Perspective on the Nate Wellman story

The bottom line with the recent Nate Wellman "scandal-that’s-not-a-scandal" is that we’ll never know exactly what happened. There are only two people – and somewhere between one and 10 fish – who were privy to the disputed conversation between Wellman and his co-angler, and even they may not interpret what was said the same way.

To recap: Wellman, winner of the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open on Lake Erie, was subsequently protested by his Day Three co-angler, allegedly for offering cash for one of that co-angler’s bass. B.A.S.S. investigated the allegations, left the trophy in Wellman’s hands (along with, I assume, the Classic berth that accompanies it) but fined him $2,500 and placed him on one year’s probation (probably not double-secret probation). Is it safe to assume that any subsequent penalty during the probation period will result in an SMU-like “death penalty” for Wellman’s career or is there an incremental punishment schedule that kicks in?

If indeed Wellman is one hundred percent innocent, I hate the fact that I’m even writing this, because it becomes journalism of the “when did you stop beating your wife?” category, effectively convicting him of the crime without benefit of due process.

If he’s innocent only of saying something foolish in a manner that sounded serious, then I’d say that $2,500 is a pretty fair “stupidity tax” on his mid five figure payday, more than a slap on the wrist, but less than excommunication. Of course, the true impact of that fine may extend beyond four figures – if he’s presumed either wholly or partially guilty, it will certainly cost him tangibly in terms of fan and sponsor support, as well as more indirectly through the loss of his peers’ respect.

In other words, once the toothpaste is out of the tube, there ain’t no pushing it back in. Right now we’ve got toothpaste on our faces, all over the sink, with a dab on the mirror and a sizeable smear on the toilet seat. There’s not necessarily blame to go around, but in the infancy of the exploration of this issue, there’s not a whole lot of good emerging either.

So my question, being a glass half full type of guy (at least today – tomorrow I may go back to a half empty mentality), is: What good can come from this situation? What positives can we derive from what has already happened? If nothing good has happened so far, can we turn it into a feel-good moment worthy of an afterschool special?

First, assuming he’s telling the truth, I have to give a shout out to the co-angler who protested Wellman. He probably entered the event hoping to whack some big smallheads and instead he found himself at the eye of a hurricane. If Wellman’s actions were blatant, that’s one thing. If they were more of the wink and nod variety, it’s harder to deal with. Remember, not only was he at the mercy of Wellman’s driving skills to get back, but he couldn’t get more than 20 feet from the dude all day. If it had been me, even if I had been saving the confrontation for when we got back to the ramp, it would have been mentally debilitating to have that weighing on me all day. I remember admiring the moxie of a friend who was paired with Jimmy Houston a few years ago, and when Jimmy started railing against the involvement of Busch in the sport, my friend spoke his mind in response, and he did not agree with Jimmy one bit. To be honest, I might’ve held my tongue and stewed quietly. In a roundabout way, this is an example of the co-angler/marshal/observer system working.

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