“I'll never quit, I'll never lay down…”
"If you aren't going all the way, why go at all?"
– Joe Namath
I sat in a chair watching former Pittsburgh Steeler Head Coach Chuck Noll squirm and make all sorts of faces.
“Be still please…”
Every few seconds he would shoot me a sideward glance and grimace, I just smiled back, he was a big man.
And then when the makeup powder went in his mouth, he was done getting made up for his moment on stage…this stage not of ESPN or a Pittsburgh TV station, this stage was resting on the grass of Canton.
The day before I spent most of the day with him for the TV show we were doing. I filmed and listened into several interviews all pretty much asking him the same question in various ways, “Coach, what do you ascribe to as the secret of your success?” or some sort of nonsense like that.
Coach would always furrow his brow, just his jaw out and give the reporter the kind of answer expected of someone soon to be immortalized in the NFL Hall Of Fame.
During a break we sat and drank some Cokes and just made small talk. After one long swig he looked over at me and mumbled exactly this, “You want to know the real secret to my success, huh?”
I just shrugged my shoulders, the more nonchalant you act the better the answers you get, let them make the point, not you.
“Here’s the secret to my success, my teams scored more points than the other guy did.”
And with that, we clinked cans of soda.
“Oh, and this, we played every damn second of those 60 minutes on the clock, every second, every minute, every damn one.”
“…see, I've promised myself that I'd never let me down, so…”
“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.”
– Heywood Broun
Four-Eight-Oh, 480, that’s how many minutes, barring a weather delay, 480 minutes is the length of this game we have, this game called Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments.
As the morning sun lights up the lake, Dave Mercer stands near the end of a dock and says exactly this, “Three…two…one…go!”
Then 100-and-some Elite anglers take to the field of their game, a game they have 480 minutes to play each tournament day, and that my friends is with no commercial time outs, no between plays standing around, no quarters or halftimes to regroup.
It is eight hours of competition times four days.
When that winner stands on stage on Day 4 he will have competed for 1,920 non-stop minutes (and I’m counting driving to and fro from spots competition because that is a huge part of the game) or 32 hours.
Eight hours short of a 40-hour work week, with no lunch breaks or a 15 minute smoke out back.
And you know what? Coach Noll would expect each angler to compete every damn minute of that.
“…I'll never give up, never give in…”
“You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up.”
– Babe Ruth