“This song's for you…”
Dateline: Elite No. 2 Lake Okeechobee
"Without fans there is no sport. There wouldn't be the big sponsors and we definitely wouldn't be able to make a living doing what we love. Today's reality would only be a dream."
Bassmaster Elite Angler
I believe we are all in the same band.
Some of us are up on the stage, some of us are down in the pit or the cheap seats.
But it is all of us who bring the melody of earth to life.
In this my 10th season in this gig it is to you that I dedicate this year, you the chorus behind what we all do up in the spotlights.
Never forget one thing, it is you who makes us, not the other way around.
Know this too, the “stars” to me are those of you who come up to me to shake my hand, who write to me, who “friend” me, who follow me. To be appreciated by my fellow working stiffs is humbling and gets me through the long miles and days away from home.
Every year I try and do something different, frankly, to keep both you and I interested in the gig, I don’t do well with "same old same old" and I suspect you don’t dig it that much either.
And for me, 2017 began, simply, with a phone call, several phone calls, more than a hundred or so now.
All of them, calls from you.
“…you know who you are…”
“What I call the Phlash Phan Clan are phabulous when they make you billboards on the interstate, doll replicas, bobbleheads and a horse named aphter me.”
60’s on 6 Morning Drive Jock
“db, you awake?”
“I am, who’s this?”
“Paul Hudson, New York B.A.S.S. Nation, how’s the drive going?”
One of the most dangerous things we all do out here is…drive. All of us drive long distances, many times we do it alone, many times we do it dead tired.
We zig-zag across America from one gig to another, it’s nothing for me to climb in the truck and drive 10-12 hours to the next event, but to be honest, sometimes those drives are treacherous, all of us and I mean all of us have had the head bob, the falling asleep behind the wheel.
For me it comes on the long straight highways, comes between the cities, comes on clear early mornings or late nights, comes when the road is open without other cars or weather to keep you focused.
It is the biggest worry my wife has about this gig as it is with the loved ones of all the anglers on the road.
I’ve tried all the normal stuff, windows open, A/C on high, eight speakers blasting rock ‘n roll, enough coffee to actually float the Tundra…none of it works.
None of it works…except this…talking.
My wife works during the day and can’t call and talk, out here we have a “Stay-Awake Chain” of phone calls we make to each other but even that runs out around the ninth or 10th hour on the go.
So in this my year of the fan I took a step some thought was “crazy,” I published on my Facebook page my route, what time I would be driving it and then listed my phone number so you the fan could call and keep me awake.
And call you have.
“…we're up on this stage…”
“My fans are my little extra motivation every day I compete. The words of encouragement at the ramp or on the water still blow me away. To have the ability to bring happiness to someone by simply doing what I love makes me truly know how blessed I am.”
Bassmaster Elite Angler
Paul Hudson was the first caller, he called from New York state, saw that on one of my trips I will be coming near where he lives: “Door is open along with the washer and dryer. Near Syracuse, NY.”
The washer and dryer, for those of you who know this life, is huge.
Through half of New Jersey I talked to Iowa seed salesman and bass angler Nick Shaffer, “I know the feeling man, me and my buddies make the drive from Iowa to Texas to fish but we can take shifts, you ever run through my neck of the woods our door is open to you.”
“Hey db, Mark Tuck, um…”
I’m just a working stiff ex-bartender who learned how to type, I get that dialing me up is easy, talking on the other hand…
“Mark dude, what’s up, thanks for keeping me awake, where you from?”
“…I just fish a small lake by my house in North Carolina, I’m a truck driver (he may have said he is a retired truck driver but it is hard to drive/talk/interview/and write notes so I’ll tell you when the quotes are sort of quotes) Iraq in ’05 do stuff with the Warriors on Water program when I can.”
We talk of fishing.
We talk of family.
We talk of God and country.
And slowly as the calls keep me awake through Jersey, through Delaware, through Maryland, an amazing thing starts to happen.
Me, is calling, me.
“…but you're the star…”
“I see a bit of myself in each person, because we share the same passion for this amazing sport!”
Bassmaster Elite Angler
“They say your fan base is a reflection of you art...mine is a group of pretty well educated borderline alcoholics who still enjoy a good bar argument. And I’d agree that's me also. My act is basically one long bar conversation.”
God bless the working stiff.
You out there who put in your eight-nine-10 or more on the clock all the while under some sort of “corporate” scrutiny, hard work rewarded with a pink slip “due to stock prices,” which you can’t afford to buy in the first place.
Last thing you need is a group of people who feel all important up and filled with themselves telling you what it is you should, or should not be doing.
You know what I say to them? Ride back here in coach, wash your hands in a New Jersey Turnpike restroom, cut out a coupon, pump your own gas, walk around with sweaters on in your house to cut fuel bills, hope that macaroni and cheese is a vegetable and dig on the once a month pizza.
If you ain’t living that, pipe down.
Every call I got I asked the same questions:
“What’s your name?”
“Where do you live?”
“What do you do?”
God bless their tales of hours and hours of hard work all just to make a better life for their families.
God bless their sweat and tears as they try to do the right thing when wrong surrounds them.
God bless their beliefs in faith and helping others.
God bless the working stiffs.
“…you're why we do what we do…”
“I love having fans that support us in all we do! I take it as a serious responsibility also. I want the young anglers to look up to me so I try give as much time as possible to help them grow. It's a great opportunity to have fans!”
2014 Bassmaster Classic Champion
“My fans are the greatest and they can relate to myself because they are down-to-earth humble hard working folks, and I thank them for that and for their loyalty to me through the ups and downs of the season, and life.”
Defensive End - Minnesota Vikings
“Hey db, it’s Craig Bradley, remember me?”
I don’t and I apologized.
“…I’m the one who visited you and Paul and Shaw on the yacht at La Crosse last year…”
Now I remember, he brought the cheese curds that Shaw basically inhaled.
“…oh yeah, I remember, how you doing?”
“…ok, sort of, since then I’ve had a stroke.”
And my foot lifts off the accelerator pedal some.
Through most of Virginia we talk about hospitalization, rehab, dizziness, loss of strength on one side of his body, then:
“I’m just trying to get everything back so I can go fishing, go fishing with my son.”
Neither of us says anything for maybe a mile or so at 70 mph.
I am wide awake now.
“You gonna be alright man?”
“I’m working on it, the numbness seems to come and go.”
Another couple of mile markers of silence.
Reality bites but reality bites less when shared.
I’m in a part of Virginia, I-81 South past Roanoke where I always lose cellphone reception in the mountains between me and Bristol, Tenn.
“Dude I may lose you here on the cellphone, but I’ll call you back once I clear the area if that happens.”
A mile marker of silence.
Then we talk of family, illness, recovery and fishing.
Heart to heart stuff from Wisconsin to I-81 Southbound.
And we talk straight into Tennessee.
Straight through the mountains.
Not one signal dropped.
God bless working stiffs.
And the person above who watches over them.
“…you deserve so much more it's true…”
To be honest, this so far has been my hardest season, hardest to leave home, hardest health wise, left feeling horrible, hardest as I face the future of whether to pack it in and call it a career, or continue on down some new path.
I was not fired up to do this, this being season 10.
Your phone calls changed all that.
Every call I got you told me how much B.A.S.S. means to you, told me how much the Elites mean to you, told me how much the B.A.S.S. Nation means to you, and what that did was to light the flame under my butt once again.
So this season is for you.
At every event I will go out and meet some of you who show up and tell your stories.
During every drive between events I will put up on my Facebook page my route, my times, and my number so you can call and chat…please no sales pitches or political stuff, you’ve been great at not doing that so far, but call and we’ll talk, ask me about the Elites and my job and I’ll give you an answer.
You can find the “Keep db Awake While He’s Driving,” info on my Facebook page.
If I can figure out how to drive/eat/do interviews at the same time I’ll get to quoting you more.
But I want to say thanks to all of you who always light my flame.
I, we, do this for you as much as we do it for ourselves.
One of my closest friends sent me this when I asked him to write something about the importance of fans and what fans mean to him. This is exactly how he wrote it:
“Used to be that you were essentially invited into folks’ homes, doing what I do, and that was a privilege, and one you treated with respect. You hoped that sentiment was returned. Now, with so many media platforms and avenues to access our content, that sense of privilege is joined by a strong strain of gratitude; that in a congested world of media, folks still are comfortable and willing to seek you out. Joe DiMaggio said it best, ‘Somewhere out there is someone who never saw me play.’ That’s why he gave it his all, every day, each at bat. And when your efforts, and those of your talented team, are appreciated and respected, then you go home saying to yourself, “That’s why we do this.” We never work in a vacuum. It’s a conversation, and one we always are honored to have.”
ESPN - Outside The Lines
Demand that all of those you follow have the same thoughts and drive for you that my buddy Bob has, if not you are just being scammed.
In this my year of the fan I hope I honor you in the band.
I hope you continue to call me and help me stay awake…and focused on you and your thoughts and dreams.
Even if we don’t know where the road will take us, it will be a better journey if we do it together, and in peace.
Thank you for all you do for me, all you do for B.A.S.S., all you do for every Elite angler who crosses the big stage.
Please know that from my heart, this one, is for you.
“…we want you to know this song's for you.”
This Song Is For You
Joey & Rory
P.S.: A personal note, we have a man down at B.A.S.S., longtime backstage worker and great great friend of mine and all the anglers and their families, Max Leatherwood.
Max is very sick with cancer, we are all heartbroken over this, he is a true honest and caring gentleman who I’ve known since day one here. In fact I was supposed to send this story in yesterday but upon learning of his condition basically assumed the fetal position in my hotel room and stopped writing for the day.
All of us at B.A.S.S. are praying for Max and I ask that if you can find it in your heart that you take a moment and say a prayer for Max as well.
Love you Max, in God’s hands I hope and pray.