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State of the sport

12/29/2006

What defines a "sport"? Is it the athletes? The competition? The playing field? The fans?

After watching the Bassmaster American Sunday night at 6:00 PM Central Standard Time (is that prime time?) I think we are working on getting all these things wrapped up in the "sport" of bass fishing.

What defines an "athlete"? Dictionary.com defines an athlete as "A person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance, that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive contexts."

Don't let anyone tell you that standing on the front deck of a boat for 14 hours in 100-degree heat or 30-degree cold doesn't require some agility and endurance. Casting a bait thousands of times a day, often times at precise targets, is not a skill that every person on the planet is born with. Let's face it, girls want guys with skills.

We also have athletes that are competitive. Don't believe me? Watch Ike when he doesn't catch them and there isn't a camera in his face. He gets cheesed, really cheesed, just like you do when you don't catch 'em; he wants to win.

Stand next to KVD in the weigh-in line or sit next to him at the angler registration; the guy has the fire to win oozing from his pores. You can smell it after he has left the room. I'm thinking about bottling it and selling it as "KVD #5". Bubba don't get that fire throwing his rubber worms around the farm pond.

Even though we aren't fighting hand-to-hand with each other over little green fish, you still want to see "your guy" catch more than the other guy. This is big-time competition among big-time competitors. I'm just not sure we are quite up to the truly big-time level … yet.

We have the most awesome playing fields in the world. Each one has unique characteristics that require the competitors to perform in different ways.

Unlike field sports, each venue will have the anglers approach the goal in a different manner. Some places there will be a deep-structure bite, others a shallow-vegetation approach will be the ticket to the goal. Sometimes the field changes from day to day or hour to hour depending on the weather conditions.

The field is fluid and the goal is not fixed; helluva playing field we have here.

Oh yeah, the goal: Locate and catch more and bigger green (or brown) fish than the other competitors. Sounds pretty simple. Looks pretty simple on ESPN. You read the articles and watch the videos on bassmaster.com and it seems simple there too. In the real world, not so simple.

Try putting on a blindfold, picking up a golf club, and tap that little white ball into the cup. Put a basketball through the hoop while blindfolded. Throw a pass down the field without seeing the receiver.

A Zen master might be able to do all these things without seeing, but I haven't met one that fishes, although Clunn might be close.

On the field, we are constantly looking for a goal that is (1) mobile, (2) usually not visible, and (3) may or may not take our offering if we get it in front of one at the right time, from the right angle, with the right Juju on it. Makes it tough to score sometimes.

We are also, slowly but surely, gaining fans. Fans make a sport be a sport.

Without fans, there is no sport; we would just be a bunch of overgrown kids chasing fish about the pond at 70-miles-per hour in fiberglass rockets.

Fans decide who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Junior is a good guy and Gordon a bad guy because of the fans. Yankee fans cheer for Jeter and boo A-Rod (right now) when they step on the field. KVD is loved (by all) and Ike is hated (by some) because of the fans. Not because ESPN wants to make Ike out to be a bad boy, but because fans react to his bad-boy antics.

Fan reaction is what causes water cooler chit-chat. Water cooler chit-chat is what gets other people interested. Interested people tune into the next episode of "As the Bass Flounces" and the next thing you know, hopefully, we have another fan.

So have we defined the sport of bass fishing? Not yet. At some point in time, there will be a defining moment in bass fishing where the world stands up and says "Whoa, look at that!" but I don't think we have seen it yet.

Tiger did just that to the golf world several years ago. Jordan put some serious definition on basketball. We came close at the 2003 Classic with Ike's raw performance, but it was too early in the game with too few fans.

When will it happen? How will it happen? Clueless. All I know is I want to be a part of the happening.

For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his website at www.kfshort.com.