View From The Ear Hole: A Rookie’s Tale

“Any minute now my ship is coming in…”

Dateline:  After weigh-in

Three Rivers Stadium.

1993.

49’ers vs Steelers.

Steelers win the toss, kick off, ball sails into the 49’ers end zone.

I’m  standing on the sidelines, right close to the Steelers bench, about as close as you can get, at the time I’m working at WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh, a couple of weeks away from taking the job offer from ESPN.

I want you to do this, go find the biggest, fastest, fattest, dudes on your block.  Give them a bunch of beer money, then have them stand, one on each corner of your block,

then tell them to run as fast as they can down your sidewalk,

and smack head on into each other.

Best if you stand right in the middle of the block, impact point.

WHAM!

I guarantee you this, if you are within feet of the of the impact point the air will get sucked out of YOUR lungs, you will first hear the sound of bone on bone, then belly’s on belly’s, then you hear the groans, the hummpffs, the arrgghhs,

now multiple that by 22,

and add a whole lot more speed to the collisions,

that’s what its like to be on the sidelines of an NFL football game.

So, first game, first kickoff, I’m standing there, not watching the hits as much as trying to watch where the bodies are flying to make sure the flying bodies aren’t flying my way.

Boom, boom, boom x’s 22…grunts, groans, some spitting, the sound of big shoes on fake grass, and then,

as I’m standing there this one player wobbles off the field, I can see his head is still connected mostly as it should be but,

his helmet is turned halfway around, his ear is looking out through the face mask, his eyes, least one of them, is looking at me through the ear hole,

and he sort of does that wobble-trot over to the bench, twists his helmet back to the right way of being on his head, takes it off, drops it on the ground, turns around and plops his arse down on the bench at which point he looks up,

and blesses himself.

I smile, and think,

Welcome to The NFL,

rookie.

As I covered the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, NCAA, NASCAR and the Olympics, I saw first-hand that there was one universal law between all those sports, the law of,

The Show.

Doesn’t matter the sport.

Doesn’t matter how good you think you are at the sport.

Once you make The Show, you are going to be humbled.

All your high school trophies, all your college trophies, everything you have ever won before making The Show, every ribbon, every patch means,

squat.

Double squat.

In The Show everything is bigger, stronger, faster.

You may think you are hot you-know-what, but,

you ain’t.

You about to be lookin’ out your ear hole.

You, about to be schooled.

“…let me throw one more dice…”

“db, these guys can catch them, CATCH THEM.”

Meet Joe Sancho, Bassmaster Elite Series angler…and a ROOKIE on the tour.

Some quick background on Joe so you can place him among your friends:

Dude is from Brooklyn, is an electrician and is sponsored by his Union, the IBEW Local 3 out of NYC.

Joe is a working stiff like us, gets up every morning in his home in New Windsor, NY and catches the 5am bus for the hour and some ride to the Port Authority in NYC, from there the subway to his job.

Married to Evelyn, but listen, “Ha, yeah me and Evelyn, we were engaged for like 20 years, but we have been married now for 10 years, been together though for 30 years.”

Sports.  The guy is a fan of the NFL NY Giants (I would have ended the interview if he said the Jets, what with me being a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan), and then, weirdly, the Mets (most Giant fans are also Yankee fans) “I hate the Yankees,” and leans toward the Rangers in the NHL and the Knicks in the NBA.

Dude is completely bald, Mr. Clean like, has this long braided goatee thing going on, personally I thought he was an early Rock ‘n Roll fan since he is 47, born in 1967 but, “…music…my music runs from Metallica to Eminen.”

I first met Joe at the very first Elite registration this year, the Lake Seminole shindig, sat down next to him, we talked New York stuff a bit, found out he qualified to be here by fishing the B.A.S.S. Northern Opens, turned out to be a good “stick,” and got the call to come on up to,

The Show.

“It was so awesome, it is something I have dreamed of almost all my life, when I got the invite it was one of the happiest days of my life.”

And this is what I said back to him, “Uh-huh, Welcome to the NFL.”

 

“…I know that I can win…”

 

I’m not being a smart arse.

I’m being almost dang fatherly.  Caring even.

But I know, my buddy Joe, is about to get his butt handed to him.

And he did, first Elite tournament, he came in 107th place out of 108, caught all of 3lbs 7 ounces of bass.

“I’m shocked, I had no real idea just how fast, and how good these guys really are, no idea.”

As we are sitting in folding chairs up on a little knoll above the weigh-in stage at the St. Johns River event in Palatka, Florida, Joe’s second Elite tournament is over, he didn’t make the 50 cut to fish on Saturday, but did move up several places over his first event, 89th place as we talked on Friday night.

“I’ll tell you db it’s like the Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman fight…I’m taking a lot of body blows, but I’m hanging in.”

In their first fight Foreman hung in for 8 rounds and then got KO’ed by Ali, let’s hope the same doesn’t happen to Joe at the end of our 8 Elite events.

“The thing is db, I have never been on most of the waters that we are going to compete on, which means I don’t have the fishing experience on the bodies of water that most of these guys do.”

And.

“db, let me tell you, fishing, fishing is, THAT’S IT, fishing for me is everything, it is a dream come true, I look around and all around me are the best anglers in the world, I’m fishing next to and against KVD, Rick Clunn, Shaw Grigsby, Skeet Reese, it’s just incredible.  Last week some little kid came up to me and asked me for my autograph…”

“Did you sign for him.”

“I did, imagine that, me signing an autograph.”

 

“…I'm waiting for…”

And so, we have a NYC electrician, signing autographs.

Which is the absolute beauty of this sport, if a guy from Brooklyn can make the Elites,

there is a dream out there with your name on it.

I flat out believe in chasing dreams.

I flat out believe in doing what you love.

Prepare though for nightmares, prepare though for heartbreak.

Best, does not come easy, and that is as it should be.

To all of you out there on the fishing boards and Facebook who say, you could do this,

you can’t.

But you could.

The Show, awaits.

“I love it, just love it.  Sure it’s not going well right now but you know what db, it will, trust me, it will, I’ve dressed up to go to the dance, now I just have to learn how to dance.”

While looking out the,

ear hole.

“…my real life to begin.”

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin

Colin Hay

 

See you next from the Elite event at Table Rock,

 

db