As a reporter, there’s no question I hate more than “How do you feel?”
It’s lazy. It’s generic. It’s clichéd.
And honestly, how often can a person accurately describe during an interview how he or she truly feels about anything?
But still, you hear it all the time after major sporting events like the Super Bowl and the World Series — and without thinking, I asked it when Florida pro Drew Cook won the DICK’S Sporting Goods Rookie of the Year title at Lake St. Clair.
Amazingly, it led to the quote of the year on the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series.
Cook — a walking, talking, 25-year-old example that young people are simply smarter now than they were when I was that age — was standing backstage, ROY trophy in hand, when I asked him how it felt to know he could add Rookie of the Year to the bass fishing résumé he presents to potential sponsors.
“It’s incredibly special this year, with this group of rookies,” he said. “All of these guys — Patrick Walters, Garrett Paquette, Lee Livesay — those will be household names for years to come.
“Obviously, it means something winning it now. But later on down the road, to be able to say I won Rookie of the Year against guys who went on to become the new greats of fishing — that’ll be incredible.”
In a few words, Cook was able to accurately express his feelings about a career milestone, while deflecting praise off of himself and onto the guys he just finished beating.
As icing on the cake, he summed up the most magical element of the 2019 season itself.
By the time we reached the finish line at Lake St. Clair, Cook and the guys he mentioned weren’t rookies anymore. They were young stars.
By the end of the season, Livesay had become known as the Texas magician who finagled a giant largemouth into the boat at the St. Johns River by casting over a concrete dock, muscling the fish out of some brush and then reaching under the dock with the butt of his rod to bring his line into reach.
“That fish was just meant to be,” Livesay said. “It just laid there on top of the water like it was just supposed to be in my livewell.”
By the time we reached the finish line, Walters had become known as a South Carolina phenom who spent a portion of the year leading the AOY points race.
During the regular-season opener, he told me he got a little teary-eyed when his boat hit 70 mph for the first time.
“I thought, ‘This is what dreams are made of.’” Walters said. “A year ago, I would have been watching Bassmaster LIVE. But now I’m living my dream and chasing these guys.”
New stars shining was the dominant storyline for what was arguably the greatest season in Elite Series history.
All of these young guys — Walters, Livesay, Paquette, Luke Palmer, Greg DiPalma and a dozen or so more — not only showed they have the right stuff on the water, but the ability to sum it all up perfectly once they get back to the dock.
Both abilities are crucial for a professional angler.
On both fronts, not one of them did it better than Cook.