorized wheel chair.

:…fall down sometimes…”

Lee, back in 1997 was one of the most feared linebackers in Alabama High School football.   “I was in the top 10 recruited players in the state,” he told me as we sat in his specially handicapped equipped minivan.

Registration was about an hour away and Lee was already in the parking lot waiting to sign up to be a non-boater in the event.  But first, he told me his story.

“I had just won a fishing tournament on Lake Logan Martin and I was driving to pick up my friend, he’s now the Mayor of Moody, Alabama, I was picking him up back then to take him to show him where I caught the fish, when, the accident happened.”

June 4th, 1998, I-20…”an 18wheeler clipped my front bumper, spun me into the ravine between the north and south highways, the truck flipped over and shot me out the top of it, I landed about 20 feet away from it.”

The 18wheeler that knocked him off the road, never stopped, another 18wheeler coming the other way saw the accident, slammed on the brakes and came to help the badly injured, Lee.

“I had two collapsed lungs, a broken arm, and was paralyzed from the waist down.  They flew me to the hospital and when the doctors got done with me they came out and told my parents ‘we have good news and bad news, the good news is he is alive, the bad news is he will never walk again.’”

I just listen, don’t even take notes. 

“The accident happened one exit before I was going to get off the highway.”

Lee, never stepped foot on a football field again, “It was my dream, my life, never happened.”

And then he says, “But you know what, CAN’T shouldn’t be in no man’s vocabulary.”

Comes,

the road,

to redemption.

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