You up for this?

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All photos Don Barone

“I've seen champions come and go…”

Dateline: The week before the Classic

“It always seems impossible until it is done.”
~ Nelson Mandela 

He slowly limped off the field of play.

Water dripped from his fingertips, clods of mud fell from the back of his knees.

His head looked only at the ground, each step was shakier than the last. Slower than the first one, and slowing.

A shuffle.

And then he turned slowly and fell down to a seating position on the bench, elbows resting on the tops of his legs, hands cradling his helmeted head.

Above him the scoreboard clock said simply this: 00:00.

As he slowly and painfully pulled the football helmet from his head, you could hear his grimace. You could hear the scarred helmet hit the puddle of mud, see the splash of dirty water.

And when he turned and looked at me I could see his tears had made canals through the mud and blood on his cheeks. 

His face was blank.

His eyes only stared, his lips slightly parted, his chest heaved trying to just breath.

And then slowly looking directly at me with no sound he mouthed this, and even though I can’t read lips, I read his and this is what it said:

“We won.”

And once again the 300-pound lineman began to cry.

To all of you about to compete in this the 50th Bassmaster Classic … that’s what it feels like to be a champion.

He could barely walk, he could barely talk, he could barely breath and he won the whole damn thing.

That’s what it means to be the best at what you do.

You up for this?

“…so if you got the guts mister…”

“Fortune sides with him who dares.”
~ Virgil

This ain’t your club’s Wednesday night derby. Don’t matter none how many peach jars filled with dollar bills you’ve won, you’re AOY points are nice, but they don’t transfer to here.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday … 15 fish that’s what matters. He who on the big stage holds up the most weight … wins.

Wins.

And a banner with your name on it is raised to the rafters, and you become part of the history of B.A.S.S. forever.

You up for this?

“…yeah if you've got the balls…”

Begin, at your best.

And move on up from there. Either be all-in or be all-out.