“I've looked under chairs…”
Dateline: Lake Okeechobee
“I like to watch.”
Chance The Gardener
Being There (1979)
The role of a storyteller is to whisper into your ear stories you would never hear.
The role of a storyteller is to bring you images you would never see.
The role of a storyteller is to being there where you ain’t.
Trust the storyteller to chronicle life and not add up statistics.
In the business of being there where you ain’t, it’s not about the obvious.
Subtle is the currency of the storyteller.
“The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.”
~ William Osler
We live on a planet that rotates at 1,040 miles per hour.
Being there for all of us on board seems to look just like this:
Lake Okeechobee, Elite no. 2, tournament Day 1. All focus is on the 740 square miles of water that is the tournament boundaries…
…it is the role of the storyteller to look inward while others look outward; it is the role of the storyteller to look up, while others look down.
It doesn’t matter what kind of bird this is, I’m sure someone will comment so that we are all factually accurate, but what really matters is that there is a bird.
Think of this, we have a sport where we catch fish, an animal that has been on this planet for about 500 million years and above us birds who can trace their ancestry back at least 65 million years to the dinosaurs.
It’s no wonder they can sleep while we toil…on this planet we’re new here.
“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”
~ Will Rogers
And so in time these men come to shore in their fancy painted ships, dreams encased in fiberglass…skill…and hope.
As I stand on shore I say nothing, I’ve lived with these anglers for a decade now, we communicate easily and quickly, no words needed.
Paul Elias, my on-the-road roommate…
…sees me being there and without prompt or question shouted tells me of his day.
Close buddy Steve Kennedy also spies me on the bank…
…and makes a hand gesture I’ve seen probably a hundred times now. “Cosi Cosi” is Italian street language for “so-so.” Neither good, neither bad, still in the hunt.
On shore the language is “Angler English,” shown as much as spoken. I’ll translate this hand gesture from my other on-the-road roomie, Shaw Grigsby…that’s a catch. It is impossible for most of these guys to just tell how the catch was made; they also illustrate it for the other angler.
I can’t hear what Shaw is saying but I know what happened by watching his hands: If it is a strong jerk upward that jerks up and down it’s a catch, a big 'un; if it jerks up and then just gently comes down, it’s a lost fish.
It wasn’t the kind of day that Shaw was hoping for yesterday.
“…I've tried to find the key…”
“If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk.”
~ Robert Baden-Powell
On shore the fans gather to make memories of being there when their favorites come in to begin the process of fish math…
…and you know the sport is doing something right when even those who work within the game stop to capture memories. You want to know whether we care about this gig? There’s your photo of it. That’s Ben who helps set up every Elite event and has been doing so for years.
We who work here are all in with this gig.
Skeet Reese, easily one of my best buds out here. I say nothing as he comes in, I know his looks, as I look through my lens I know the day did not go well for my friend.
I’ll be honest it hurts me to see this in my lens, I know the fire to be the best that burns within this man’s soul…but I also know this about him…
…the time stamp on this photo is less than four minutes after the photo of Skeet coming ashore. Imagine you walk out of a bad day at work and a stranger comes up to you and asks you to do something personal for someone you don’t even know.
How would you handle that…with a brush off, with anger, with just ignoring it and walking on by?
Skeet signed an autograph, said thank you and continued on.
I don’t know for a fact if every angler out here would have done that. I assume they would, I hope they would. This photo is proof that they do.
One by one they come, they go, a procession of dreams vs. reality.
“…to 50 million fables…”
“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
~ Jonathan Swift
Time, a human concept that only we seem to know and care deeply about.
Time matters to us, we have thousands of ways of measuring it. Out here though there is a special time you never really hear us talk about much…it’s what I call the Golden 59.
The 59 seconds between on time, and late.
At ESPN we had our own time.
For a 9 a.m. meeting if you were in the room at 8:45 a.m., you were early.
If you came into the room at 8:50 a.m., you were on time.
If you walked in at 9 a.m., you were late.
So too here.
If your check-in is at 4 p.m. you have those 59 seconds between 4 and 4:01 before you are late.
59 seconds to make one last cast for one last catch out there back by the last bridge before check in.
And yes he did make it in before it struck…4 point o1.
Time suspends in moments of reflection.
I need not scroll on my phone to see how my buddy Jared Lintner did today.
Of all the shots taken today, this one struck my heart the most.
As far as we know empathy belongs only to us who walk this planet upright and with thumbs that move.
I see this and see myself.
Maybe you do as well.
I have driven thousands of miles in basically this same position, hand on the wheel, head searching within my soul.
We call this a game, when it is anything but that.
It is livelihood.
It is looking in the mirror-hood.
A game, don’t kid yourself.
This photo is the cost of admission for those who “play.”
It is a photo of disappointment.
It is a photo of soul searching.
But it is also a photo of hope.
Time, my friends, is all about hope.
Hope for more of it, hope for another shot of it.
Hope to get more time for…
“…they call me The Seeker…”
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
It is for the storyteller to look for the real story around us all.
And to tell it to you.
I will leave this event soon to head to another tournament, another gig in a long line of gigs.
The story I will take from this event happened for me not on the water but up in the air above it, up in the trees that shaded it.
Lake Okeechobee with all its wildlife above and below tells in fact a story of newcomers.
That is us.
We are the interlopers here.
The intruders. It is not our home, we are just visiting.
Leave it as we found it.
Leave it dangerous.
Leave it free to be what it wants to be.
Leave it for the young ones in the trees. This photo could be 1,000 years old, we who live in between the air and the sea need to make sure that this family portrait is still available to take thousands of years from now.
It is for the storyteller to watch.
It is for the storyteller to pass on what they see.
It is for the storyteller to leave no wake, only memories.
It is for the storyteller to go where you ain’t.
And bring you there with simple words and pictures.
Then move on to the next story that awaits.
Awaits for the storyteller…
“…I've been searching low and high.”
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson