Could you imagine watching a heavyweight boxer on the brink of the championship just stop swinging? A boxer that has his competitor on the ropes one shot away from victory simply dropping his hands down by his sides because he believed that was the right thing to do?
Or a homerun hitter passing on the perfect pitch that was blistered down the center of the plate; passing on the opportunity to hit a game-winning homerun just because it was the right thing to do? This does not happen in other sports, but it does in ours.
As the final 12 Elite Series anglers arrived at Falcon Lake’s take-off location, they were greeted by harsh winds and a blinding sand storm. Imagine how that would feel – all the years of relentless work, tireless time on the water and on the road away from your family. Finally, you make it to championship Sunday only to be greeted by a weather-induced roadblock keeping you from your spot, your fish and your destiny.
We are constantly reminded that there are no certainties in fishing; there are no gimme’s; and there are no lay-ups. But this week, we came close to having one.
The unbelievable weather at Falcon wreaked havoc on just about every angler's gameplay. Except for one. One angler had fish less than a half mile away from take off. Fish that seem to be getting bigger and setting up better day after day as the tournament moved on. His area was sheltered and easily fishable.
Like I said, there are no lay-ups in fishing, but you had to believe that this is as close to a lay-up that fishing ever had! While 11 other anglers were at a disadvantage, this weather actually gave Rick Clunn an advantage. This weather was his fast ball down the center of the plate. Almost every person that has ever competed in any sport at any level would have not even thought about it. They would have swung for the fences. It's in our DNA to swing and it's something we celebrate at many other sporting events – an athlete with a win in his sights and the killer instinct to grasp it and take it.
But time after time, we are reminded that Rick Clunn is more than just an athlete or competitor. He's human and a person.
While Rick did not have the power to make the decision on whether the day would go or be postponed, he was the very first angler that I personally heard say that for the safety of the anglers, the camera crews and everybody involved, this day should be postponed. Rick knew that this day played into his favor; he knew his chance at going back to the Bassmaster Classic for the 33rd time on the very lake where he won his first Classic had drastically increased with this weather. Rick knew that Mother Nature was throwing him a fastball down the center of the plate but he did not swing.
Not because he did not want it. One look in his eyes and you can see how desperately he wants to hoist an Elite Series trophy over his head and go back to the Bassmaster Classic. Clunn’s decision had more to do with the other 11 anglers, the camera crews, the tournament staff and everybody else involved, everyone except for Rick.
Put yourself in that position and really think about it. Would you have made that decision? It’s easy to make that decision today but how many of you would've made that decision on Sunday morning? While in the heat of the battle with victory right in front of you, would you have made that decision?
If you read the Bassmaster Media Guide, under the accomplishment Clunn is most proud of, it says, "Believing that one's success did not have to be at the expense of others."
If that's success, then congratulations Mr. Clunn! Once again you have proved to us all that you are a champion. Thank you for being the person you are.