Edwin’s lament

The past 12 months was the most productive period of Edwin Evers’ career.

The past 12 months was the most painful period of Edwin Evers’ career.

He led the 2013 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race heading into the final tournament, only to see Aaron Martens walk away with the title.

He led the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic heading into the final day, only to see Randy Howell survive the Super Six and write his name into the record books.

It’s hard for those of us who don’t really know him well to gauge how much this truly hurts Evers. He’s someone who controls his external emotions, giving the politically appropriate answers to the questions presented. I’ve worked with him quite a bit over the past 12 months – largely because there’s been so much good stuff to write about – but through the mostly ups and the few downs, I’m not sure that I know much more about his emotional makeup than I did before. I don’t know if he cries, if he yells, if he throws things, if he rides his tractor to get the hurt out, or if it just goes away on its own. It’s obvious that he lives to compete and to win but, despite the glow of eight B.A.S.S. wins, it’s unclear what kind of toll these near-misses take on him mentally.

In a recent column, Bernie Schultz wrote that the most annoying question for someone who failed to make the Classic field is, “What happened, why aren’t you out there?” By the end of the Classic, he said those in that boat are “ready to choke someone!”

That’s the case for the vast majority of the Elite Series pros. For someone like Evers, though, who has made 13 Classics in 15 years, not missing one since 2010 (and before that 2001), that question has the approximate frequency of Halley’s Comet. Instead, the question that plagues him is, “Why haven’t you won one yet?”

He’s not alone.

Dan Marino holds dozens of NFL passing records, appeared in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and made it to one Super Bowl, but he never took home a ring. I’m sure he’s asked why just about every day, and I’m sure that just as the answer never changes, it never gets easier, either.

Charles Barkley won two Olympic gold medals and was named one of the Top 50 NBA players of all time, but Sir Charles never won an NBA championship. If you ask him why when he’s in a bad mood, you might get thrown through a plate glass window.

Ernie Banks hit 512 home runs but he never made a postseason appearance. Given the opportunity to enter a World Series game today, at age 83, Mr. Cub would probably sprint to the locker room yelling, “Let’s play two.”

The Buffalo Bills advanced to four consecutive Super Bowls, but on each occasion they had to watch as the other team hoisted the Lombardi Cup. Despite being in some respects the dominant team of an era, in a position every team but one would’ve liked to occupy, they’re unfairly remembered as “losers.”

The bitter truth is that Edwin Evers may never win one – the odds, even for the best in the world, aren’t good. One lost fish, one unavoidable mechanical problem, one superhuman effort by another competitor, and it’s wait ‘til next year. Unfortunately, next year often brings more of the same.

Even if you win one title, the other may elude you. Roland Martin, with 9 AOY titles, never won a Classic. Gary Klein, with 30 Classic appearances and two AOY titles, has not yet been able to bring home the hardware that Randy Howell now owns. Superstars like Shaw Grigsby haven’t been able to claim either one.

Unlike Marino, Barkley and Banks, Edwin Evers will get more chances. There will be more Classics, more AOY races. He’s not even 40 yet, so you could argue that the arc of his career is still sloping upward. Any suggestion that he “can’t win the big one” is unfair – not only is the sample size too small, but the fact that he’s closed B.A.S.S. wins each of the last three years, and eight of the last 11, shows that he knows how to win. Those victories all came against the same people he’ll compete against in next year’s Classic.

Edwin’s contemporary Todd Faircloth, an equally successful but equally vexed winning machine, is probably the only one who truly knows who he feels. Given their relative lack of emotional transparency, I doubt they’ve shared their feelings about the matter over a cup of cocoa. After all, this is a club that no one truly wants to be a member of – at least not permanently. The fact that they have to wait nearly another year to find out if the questions will stop is almost cruel.