Tharp vs. Herren, and bass fishing’s evolution

Since the beginning of Bassmaster LIVE those who sit on the sidelines of the Bassmaster Elite Series have gotten to see some things that in years past might have been deemed as black marks for our beloved sport.

Personally, I think the latest is a reason for us to have pride in the anglers who compete.

Matt Herren and Randall Tharp had a little blow up during Championship Sunday on Lake Norfork a couple of weeks ago.

You can watch the video of some of that dispute below:

There were parts of it that were not pretty, and for those who saw it first hand it appeared it might get a little out of hand. Most of that was edited out. But for men competing against men, you saw the most important part: Both of them sitting down side by side and letting every one know they had worked out their differences.

The video shows in just a few minutes the greatest things about our sport that some often try to simply ignore: Anglers competing fiercely minute by minute, cast for cast with emotions that run to the edge and when it’s over the fortitude to sit down and work it out.

If you were ever going to create a recipe for leaders or heroes, the ability to do those things would have to be part of their make up.

On the water confrontations are a part of every tournament, they simply happen in almost every event. It’s not the pretty part of bass fishing, anymore than the pushing and shoving that takes place after a play in a football game. But part of me is glad it happened at Norfork because we had cameras on both players and they showed the rest of us that these things happen and it’s not the end of the world when it does.

We would all like to think bass fishing tournaments, especially on the Elite Series, are pristine events. We have our mind made up that things play out perfectly on the water. Sometimes it does. But you can’t have fierce, intense competitors without the occasional fierce and intense complications on the water.

That statement doesn’t justify any of our hero’s actions, it is simply made to remind us the game we play has a lot of moving parts.

You have to commend both anglers for not letting it go further than it did and each being man enough to apologize to the other and set things straight. What a better world we would live in if others would follow that lead.

What a better sport we would have if we all realized everyone is fallible, including those fierce and intense competitors.  We are all getting a taste of that. When things go “Live” there is simply no such thing as the cutting room floor.

In the end that is a good thing. There has been some debate around our sport that maybe Bassmaster LIVE is too much immediate satisfaction when it comes to what takes place on the water. “Too much information can impact the game,” has been heard more than once.

Those who would debate not having it are the same ones who wish anglers had the same things as athletes in other sports’: Mainly the paycheck. Of course other sports have arenas filled with paying spectators, live television, instant replay and all the other trappings that come with big-time sports.  And their games are played, viewed and broken down from every angle for seven days a week on a variety of sports shows, every newspaper in the country and across the World Wide Web.

All of it together is what creates sports fans.

It would be hard to make the case that any one would be a sports fan if they never got to see or hear the game being played by their heroes, including the pushing, shoving and penalties. The scores from those contests would simply be reported and some quotes mixed in by the winners to make a story. A month or so down the line, maybe a highlight show would show some of the great plays.

With the above approach, football, basketball, baseball and every other sport out there would suffer greatly. Without the immediate satisfaction of live coverage, the number of fans would dwindle,, which means the out-of-this world revenue stream common to big-time sports would be greatly minimized and athletes would play virtually for the love of the game.

Bass fishing did that for decades. Because of it (a necessity of the time) most stick and ball sports fans still believe fishing involves a bobber and a cold beer.  Now we have a way for people to see and understand how a day on the water takes place. They get to see the fierce competitor, the intense tactician and yes the occasional blow up between anglers.

They also get the chance to understand the game and how it is played. They get to emulate their hero’s actions, learn from them and know what it means to be a professional angler.

That is the first step in building a fan, then a bigger fan base and to those debating, a bigger and better sport.

The question is are you ready for that?