Frustrated fans

There are a couple of highly-rated barbecue places in Central Texas where devotees line up at 8 o’clock on Saturday mornings, hoping to get a taste of brisket that’s been cooking for hours. When the establishments run out, it’s over. Sorry you’ve waited, but you are out of luck, my hungry friend.

Those patrons who are thwarted in their attempts to satisfy their carnivorous cravings are typically not a happy group. They take to the message boards and review websites, complaining (often in ALL CAPS) about the unfairness of it all. They degrade the restaurants that snubbed them, claiming that others smoke better meat anyway.

The bottom line? If people are complaining that you don’t give them enough of your product, then your product must be pretty damn good.

I wrote the three paragraphs above as I sat fuming, unable to watch the Rigid Industries Falcon Slam weigh-ins. Earlier in the event, I’d occasionally get brief snippets of staccato footage, but not enough to piece together a story line. On Day Four, I got nothing at all. A trip to the “live weigh-in” page produced a blank screen. Scrolling down, I found a litany of equally frustrated fishing fans expressing their discontent in the comments section.

It’s not my job to be an apologist for B.A.S.S. If anything, I fancy myself something of an ombudsman, representing the fans, so the technical difficulties tear me in opposite directions. On the one hand, I feel like most of the other addicts, mad that they can’t get it to us live. I’ve been to Falcon. I’ve fished at Falcon. I’ve tried to get cell reception at Falcon. I know that it is not a media capital, nor is it near much of anything (the nearest Wal-Mart is 50 miles away). On the other hand, I have to assume that if money was no object and they really wanted it done, B.A.S.S. would find a way to make the system bulletproof. When the jet skier was killed at Falcon a few years back, I don’t remember the major networks having trouble transmitting their signals from Zapata.

Maybe the right time to strike and update the technological capabilities was during the ESPN era. Clearly they have the technology and the funds to make something like that happen, assuming they want it to happen. That might speak volumes about their mismanagement (laissez faire management?), and may also explain the hole the new owners were left to dig out from when they took over the operation. Face it, unless you’ve got the spreadsheets and accounting ledgers in hand, unless you’re the one soliciting bids, few of us have any idea what it takes from either a technological standpoint or a financial standpoint to consistently get the broadcasts to where we need to be.

As long as we’re on the topic of ESPN, who apparently had the will to bring us live dune buggy races from the desert but not live bass fishing, it might be worthwhile to think for a moment about how far they’ve come – and how fast they’ve done it. You don’t have to go that far back-back-back to a time when their prime time broadcasts often consisted of tape-delayed Canadian Football League games. That may have satisfied a young Dave Mercer, but for those of us stateside it seemed to be a waste of airtime.

While you’re at it, think back to what bass fishing coverage used to consist of. If your frame of reference starts at Ike’s Classic win, or later, you may not remember it; but in fairly recent memory we had nothing approaching what we have today. I’m only semi-old (43 – but an immature 43), but I remember when we used to get the standings sheet from B.A.S.S. the next day, along with perhaps a short press release about what had happened. Before that, unless you lived near the tournament site or knew one of the competitors, you typically had to wait until the next issue of Bassmaster Magazine arrived to find out what happened.

Now, thanks to a phalanx of bloggers, tech geeks, photographers, cameramen, Marshals and spectators clogging up the web and its various social media sites, even when we don’t have video of the weigh-in we have so much info it’s mind-boggling. If you want to know how many Diet Dr Peppers Jeff Kriet chugged over the course of three days, you can probably find out. If you want to know how many times Aaron Martens typically uses the word “dude” over eight hours on TVA lakes versus all other waterways, that info is not far off. Sitting here as a “civilian,” I can understand the plight of the media guys because I am one. At every event we’re constantly exhorted – by Steve Bowman, by Jim Sexton, and by Jerry McKinnis himself – to give the fans more than we gave them the last time out. For the most part, that’s happening. The details of the early days of our sport are mostly lost, but I believe that by the end of this decade we’ll have more photos, videos and written documentation of the past 10 years than we’ll have of the 40 years before that. That’s an impressive leap.

No matter how much you give them, the true fans will want more. That’s a both a good problem to have and a vexing one at the same time. I’m frustrated as hell, but I’m also the type of guy who sops up his soup with an extra piece of bread, who chugs the crumbs out of the potato chip bag, and who licks every last bit of brisket juice off of my fingers. More, more, more.

Also By This Author