‘…the worst day of my professional life.’ - Matt Reed

“Half my life is in books' written pages…”

Dateline: Your Inner Voice

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."
~Henry David Thoreau

“You okay?”

Elite angler Matt Reed, looks only downward, downward into a holding tank, downward at a skinny sack of fish.

“Matt, you okay?”

He looks up at me, smiles his Texas wide smile, tilts his head to the right and says, “Yep.”

And he is lying.

I’m standing in the fish holding tank line backstage getting fish holding tank stuff splashed on me, which frankly I do not like, because of this Facebook post I read the night before:

“Let's see how to put this in a kind way.... Hmmmmmm... Day 1 of Norfork/Bull Shoals event was an absolute disaster!! You just have to keep your chin up and "Do Different" tomorrow. The world does not end because of a bad day on the water. Keep that Matt Reed smile and happy demeanor and go kick those fishes’ butts tomorrow!!!!!!!! Thanks for your support. It helps me when I SUCK!!!!!!! TOMORROW IS A NEW DAY ... smile emoticon"

Matt Reed is a friend of mine and this Facebook post worries me and it is the only reason I’m at weigh-in on Friday because if I have learned anything about sports it is simply this:

Confidence wins games.

Smile emoticons don’t.

“…live and learn from…”

We’re going deep on this one but I’m going to back up some to first tell you who Matt Reed is since we don’t lead many events with these words, “Matt Reed is…”

Matt is 54, been doing this Elite stuff since, “…oh-three,” has two kids, son Landon a 25-year-old moving up the corporate ladder guy at CVS, and Hilary, 29, mom, three kids and also successful in business.  “My kids, they have finally landed.”

Mary, his mom, passed away last year at 76 of heart problems, it was tough for Matt to tell me that, his dad Jerry, “my best friend,”  is still alive and fishing four or five days a week, “He tells people about me saying, ‘I taught him everything I knew and he just kept on going,’ we are just you know db, working stiffs from Madisonville, Texas, my father owned a furniture/appliance store in town, my kids work hard, I guide on Lake Fork and Lake Falcon whenever I’m not out here competing.  Just working stiffs trying to do the right thing (said Thang wise).”

Matt is past President of the PAA, and his good friends out here on the tour are, Brian Snowden, Billy McCaghren, Tim Horton.

And me.

Got the journalism stuff out of the way now.

I’m getting splashed with fish tank stuff because when I read Matt’s Facebook post I knew something bad had happened on Thursday so I went to Bassmaster-dot-com to see what was up, this is what it said:

108th place…last.

One fish caught, weighed 15 ounces.

And they have his name as, “Jerry Reed.”

Yep, that’s a bad day.

“…from fools and from sages…”

“There is no stronger steel than well-founded belief in yourself.”
~John Wooten

Now, going deep.

I have always believed that there are three C’s to winning:  Courage, Consistency, Confidence.

And of those three C’s, the most importance is, easily…CONFIDENCE.

If you don’t think you will win, YOU WON’T.

Trust me, your family may think you will win but you step on the field of play against me and I KNOW you won’t win.

I will.

Shake your hand, then shake your core. 

Half of every game is three-quarters mental.

“db it was a downward spiral out there, I went from bad, to worse, to just getting spun out of my game.”

“And who did that to you?”

“Me.”

And it wasn’t the fact that Matt only caught one 15 ounce fish, down deep not that at all, down deep…

“My brain, that little voice in your head, that voice told me to stop doing what I’m doing and do something else but my heart said, stay, stick with it, stay and I didn’t listen, didn’t listen, no one beat me I beat myself.”

If Matt was a QB in the NFL and I was writing this story at this point in my notebook I would jot down this quick little note to myself:

“Hearing Footsteps.”

“…you know it's true…”

Once again, I’m going to protect a friend out here, correct or not, so be it, I live with these anglers, maybe I am to close, but you know what, I know personally the toll this game takes on you, the body blows week after week.

We have a saying out here that is both simplistic and complex, ask a question when things go bad, when things go well, when things go hard or impossible and this is what plays in the head of the angler you are askin’:

“That’s what we do.”

Take off to play the game when most run for cover, “That’s what we do.”

Travel 1,600 miles to back to back tourneys, “That’s what we do.”

Catch basically the same size bass that Walmart sells in aquariums, “That’s what we do,” and move on.

Matt Reed is a Right Tackle in this game.

He is not going to throw the TD, not going to make an acrobatic catch for a TD, not going to get the Big Head poster on the wall.

Matt Reed is the laborer in the trenches, the guy out there playing for the man for the mortgage.

Sponsors are dwindling, relationships are dwindling, “I’ve had back to back two worst years in fishing, no excuses, no hiding it.”

We are sitting alone in Tim Horton’s cabin, Tim is out hunting turkeys, Matt is drinking water, I’m inhaling Coca-Cola, I tell him this, “I’m here to write a story, I’m here to see how you are, I’m here to kick your ass if you are getting all woe-is-me-like.”

Matt takes a big hit of water, puts it gently down on Tim’s table and looks over at me and says…

“I’m fine, well not fine, but that’s what we do.”

My response, “B_ _ _ S _ _ _.”

...all the things come back to you…”

“Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path.” ~Henry Winkler

I tell Matt that every time I tried to be successful, force success, I failed.

“I know db, you have to allow success to happen, trust that little inner guy in your brain telling you what to do but the hardest thing is doing what he says no matter what.”

I basically swig another can of Coke, go outside to my truck and come back in with a small can of Starbucks Espresso “Go” fluid.

“No matter what, does ‘what’ matter anymore Matt.”

Does “what” matter.

I have chased “what” all my life and I’m battered, bruised and broken.

That’s what I do.

I tell Matt exactly this, EXACTLY, “Don’t be offended by my next question, I’m asking as a friend and as also a card carrying member of the dreaded media, okay, so here goes…Matt can you come back from suck.”

Don’t be offended by this, shield the children if you must, but coming back from “suck” is a thousand times harder than coming back from “loss,” trust me I’ve come back from suck so much my that my hair is in a constant state of blowing in the wind even when there is no wind.

I put my pen down and jack down 1.3-ounces of espresso in one gulp and wait to see if my friend’s career is over or not.

I’m 64 years old, I’m done playing games on or off the field.

You kick a Right Tackle in the nuts, you get the truth.

“db if you can’t admit you suck, can’t admit you had a bad day, well then, you gonna have another, or three.”

RIGHT ANSWER.

“…sing with me…”

“db “what” matters, and “what” I am matters, in my heart I’m a nice guy, I’m a very positive guy, yeah I spun out, didn’t listen to that voice, that instinct we all have but you know what, I learned from that, learned the hard way.”

“You sure.”

The path to greatness is filled with mistakes but failure is self made. 

After one of my more spectacular flameouts my Uncle Jim opened the fridge and put a cold one down in front of me, told me to drink my Root Beer and said, “Hey, Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything, the lights work though.”

The lights work though. 

“I’m just going to put that day behind me, learn from it, listen to the voice inside, the voice inside me is a champion I just have to let that happen, it ain’t easy, it ain’t easy when you are bone-headed but you know what…”

And the famous wide as Texas grin breaks out…

“…you know what db…tomorrow I’m going fishing cause that’s what I love to do, this crazy thing called competing and I’m going to give it all I got, all I got.”

Because my friends, that’s what we do.

“…sing for the years."
Dream On
Aerosmith

db

“Do not let what you can not do interfere with what you can do.”
John Wooden