“If you trust in your soul…”
I live, with monsters under my bed.
They came for me last night.
When the monsters come it is a night filled with screams, cold sweats, shivering, a darkness so total I know how the chick feels before breaking out of the egg, and I wake up in the shower with a puddle of tears and spit on my chest.
I break silence on this only for those others out there, like me, with monsters under the bed.
Don’t matter none how the monsters got there, matters most that they are there, you with the claws underneath, know what I mean.
It happens most, when I’m alone, my wife Barb laying next to me, seems to keep the monsters in check.
Not so last night.
Normally, when the claws come out, it takes me a day or so to be once again…db.
The monsters, it seems, come for the happiness, the love, the humor, the peace, within me, and it takes longer and longer for those things that live, I believe, in my soul, to recharge.
Except, this time.
This time, I never gave up the bed.
To the monsters underneath.
This time, I went to bed with notes all around me, story notes, the scraps of thought I write down that become stories, and sometimes, special times, the song starts playing in my head without the ipod plugged in.
As did last night.
And those scraps of notes, saved me.
Because, before came the monsters, came this:
It helped me.
And if, or when, the monsters come for you,
I hope it helps you too,
because it showed me that no matter,
no matter how deep the claws get,
way, way down deep in all of us,
“…life is really up to you…”
Know this first, because some will argue with me about this later, but I consider most of the young college anglers who took to the water in competition here these last couple of days…to be children.
To me, if your life starts after the first date of record on my Resume, you are a child of the mind, if not the body.
If you are 22, there is a sweater in my closet older than you. At 24, way down deep in the bottom dresser drawer, there is a pair of socks that have you beat.
Trust me young college dudes, when it comes to age, I am past my sell date.
Take no offense at me calling you a child, but if your game controller is still hooked up…you are.
But here is the cool part, toast ye this with Guinness in all those campus bars you tell your parents you never go to…it is still possible that those of us past our sell dates can learn something from the newest socks in the drawer.
To all of you with the Guinness foam on upper lips that haven’t been shaved yet, you need to know this, we who run this college tournament bass thing are all running around with tight butts and perfumed breath worrying about whether this thing will actually turn into a THING that works.
You, have shown me, it will, and probably will do so, with or without, us.
To all my tight butt and non-smelly colleagues, relax, we’ve got this one, they’ve got this one, embrace the young men, and hopefully soon, the young women of college in those bass boats, all we have to do, is not screw this up.
If colleagues, you trust anything I may tell you, hope to leave you with when my “use by” date arrives it is this, a secret I learned out in the college kids weigh-in boat line yesterday…and it is simply this:
One of the young kids, to me a child competitor, launched yesterday with this written in ink on his palm:
Colleague dudes, and dudettes….THAT will be the anthem of this sport.
That, is what will bring them, to our sport, and keep them here.
Next year, when I pay down my American Express bill, I’m going to have made two large banners made, Elite Angler Kevin Short and his wife Kerry will make them for me cheap…and one banner will say HAVE…and one banner will say FUN…and I will place one banner on each side of the Bassmaster stage and everything in between on that stage will be about that.
So many times in sports we tell each other to have fun and we just don’t damn do it.
I’m calling B/S on that.
And the reason I am calling it is because of two young college anglers, Nick and Jarred, from Eastern Washington University and the totally cool but somewhat improbable lesson I learned from them.
“…you must choose what to pursue ohh yeeeah…”
Nick Barr, 22, from Lacey, Washington is the young man, child, who wrote the saying, “Have Fun” on his hand, and yesterday Nick went up against a much older college student, a dude who was on the winning Bassmaster College Championship team…and beat him.
And I mean no disrespect to the student who lost, but the stuff of sports, the fabled stuff of hitting one out for the sick kid, of running up into the stands and handing your mother the football you just scored and won the game with, the Kirk Gibson World Series game winning home run and his run around the bases on two injured legs that he could barely walk on…that stuff of sports, happened here this weekend.
Folks, that’s magic.
That’s why we watch.
We seed teams in tournaments, I believe with the hope down deep, that 16, takes out #1.
The tales grandfathers tell young grandsons, the tales of love of sports, of sports stories that enter our souls are built on David…not Goliath.
Nick, goes up to Eastern Washington University from wherever Lacey, Washington is and starts standing in whatever the middle is of Eastern Washington University (a school BTW that I am NOT an alumni of and in fact in truth other than knowing it must be somewhere in the east part of the state don’t actually know where it is) is and starts handing out cards to students who pass by and asking them if they would like to join a fishing and hunting club he is trying to start.
“db it was tough in the beginning, but now, now we have 60 kids in it,” he says through an almost ever present smile.
Nick comes from the stock of America, Mom a teacher somewhere in Washington, Dad a social worker up there somewhere too. “We are blessed to live in the wild frontier, it is so beautiful, so many species of fish, of wild animals, just blessed man.”
“We have a blast, we are now one of the bigger club sports at the university, and in fact as I sit here, the school is taking delivery of a boat they bought us for the club.”
“Really Nick, very nice, how cool is that.”
“Yeah db…I found the boat for the school on Craigslist…it’s a little old and used, but it will be great.”
The stuff of sports stories that will be handed down.
“…set your mind on what to find…”
“I was out fishing with my buddy and he told me about this little dude who was trying to start a fishing team at school, and I told my buddy to stop fishing right now….AND TAKE ME TO HIM.”
Jarred Walker, age 24, Eastern Washington University, big dude, used to be a D-1 college Outside Linebacker at Washington State University.
Fishing partner of Nick…the dude he was taken to.
“I’m a big corn fed kid, come from a small town, Moses Lake, Washington, population, 17,000 or so. I love the outdoors, got 5 family members who fish for bass, we could run our own tournament, but when I have the chance I fish from sun up to sun down.”
Jarred didn’t do to well this weekend, got skunked out on the lake, “Yeah fishing was real tough...” and then almost giggling “this is so great…love it.”
“Football one time we were playing UCLA, I was on Special Teams and was running down the field to tackle Jahvid Best (single season most yards rushed in a game record holder for Cal) we had all the lanes covered, he had no where to go, and then, then he made this move, an impossible move, and was gone, we all walked off the field asking each other…did you see that….that was pretty cool…”
And then came…
“db, dude I come from a really small town, really small, and one day I’m playing USC in the Coliseum and I look around and there are almost 94,000 people all yelling and screaming and I think to myself how cool is this…”
“…I thought that was the coolest thing that would ever happen to me in sports, until I got here…this is so much cooler.”
A few minutes later KVD came by to ask me a question, but before leaving he shook both Nick and Jarred’s hands and welcomed them here. When he left I asked both of them why they didn’t say anything to him:
Jarred, “Are you kidding me…”
Nick: “…we could barely breath, couldn’t have said something to him if we had to.”
“…and there's nothin'…”
The two photos coming up were taken at exactly 1 minute and 41 seconds apart.
Look at ‘em:
For the past 21 years I have been a professional sports reporter/writer. I have broken/covered all the big scandals, all the big names, all the big games. Wrote of golden boys, golden girls, rogues and saints, those who came in first, those who came in last, those just starting, those hanging up the cleats.
To be honest I did it not as a fan of the sport, but as a fan of the human spirit, the human spirit that transcends the game.
The game, is nothing more than the culmination of the human spirit.
The who, who won, has never interested me as much as the how, of the who, who won.
Life is a series of moments between when we say, Hi, to it and when we say, Bye, to it. Every moment should count, from sports and the time we give to it, something our way back should come.
There will always be monsters under my bed.
And maybe yours too.
If so, I’m sorry.
I hate, when the claws of night sink in, worry if it is a dream, or mental illness coming for me in the dark, but like the chick and the egg shell, once it is over there seems to be a cleansing, part of me gone, part of me new.
Last night, I found peace amidst the screams when I woke up to find all the notes about the sport around me in bed.
I believe, after all these years, that it is the game that cleanses us.
Whether it is in victory, or defeat, the game allows us to come out of it a little bit different than how we entered.
We all can’t write in pen, “Have Fun” on our hands, but we all can etch that in our heart.
There is beauty is being old, but the gift of life, is the young behind us.
To Nick, to Jarred, and to all the young college anglers out here, thank you for the innocence you bring,
it is what makes the game so special,
and it is what helps,
and get through,
“…you can’t do.”
Find Your Grail