Dateline: Elite One
“…I’m not sure but I think it came down to one fish…”
Second place in 2017 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year
I am not a fan of point systems in sports.
I think it makes the game to complicated.
I also think it takes away the drama, reduces it to spreadsheet sports.
Here’s the numbers from last year’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race:
902 points for Brandon Palaniuk…first place.
888 points for Jason Christie…second place.
Everyone knows that, now here’s the drama:
After thousands of miles on the road, months and months of practice, weeks and weeks of competition, hundreds of bass caught, weighed and released, here’s what the Angler of the Year race came down to…
…about 8 pounds of Bass.
The 2017 Angler of the Year race really came down to a little more than a pound per tournament.
Jason Christie lost over the course of the year by around 8 pounds.
Basically a good bass and a half.
That my friends, is drama.
“…thinking about tomorrow…”
“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
“I’ll be honest with you db, driving home from the event alone in the truck what I was telling myself was that, you know, I just lost, just got beat, just got beat…”
It is around 8 p.m. on the second day of practice, I can hear on the phone Jason putting dishes into the sink, cleaning up after dinner, in the background I can hear his roommate, Edwin Evers coughing.
“Dude, is Edwin okay?”
“Nah, think he may be just getting over the flu."
I tell Jason to make sure he washes his hands with the germ fighting stuff, then I just listen.
“…but back home people pretty much let me alone, I didn’t talk to anyone about it, but you know, you know it bothered me, bothered me a lot…”
On my skinny reporter’s notebook I write exactly this, “still does,” because as a friend I hear in his voice not only what he is saying but the notes, the inflections, the pauses, stuff you hear but can’t put quote marks around.
Whole stories can be told with a bow of the head, with a hard swallow, a nervous lick of the lips, eyes that look away for just a heartbeat.
The nuances of true life drama doesn’t fit easily into quote marks.
“You have no choices about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again."
“…it was in my deer stand, alone in where I love to be, that’s when I started kicking myself with all the should’ve and would’ve, all the second guessing, spent three months going over it again and again and again and…”
Then, “It could have come down to just one fish db, one fish over the entire season, it is so good out here that one bad day, certainly one bad tournament and it just kills you…”
And then complete honesty, “…sometimes I try to outsmart myself, I did that at the Dardanelle tournament, and in the end it got me. If I could just do that all over again, but then you know Brandon had a bad tournament too so I’m sure he thinks the same way.”
At the AOY tournament I stopped by both Brandon's and Jason’s boats as they waited in line for the final weigh-in, both are great friends, and I told them honestly that I was pulling for both even if that was impossible.
When I stopped by Jason’s boat we joked for a minute about shooting hoops again. Jason is a huge basketball fan and player, but as I walked away this is what I said to myself, “Hmmm,” just a feeling that I couldn’t put my finger on.
Last night I think I found the answer to my “Hmmm.”
Christie: “On the final day of the AOY tournament I saw him catch and put a fish in the boat with only about two minutes left in the event, kind of thought to myself when I saw that, thought catching a fish with two minutes left that it wasn’t meant to be for me, wasn’t meant to be.”
Once again absolute honesty something you the fans of this sport are blessed to have over many, many other sports.
“…it'll soon be here, it'll be better than before…”
“Every time you compete, try harder to improve on your last performance. Give nothing short of your very best effort.”
“How you feeling about going into this year, you up for this?"
And on the phone the noise of dishes being put away stopped, if I was there standing next to him it was the type of moment when you reach out and put your hand on your buddy’s arm, “I’m ready for this season to get started, I am real ready for the season to begin.”
I could almost hear the period at the end of his sentence.
Once again Jason drifts back to basketball, “I want to get off to a good start, want to get off to a real good start, it’s like when in the basketball game if I pull up and shoot and the ball goes through the hoop, if I make that first basket then it’s like I get on fire and will make all the baskets. It’s a matter of confidence, I want this season to get off on a great start.”
My next question is…nothing…I don’t say a thing, there is silence on both ends of the phone, again if I was standing next to him I would be waiting for the grip on my arm to get tighter, best just to wait.
Comes the grip: “…you know the tough part, tough part is you don’t know if you will ever get the chance again to be that close, to be that close is so special and there is no guarantee you will ever get that chance again, ever again.”
"Losing is only temporary and not all encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it."
I have been in the losing locker room of championship games and watched grown men cry like children.
I have watched the sorrow make them puke, I have watched the most animated turn into zombies.
I feel for Jason but if I heard anything less than the sorrow in his voice I would have been surprised, to be honest it wasn’t until I heard him say what he just said that I knew that someday AOY would be his.
If losing makes you puke, if losing shuts up the loudest of mouths, you know they care, you know that for those folks this is way more than just a game, way more than just five fish in the livewell.
Follow those folks, be fans of those folks because their drive to succeed will raise you as well.
And to Jason some quick advice:
Play the moment, be in the moment you are in, last season is gone, play the game you hold in your hand now.
The game clock has been reset, so do me a favor dude, be loose, be confident, and do what I know you do best, pull up…
…and take your shot.
“…don't you look back.”
“Play the game with a smile.”
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe