The legacy of Ricky Green

I’ve been wrestling with the timing of the Bassmaster Elite Series event all week. Part of me wants to be upset that the tournament this week coincided with the funeral of one of the superstars of our sport, Ricky Green (more details on his passing here).

Another part of me thinks it’s completely appropriate that young men are battling on the waters of Lake Dardanelle in a derby and a sport that grew on the shoulders of Green and others like him.

Years ago, if you fished a Bassmaster event, you received a patch with your entry. Many of them were pretty cool. At Ricky Green’s visitation Wednesday night, there was a sampling of those patches framed near his casket. Almost all of the patches within that frame were from B.A.S.S. events on Arkansas lakes he had fished in his 30-year career.

Fishing in Arkansas was special to Ricky Green. Having a Bassmaster Elite here (even without the patch), I know, makes him proud. In all honesty, I’m looking at this event like the Ricky Green Memorial Bassmaster Elite.

Ricky Green is special to me. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him. Prior to Sunday, he was in my prayers; since then, his family has been.

While many people will refer to Green as a superstar, a very apt description, it doesn’t do him the justice he deserves. In reality, Green took being good or super at something much deeper.

I’m reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Those words epitomize of Ricky Green.

You can describe someone as Superman, and we all get it. Superman can save your life. If I describe someone as a “Super mentor,” for some reason, it doesn’t carry the same weight. That is a shame.

What’s the difference between the two? Superman can save your life. A mentor can save it, build it and nurse a life to be all it can be and more.

When I think of Ricky Green, that is who I see. Every word I write for Bassmaster, for Outdoor Channel, for other outlets has Ricky Green threaded through it in some way.

I met him when I was in college. I was star struck by the man who had the flashy boat, one with his name on it. He had just barely missed winning the Bassmaster Classic. He was known as “Mr. Consistency,” and I viewed him as Superman with a rod in his hand.

When I got out of college and actually went to work for a newspaper, the first assignment I had was to do a story on Ricky Green. Understand I went to work for a newspaper as a page designer, not a writer. I remember telling my boss, “I will do anything you want me to do; just don’t ask me to write.”

Then I had the chance to be the outdoor editor. It was supposed to be for just a short time until they could find someone to fill the position. Surely I could stomach a few months of writing, if I meant I got to hunt and fish for a living for a little while.

With the idea that I was just standing in the gap in my new role, I traveled to Arkadelphia, Ark., to spend a day with Green.

He forgave my awe. He forgave my total lack of writing skills. He spent the first day of many, many days not just taking me fishing, but teaching me about fishing, teaching me about things within a sport I couldn’t have understood without him.

After that first trip and after that first story, my mindset began to change. Ricky Green came to see me. He looked me square in the face and told me, “You have a future in writing about fishing.”

Up to that point, I was just filling in for a position that was soon to be filled. I never really thought about staying there; I assumed someone would come along any day and replace me.

“I’m going to help you,’’ Green said.

He said other things too personal and too self-serving to pass along. But because of Green, I decided to work harder and learn more so the gap I was occupying couldn’t be filled easily. Through the years, he would consistently check up on me, remind me, push me. There were times when he saved me, times when he healed me. And times when he slapped my hand a bit. All that was 30 years ago but because of Ricky Green I still stand in that gap.

He was the super mentor. The world needs more of Ricky Green, or at least my world does.

That first trip seems like yesterday. Time flies, pieces of our bodies give out and we eventually die.

Ricky Green, though, will always be here, either in me or the countless others in this sport I know he helped and pushed and mentored along the way. I was just fortunate enough to be one of those who got to understand the difference and value between Superman and a super mentor.

I miss you, Ricky.



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