“But baby, remember…”
Dateline: Cayuga Lake
“I'm an enigma, an unknown. You can't really figure out what I'm going to do next. I like it like that.”
~ Emmitt Smith
I struggled mightily with this story.
It is 4:22 in the AM, Saturday morning, I’ve been sitting here since 3:15 in the way to early morning just staring at the screen.
Should I not.
Do this story about my great friend, Steve Kennedy.
Here’s the pitch I made to the bosses on the mothership, “Hey guys Steve Kennedy is in 8th place for AOY, an almost lock for the 2017 Bassmaster Classic, quietly having a great year, doing it without any sponsors, is a real folk hero and we always say we have a natural out here in Aaron Martens but in fact we have two…Steve Kennedy is all that too, a true Enigma in the sport.”
This response comes back, “Let me think about that for a minute.”
Then shortly after, “You’re right, go for it.”
And so I do.
And then, then I watch, watch as Steve has a pretty crappy tourney, comes in 79th place, free falls in the AOY race to 21st place.
So I sit surrounded by the dark of Cayuga Lake, do I just blow this story off, no harm, no foul, I mean you would never know I pitched this story, or do it anyway and risk people thinking, “dude db did it just because Kennedy is a best bud,” and you have every right to think that.
But let’s be honest here, pretty much a new concept in journalism anymore, the naked honesty of this is this: Just tell the folks the damn truth, hey stuff don’t always fall right, you know, stuff happens and you need to know that when stuff happens you will also hear about that stuff, I’ve been in the hard news/investigative biz for 35 years and never once has anyone who signed my check ever said, “Sugarcoat it,” so I ain’t about to start now.
I sat one time in the SportsCenter bowl, the newsroom, the hub of the sports news world with dozens of monitors strung out in a circle above my head but all was quiet, we were building a new, bigger newsroom, myself and one other guy sat amidst the deconstruction discussing news tellin’.
“Do you think those who watch, those who listen can handle the truth…”
Across from me sat a man wearing a cape, an ivory tipped cane rested across his knees, an unlit cigarette in a gold and black cigarette holder dangles from his mouth, “Who cares,” was all that Hunter S. Thompson mumbled back.
“Really dude, really, who cares, you are for god’s sake…”
“Hey it ain’t up to us to decide or care if they can handle it, just tell them what you see, tell them how you see it, when you see crap, tell them it’s crap, when you see magic tell them it’s magic…”
It is now 4:54 way to early, and I smile as I think of that conversation with Hunter, tell you when I see crap, tell you when I see magic, and let you handle it on your own, well folks here goes:
Steve Kennedy is a natural, as close to a real arse natural that I have ever seen play a game, just as much a natural out here as Aaron Martens, to listen to the two of them talk is one of my favorite things of this game.
Steve Kennedy has no sponsors, none of the big-time state of the art stuff on his boat, doesn’t even have Power Poles, buys some of the reels he competes with used on Ebay, looks under rocks to see the real color of crawdads so he can doll up his fake ones to look like what he sees, and comes off the water early, or goes on it late so he can fly a kite with his kids.
“…when you see magic…”
Trust me when I say this, Hunter would see the magic out here, he would nod at KVD, Skeet, Ike, Hack but if you followed the smoke from whatever was in that fancy cigarette holder of his that smoke would lead you to the magic of this game and that would be a dusty campground and a picnic table next to Steve Kennedy’s truck camper.
So there it is.
An enigma does what an enigma wants to do.
“…it's my life…”
“Don't compromise even if it hurts to be yourself.”
“Why do the exact same thing that everyone else is doing.” Steve Kennedy
I have no answer for that simple question, Steve and I are walking on a dirt road of a campground out amongst the cornfields of Central New York, in my mind I can’t think of why you would want to do what other people do…
Steve sort of stumbles some when he is talking to me, sometimes not sure, unsteady and it always makes me smile, he is a human somewhat uncomfortable on land, put him on water though, on water and you can just see the peace envelope my friend.
I change the subject from Steve’s question saying, “Can you not, not fish.”
And Steve stops dead, stops so dead I take two steps before I notice he isn’t next to me anymore, stops as dead as if I took an Auburn hat and threw it on the ground and stepped on it.
Here’s Steve’s direct answer, “ .”
Dude was speechless, took me several minutes to get him to focus once again, “No, nothing…I…would…rather…do,” said in a tone from someone who couldn’t even think of the possibility of NOT FISHING.
20 minutes later he is still stunned I asked that.
Still mumbling about it.
“…and I'll do…”
“Steve Kennedy has an uncanny God given fish sense that I’m flat out envious of.” Michael Iaconelli.
Before I started walking and talking with Steve I stopped to talk to two other buds in the same campground with him, Iaconelli and Ott DeFoe.
Michael is on his boat doing tournament prep stuff, “db look around on my boat I have the absolute latest state of the art fish finding and catching stuff and a whole bunch of sponsors, Steve has none of this, none, and he can flat out kick my ass out there, if you blindfolded 100 of us anglers, took us to a lake we had never been on before, took away all the fancy equipment, took the blindfolds off and told us top go catch fish…Kennedy and Aaron, Aaron Martens they would find the fish, be the first on the fish, do it just like that, naturals both of them.”
Ott, over by his 5th wheel camper is frying Perch FOR STEVE to eat ducks some grease splatter and says, “The best tournaments he has he doesn’t work the hardest for, doesn’t do all the practice for, he can almost just back the boat off the trailer and go win the tournament. Some get on his case about that, say he doesn’t practice as much as he should but that’s Steve, just look at his record…”
Okay, lets do that:
2 Elite Tournament wins.
7 Bassmaster Classic Appearances.
121 elite events, 87 times in the money including 53 top 30’s.
A .719 in the money batting average.
And this fact from the emails I get about Steve, a flat out working stiff folk hero to many fans out there…
“…what do you mean exactly, not fish…”
…with some focus ability issues.
“…what I want…”
A true story he tells me as we lap the campground: “You know when I go fishing not during tournaments I talk to some of the locals in the boats I come across, you know I like to talk, so I ask them how you doing and they tell me they are whacking them, maybe hooked 10, 15 or 20 fish, and I’m thinking wow, huh, and I don’t say anything because you know I hooked something like 100, 110 that day on their lake so it’s always best to not really say anything.”
Swear on my old stinky lucky Buffalo Bills tee-shirt that what you just read he told me.
“db, on our honeymoon we went trout fishing.” Julia Kennedy “I went from a wedding dress to waders.”
I wish to all of you out there the miracle of life on this planet where somewhere on it is the absolute right husband or wife for you, for me it was flat out Barbie, for Steve it is FLAT OUT Julia.
On land, Julia is Steve’s, water.
“db whenever we break we go fishing, he lives and breathes fishing, it’s hard to explain it’s like that Vincent Van Gogh quote, ‘Love is something eternal, the aspect may change, but not the essence,’ that’s it exactly with Steve, it’s just amazing.”
As we round the corner, Steve slows down some, I look up to see a smile on his face but I don’t have to look to see what brought it, I hear it, I know it, I get hugged by it all the time.
In the background I hear the tiny laughter of, SoSo and SJ.
The true essence of Steve, his children.
”…it's my mind…”
Julia and I are standing by their camper, she is telling me a story about the family fishing and she can’t remember the name of the fish that stick to the sides of sharks when suddenly a little voice shouts out…
“They are called Remora, they suck up the crumbs that fall off the shark when he eats.”
Julia just thanks the little voice like it was no big deal the little voice knew, me I’m just staring at the person behind the answer, his name is SJ (Steve Junior) and he is all of 5 years old.
SJ looks at me and says, “db the Remora have been doing that for a million years.”
I had to check on google to see if the kid was right.
“SJ could tell you the name of fish just by looking at pictures when he was 2 years old,” Steve tells me as we are walking, “we basically used him as a party trick.”
SoSo, 7 year old Sophia has taught me more about the animals on this planet than any class I ever took in school, I have crayon art work of her animals hanging on my refrigerator, “Why shouldn’t the kids know about the fish and the animals in fact when I grew up, even now, I wanted to learn everything about everything, what’s wrong with that.”
Then this, “On Father’s Day SJ caught his first fish all by himself, threw the line out, hooked the fish and reeled it in, it was a 4lb smallmouth, IT WAS THE GREATEST FATHER’S DAY GIFT EVER.”
Here’s the photo of SJ with his first “caught hisself” smallmouth: